So Your A Pedant?

OK, Bridie Jabour’s Guardian rant isn’t really anything I haven’t said and quoted many times before, but a good anti-peever rant is always worth seeing, and I like the in-your-face nature of this one and the emphasis in the conclusion on an important point that is sometimes not attended to:

That aside, there is a need for us to be literate, of course. Which brings me to what may be the most devastating revelation for the enthusiastic corrector: WE KNOW. Most of the time, serial manglers of the English language know the difference between “complimentary” and “complementary”.

Eight times out of 10, it will just be a simple typo made as we’re tweeting while ordering food, dodging traffic or pretending to work. But the glee with which typos, outside of news articles, is jumped on is tedious. Affectively, you’re just saying you are more educated than the person writing or speaking. Or you think you are. But just as Tony Abbott certainly knows what Canada is called, and Tanya Plibersek is clear that Africa is a continent, a slip on the keyboard is not a good reason for you to type your most patronising “*”.

Also: “The first person to spot all 10 errors and/or misuses of the English language gets a prize,” so act now — supplies are doubtless limited. (Thanks, Bathrobe!)

Comments

  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Tanya Plibersek is clear that Africa is a continent.

    Well yes, but is she clear that South Africa is a country? I’ve no idea who she is, and thus no idea whether she is or not, and I’m being facetious, as an introduction to a real point. On three separate occasions 25 or so years ago (when Apartheid was still in force and South Africa was frequently in the news) I came across people who should have known better who didn’t know that Afrique du Sud was a country. On three separate occasions, three different people (two of them employed by the department of foreign relations of the CNRS) asked me “mais quel pays?” when I referred to a collaboration with someone in South Africa,and sounded disbelieving when I said “l’Afrique du Sud est un pays”. Probably they were so familiar with Afrique du Nord as the region of origin of many people in France rather than a country that it hadn’t occurred to them that Afrique du Sud might be a country.

  2. Also: “The first person to spot all 10 errors and/or misuses of the English language gets a prize,” so act now — supplies are doubtless limited.

    Supplies of first persons are conventionally limited to one(1)?

  3. Your so conventional, des.

  4. But it is true that the first person, when plural, is really a mixture of the first person and some number of second persons (perhaps zero) and third persons (perhaps zero).

    In a case in my own fiction, someone (whose grasp of English is not the best) says that there are one First and two Seconds present (those being ranks or ratings, as of lieutenants), and the other person (whose grasp of the subject matter isn’t the best) wonders why it isn’t one first, one second, and one third.

  5. Des is on to something here. The qualification “supplies are doubtless limited” would be slightly less trivial if the contest had been “The second person to spot all 10 errors ,,,” As everyone can verify, the supply of second persons is equal to the number of human beings minus 1 (being a first person, the person verifying must exclude himself – he is not a second person for himself).

  6. marie-lucie says:

    Athel: l’Afrique du Sud

    Apart from the misleading parallelism with l’Afrique du Nord, there is also the fact that the SA “provinces”, such as Transvaal and “Free State”, might have been interpreted as independent countries, since French people have no experience with federalism. In the French press, at least Québec “province” is usually referred to as “l’Etat du Québec”, not only as support for Québec independentists but because the “provinces” in question are more like US states than French provinces, which in addition to being quite small have had no legal status since the Revolution.

  7. Does the French press also write “l’Etat du Saskatchewan”?

  8. marie-lucie says:

    It is rare that the French press writes anything about Canada outside Québec, but they probably would write “l’Etat du Saskatchewan”. However, in Canada the name is feminine: “La Saskatchewan” (probably because the final n is pronounced, not included in the nasal vowel “an” as in most French words).

  9. The first person to spot all 10 errors…
    Oh, come on. It’s not “the first person to spot”, but “the first person to report”. And “the first person” happened long ago (editor or some such), so it’s “first reader of the paper or the blog to report” etc. When you start peeving there’s no end inside.

  10. “L’Etat du” – here is a recent example from the French media. Not sure how common it is – it’s a sports feature, perhaps they really do think that all North American countries are divided into states

  11. Stefan Holm says:

    marie-lucie:

    Does French make the same distinction as the Gmc languages between south and southern etc. when it comes to the cardinal points? In my language Sydafrika is an exactly defined country while södra Afrika is a more or less accurately defined geographical area. Would l’Afrique australe do in the latter case?

    Or to you Anglophones: could southern America in some context mean Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico etc. I’m pretty sure South America couldn’t.

  12. Or to you Anglophones: could southern America in some context mean Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico etc.

    I don’t think so; we almost always say “the southern (United) States.” (Well, I’m speaking as an American; maybe the answer is different for non-Yanks.)

    I’m pretty sure South America couldn’t.

    Definitely not!

  13. Stefan Holm says:

    supplies are doubtless limited

    From my school years I remember our teacher having problems explaining why Elvis could sing love me tender while we were immediately corrected for not using the adverb marker.

    Did Elvis perhaps mean ‘love me, (you) tender (woman)’ or ‘love me (until I get) tender’?

    Swedes otherwise have no problems distinguishing adverbs from adjectives, since we mark the former ourselves by adding a ‘-t’ to the latter. (This ‘-t’ coincides though with the singular neuter marker in the strong declension of adjectives, which to some may be confusing).

  14. From my school years I remember our teacher having problems explaining why Elvis could sing love me tender while we were immediately corrected for not using the adverb marker.

    The said teacher has obviously no use of notions like register.

  15. marie-lucie says:

    Dmitry: nice finds! The article has both l’Etat de Colombie Britannique and l’Etat du Saskatchewan. The difference is that the definite article is not used before feminine country (etc) names but used (included within “du” = de le) before masculine names, which Saskatchewan is in French French as noted above.

  16. marie-lucie says:

    SH: In my language Sydafrika is an exactly defined country while södra Afrika is a more or less accurately defined geographical area. Would l’Afrique australe do in the latter case?

    Yes, l’Afrique du Sud is the country but l’Afrique australe could mean the Southern tip of Africa. But in general countries South of the Equator (eg Argentina) would be les pays du Sud rather than the (to me) strange-sounding les pays austraux (????). Another word for “Southern” is méridional(e), which is more likely to apply to the Southern part of a European country. Peope living in Southern France are called les Méridionaux. I might refer in writing to l’Italie méridionale to mean le Sud de l’Italie but never to ‘Italie australe which would suggest an Italian settlement or colony in Antarctica.

  17. méridional(e)
    One of my friends once complained that Ukrainian uses південь (midday, noon) for South and півночь (midnight) for North. My explanation that the sun is to the South at midday and (invisibly) to the North at midnight were dismissed because it’s the other way around in Southern hemisphere. It seems that French shares somewhat similar problems 🙂 (not in such an acute form though, південь and півночь are modern Ukrainian words for the relevant time moments) . The other way around septentrionale seems OK, it is based on the stars. North itself is out of trouble because (etymology = destiny, remember) it means “left of East”, which is what it is everywhere, but South is in trouble — it is based on the sun again.

  18. Oy-yoy-yoy. I forgot how to spell північ. Ганьба! It seems that among Slavic languages only Polish, Belorussian and Ukrainian follow this pattern (Google translate and Wikipedia — entry for noon are in disagreement on the point of Serbian). No doubt Polish is the source. It would be nice to know how and when the split has happened.

  19. Stefan Holm says:

    Thanks, m-l. So I’m ’un habitant du Nord’ and not ’boréale’. But how come you write ’Sud’ and ’Méridionaux’ with uppercase but ‘australe’ and ‘méridional’ with lowercase initial letters?

  20. It’s usually “East/South Asia” but “Eastern/Southern Europe”. Curious.

    The mismatch in the names of “South Australia” and “Western Australia”.is odd, but then “South Australia” is not terribly accurate. Apparently “Southern Australia” is a different, more accurate thing.

  21. marie-lucie says:

    SH: Because “Sud” and “Méridionaux” are nouns, while “austral(e)” and “méridional(e)” are adjectives.

    As a Swede, you could be called “un Nordique”, but never “un Septentrional” (except perhaps as a joke). The latter is a technical geographical term, unlike “méridional” which is much more widely used in France, at east about Southern French and to some extent Southern European regions.

  22. Stefan Holm says:

    minus273: The said teacher has obviously no use of notions like register..

    Probably not. But the purpose of teaching young Swedes English instead of (pre-Stalingrad) German in those years was not to make them fluent in the streets of London or New York but to help them get access to the language in which modern science was published.

    Today, more than half a century later, it can be said to have failed. Young Swedes today face no problems at all communicating in everyday English. Some years ago, when Stockholm applied for arranging the Olympic games, a slogan was used (true or not): “The city where the taxi drivers speak better English than they do in New York”.

    But there is another side of the coin: Complaints are increasingly heard from university professors about their students today being unable to read English textbooks – ranging from history and litterature to mathematics and physics. So, alluding to your pseuodonym, they don’t know what a ‘centigrade’ (or ‘Celsius’ named after a Swedish scientist) is. But if there were an entertainment establishment in NYC or London so named they would for sure know.

    Enough from a grumpy old man.

  23. “L’État de la Saskatchewan” gets three Google hits, while “Province de la Saskatchewan” gets some 400K.

    Only one of the former seems to exist within the Canadian federal government websites.

  24. A. J. Peabody-Buildings says:

    Wilkes’s The North Briton is an interesting title, especially this week, because it referred to the Scots and Scotland. It was intended as a response to a government-sponsored periodical called The Briton and I’ve never heard North Briton used in any other context, let alone to mean Scots. There’s an explanation or discussion of the title in the first issue. It’s never been clear to me whether the Scottish reference would have been understood by anyone at the time simply from the name.

  25. WP says that King James VI/I himself was the first to use North Britain, along with South Britain, in his 1606 proclamation establishing the union flag (not yet with the red saltire of St. Patrick, though James was King of Ireland as well). The latter term seemingly did not catch on. Later, for someone to call himself a North Briton implied that he was in favor of the Union. Similarly, the term West Brit(on) refers to someone in favor of the Union of Great Britain and Ireland, or more widely someone who favored English or British culture over Irish culture; it is much more pejorative than North Briton.

    Wilkes and liberty!

  26. In Say Man by Bo Diddley, there is the following dialogue:

    Where you from?
    South America.
    What?
    South America.
    You don’t look like no South American to me.
    I’m still from South America.
    What part?
    South Texas.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if this came from some much older comedy routine, perhaps even going back to minstrel show days.

  27. Somewhere in the works of Wodehouse Jeeves tells Bertie that “the poet Burns”wrote in “the North British dialect”.

  28. D.O., Italian shares half of the Ukrainian problem, if a problem it is. Mezzogiorno is both the current word for noon and a word for South. It is not terribly common in the latter meaning, but il Mezzogiorno is a common term for Southern Italy, and I’d personally find it quite natural if a tad old-fashioned to describe a South-facing window as rivolta a mezzogiorno.

    Italian is fairly rich in this regard, because you can call the four cardinal points nord, est, sud, ovest, or settentrione, oriente, meridione, occidente, but also, skipping the first, levante, mezzogiorno, ponente. The internet suggests I could complete the last series with mezzanotte the Ukrainian way, but I wouldn’t have known. The completion I know, though I wouldn’t normally use it, is tramontana from the wind rose.

    By the way, in Italian the country is il Sudafrica and the region l’Africa del sud.

  29. Stephen Bruce says:

    Trying one more time with this comment; I’m still having problems, it seems!

    The Romance language terms of course stem from Latin: meridies, “midday”, in the south; septentriones the “seven ploughing oxen” of the Big Dipper, in the north; oriens, the “rising” sun, in the east; occidens, the “falling” sun in the west. Alongside those were the winds, taken from the Greek, which could also be used for directions: Boreas (north), Notus (south, Roman Auster), Eurus (east, Roman Favonius), Zephyrus (west, Roman Favonius).

    Responding to D.O., using “septentrional” is thus also problematic in the southern hemisphere, where you can’t see the Big Dipper, which is perhaps one reason why we don’t talk about Sydney, Septentrionalia.

    As South Africa, the Russians usually use the unambiguous Южно-Африканская Республика, South-African Republic, or for short ЮАР, pronounced like English “you are”.

  30. maidhc says: In Say Man by Bo Diddley

    I was thinking of exactly the same song.

  31. marie-lucie says:

    Giacomo, French is almost as rich as Italian in this respect. Mezzogiorno = midi, both ‘noon/midday’ and “South”. For us too it would be very old-fashioned to talk about une fenêtre exposée au midi rather than au Sud. The South of France is also le Midi, but nowadays this term is less used, probably under the infuence of English (journalists reading the English word “South” translate it with “Sud”). For ponente French used to have le ponant which is now only historical, it was the counterpart of East le levant (still sometimes used for the Near East, eg Lebanon), while l’Orient refers more generally to regions East of the Mediterranean all the way to Japan or Indonesia.

  32. The hotel with the clock at Waverley station in Edinburgh was the North British for a long time, although I think it took its name from a railway line which was called that first.

  33. John Emerson says:

    In the U.S. context, “the Southern states” or “the Southern U.S.” are rather neutral indicators, but “The South” evokes the culture and history and is much thicker. People can love or hate The South (or both, as in Faulkner).

    Marco Polo and contemporaries had a complicated system designations for the 8 directions which was eclectic and qualitative. Levant (rising) for east, Midi (noon) for south, and Ponent (setting) for west were solar, but Tramontane for north meant the north star, which rises above the mountains (or, alternatively, the northern countries beyond the Alps). Mistral is NW, Sirocco is SE, Grec is NE, and these are based on winds (and in the case of grec, also geography). I can never remember Garbin for SW but it is based on a constellation.

    It’s very particularistic with many variant systems. The one Polo used seemed definitely to be oriented from the Mediterranean south of Sicily.

    Table.

  34. John Emerson says:

    Note that Polo used the French rather than the Italian forms. This is generally true, but the two Italians writing a French book frequently slipped back to Italian.

  35. I disagree. The world is not filled with people hypersensitive to linguistic errors.

    Most people don’t care. See the reaction you get the next time you try to point out to a manager that a sign at the store or the bank has a spelling/grammatical error.

    It’s not: “Doh!” It’s “Huh?”

  36. marie-lucie says:

    PO: l’Etat de la Saskatchewan

    In your link this sequence occurs in the phrase Société des investissements de l’État de la Saskatchewan, where it is not clear whether de la Saskatchewan is a complement of l’Etat alone or of Société des investissements… , but Google has another item which clarifies it:

    Crown Investments Corporation of Saskatchewan (société des investissements de l’État de la Saskatchewan)

    This means that “l’Etat'” means “the Crown” and does not have anything to do with the status of Saskatchewan.

  37. A. J. P. Buildings says:

    Thanks for that, John.

    Later, for someone to call himself a North Briton implied that he was in favor of the Union.

    Even if there isn’t an equivalent phrase for an opponent of union, it’s rather a shame no one’s made use of it recently. Nowadays, you’re either a “Yes” or a “No”. It isn’t very imaginative.

    It’s hard to see what the fuss was about with Wilksie. Nowadays, no one knows who he is. Wikipedia’s worried people might be confusing him with John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of Lincoln. He had a big fight with Hogarth about something. He hasn’t lasted nearly as well as Hogarth.

  38. Of course it’s pure exoticism on my part, but all these Latin(ish) and Greek names seem extraordinarily romantic to me. Our simple English monosyllables seem to have taken over for the basic Romance uses, and if their etymologies are ‘left’ (uncertain), ‘sun’, ‘dawn’, ‘evening’, it is completely un-obvious and only known to people who have looked them up.

    The Latin word for ‘south’, auster, looks suspiciously like other people’s words for ‘east’ (cf. aurora ‘dawn’). One theory mentioned by Etymonline is that it is “based on a false assumption about the orientation of the Italian peninsula”, thus the meaning shifted from ‘east’ > ‘southeast’ > ‘south’. Another, though, is that *aus- ‘shine’ shifted to ‘burn’ and was used metaphorically for the hot south wind, the scirocco.

    The term the Levant ‘the Middle East’ underwent a gradual decline throughout the last two centuries, peaking about 1820 and falling to an all-time low around 1990, but is now revived as one of the English names of The Organization Formerly Known As الدولة الإسلامية في العراق والشام. The name will bear reading as either “the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” or “and the Levant”, and anglophones have not yet made up their minds; meanwhile, ISIS/ISIL has truncated its name to just “the Islamic State”.

  39. John Emerson says:

    The “Mongols of the Levant” (east) were the Mongols of Persia and the Middle East, even though most of the other Mongols were still farther east. “Levant” had become a fixed place, not a direction.

  40. This means that “l’Etat’” means “the Crown”

    This is where our good AJP should chime in by channeling Louis XIV and proclaiming, “The Crown?! I am the Crown!”

  41. marie-lucie says:

    The East (l’Orient) used to be divided into at least three parts: the Near East (le Proche-Orient)), the Middle East (le Moyen-Orient) and the Far East (l’Extrême-Orient). The Near East seems to have disappeared from “Western” consciousness and merged with the Midde East. It seems to me that Libya and Egypt would be more appropriately identified as Near than Middle.

  42. One thing I find interesting in Ariosto is that Angelica, the woman all the brave warriors fall for, is the daughter of Galafrone, the king of Cathay; both the names and her description as your basic blond beauty indicate that the late-medieval/early-Renaissance tale of chivalric derring-do took geography as a random variable of exoticism, with no attempt at plausibility (in terms of what the daughter of the king of Cathay might be expected to realistically be called or look like). There also doesn’t seem to be much distinction between China and India; it’s as if the East is one big undifferentiated Land of Paynim.

  43. John Emerson says:

    In Marco Polo Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Fazlan the Russians and Scandinavians are barbarians on a par with the rest. In medieval geography Ethiopia and India were thought to be joined and both called parts of India, aong with Indonesia and Indo China. And China was Tartary, like the Ukraine.

  44. The Near East seems to have disappeared from “Western” consciousness and merged with the Midde East.
    It’s different in Russian. Средний Восток (Middle East) is almost completely disappeared from modern usage and at best became a part of Ближний и Средний Восток (Near and Middle East). But it’s almost all Ближний Восток (Near East) now extending to the eastern border of Iran. Дальний Восток (Far East) begins with China and countries in the Middle (the -stans) are Средняя Азия (Middle Asia) . Russia, of course, is not properly “the West”, not culturally and certainly not geographically.

  45. Maltese still uses the 8-direction system from the old wind names; clockwise from N, tramuntana, grigal, lvant, xlokk, nofsinhar, lbic, punent, majjistral seems to be a standard list. I never learnt much, but do remember struggling through a newspaper article about events in north-west Greece (on the border with Turkey), a region which was duly described as “il-grigal ta’ Grecja” – etymologically ‘the Greek side of Greece’, which felt a bit strange.

  46. In modern Russian consciousness, does the border between Europe and Asia still run along the Urals?

  47. Geographically, more or less, yes. But culturally, I don’t think that Irkutsk or Vladivostok is any different from a typical Russian city west of the Rock. And then, there is Northern and Southern Caucasus, which has a somewhat strange status in this whole Europe/Asia division.

  48. Yes, the Caucasus shows the arbitrariness of the Europe/Asia thing.

  49. David Marjanović says:

    “North”: perhaps “lower” rather than “left”, maybe even “pertaining to the netherworld”.

    AFAIK, Mittlerer Osten is only found as a bad translation from English and is otherwise called Naher Osten. Ferner Osten, however, is congruent with “Far East”

    Another, though, is that *[h₂]aus- ‘shine’ shifted to ‘burn’ and was used metaphorically for the hot south wind, the scirocco.

    Or perhaps it was just applied to noon instead of morning, one as arbitrary as the other…

    Anyway, the confusion is responsible for Austria from ostarîhhi “east realm”.

  50. Fascinating discussion!

    I think it was mentioned by Bathrobe a while back that Mongols traditionally name directions facing to the south.

    So, they would call Western Europe – Baruun Evrop (Right Europe), East Germany – Zuun German (Left Germany), North America – Hoid Amerik (Backside America), South America – Umnud Amerik (Frontside America).

    Also, they simultaneously use a parallel set of direction names (Urnud – West, Dornod- East, Umard – North, Urd – South.

    And they have too more forms for North and South – Ar (literally behind) and Uvur (literally inside) which are used for Ar Mongol (Outer Mongolia) and Uvur Mongol (Inner Mongolia).

  51. In what other contexts are they used? (In other words, why do they mean ‘north’ and ‘south” rather than ‘outer’ and ‘inner’?)

  52. This makes me wonder if the standard translations are wrong, and it should be simply North Mongolia and South Mongolia.

  53. Ar is quite common word and means simply “back”, “rear”.. Ar tal – back side, araas – from the back, uulyn ar tal – rear side of the mountain.

    Uvur is also very common and means “front side” and “inside”. Uulyn uvur – front side of the mountain, the sunny side of the mountain.

    In geographical names, they are used in names of two Mongolian provinces – Arkhangai (literally – the rear side of Khangai mountains) and Uvurkhangai (literally – the front side of Khangai) and of course, in names of Outer and Inner Mongolia.

    These words could be used and are used to mean north and south as you can see, but such usage is quite limited (since there are two other sets of words with the same meaning already in use)

    It is certainly possible to translate Ar Mongol and Uvur Mongol as North Mongolia and South Mongolia and there are people (Inner Mongolian nationalists primarily) who call for exactly that.

    In Mongolia proper, term Outer Mongolia is considered obsolete or even offensive by some. It is claimed that these terms was invented by Manchu-Chinese oppressors to divide the Mongolian nation. However, nobody in Ulaanbaatar sees anything wrong with term Inner Mongolia.

  54. It just occured to me why Outer Mongolia is offensive. Outer Mongolia literally translated back into Mongolian would be “Gadaad Mongol” which means both “outer Mongolia” and “foreign Mongolia”.

    Yeah, that would be offensive, sure.

  55. I almost forgot to mention. The geographical object which is implied in names of Ar Mongol and Uvur Mongol is, of course, the Gobi desert.

    So, Ar Mongol means Mongolia on the rear side of Gobi desert and Uvur Mongol is Mongolia on the front side of Gobi desert.

  56. These words could be used and are used to mean north and south as you can see

    Actually, I can’t see. From everything you’ve said, it seems they don’t mean ‘north’ and ‘south’ at all; they simply mean ‘back’ and ‘front, inside.’ It just so happens that the parts of Mongolia they designate are in a north-south formation, but that doesn’t determine the meaning of the words, any more than “za” means ‘south’ because Закавказье means the South Caucasus.

  57. Mongolian lacks words for ‘north’ and ‘south’ which don’t also mean “back” and “front”. All three sets of words I mentioned have this meaning.

  58. Re: “za”

    Yes, Zabaykal’e is translated into Mongolian as Uvur Baigal.

    Re: the parts of Mongolia they designate are in a north-south formation

    If two sides of the mountain range were to the east and to the west of each other, Mongolians would call them “left” and “right” side.

  59. OK, but are Ar and Uvur used freely for ‘north’ and ‘south,’ or only in the collocations you mention above?

  60. The reason for this is a traditional orientation of Mongolian yurts which always faces to the south.

    This south-facing orientation is always implied in Mongolian speech. In case of any confusion, Mongolians usually add “ertontsiin zugeer” (according to orientation of the earth).

    Like in

    -“Minii ger bankny hoino baidag. Ertontsiin zugeer hoino”
    -“My house is behind the bank. Behind, according to orientation of the earth”

    And everyone understands that it’s the building to the north of the bank.

  61. -OK, but are Ar and Uvur used freely for ‘north’ and ‘south,’ or only in the collocations you mention above?

    No, the most frequent words are ‘hoid’ and ‘urd’. In literary speech, ‘umard’ and ‘umnud’ are preferred (as in Ikh Britani, Umard Irlandyn Negdsen Vant Uls which is the official name for UK of GB and NI).

    However, I must stress that Ar and Uvur are by no means obsolete and these are the terms which a Mongolian nomad would use today when he sets his yurt on southern side of the mountain.

  62. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    l’Orient refers more generally to regions East of the Mediterranean all the way to Japan or Indonesia.

    I always get thrown a bit when driving in Chile by road signs that take el oriente to mean a bit further east than you are now, so when they say para el oriente prefiere Isabel la Católica they’re not thinking of Japan or Indonesia.

  63. marie-lucie says:

    Athel: para el oriente prefiere Isabel la Católica

    I understand the words, but not the sentence. Perhaps a bit of context would explain the reference to Isabel.

  64. Trond Engen says:

    I’ve probably told this before, but since it seems to fit — somehow contrariwise: In Eastern Norwegian valleys nord and sør traditionally means up-valley and down-valley. This roughly fits the lower part of the big valleys, and it also makes sense in the traditional classification of everything west and north of the mountain range as “north of the mountains”, which in turn is logical in the saga system where the Norwegian coast was bidirectional north vs. east. Anyway, as the valleys bend and fork there are side-valleys to side-valleys where the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

  65. Stefan Holm says:

    Trond, you could have mentioned the name of your homeland, transparent in English Norway and German Norwegen but not obviously so in Scandinavian Norge. Obvious is though, that your country with its breathtaking beauty was named by some people living relatively south of you and who once took ‘the northern way’.

  66. Trond Engen says:

    There are two homonymous IE roots *h2ews-. One is the “shine, glow” word yielding east, another a “pour” word yielding Scand. øse v. “baile”; n. “dipper, ladle, scoop”. I tend to think that “shine” is a metaphorical extension of the other.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    North/South and geographical orientation

    In some native languages of the Pacific Northwest (and no doubt in some others), major directional terms refer to position and motion relative to the water (both sea and river), so there are words meaning “towards the water”, “away from the water”, among similar others. For a riverine population, travelling North or South by boat (the only practical means of travel in many places) involves first going down the river (that is, mostly West) to reach the coast, then travelling on the ocean along the coast. In the languages I know best, the word meaning “down the river (position)” is also used for “South”, since most people travelling by boat from their homeland are going South. Whether the river changes course in its path toward the sea is irrelevant to the direction of the current, the most important factor when the boats available depended on human power.

  68. m-l: Isabel la Católica is the name of many things in Chile: a school, various streets, etc. These things are named in honor of Isabella of Castile, the Queen of Castile and de facto monarch of Spain along with Ferdinand of Aragon during Colombus’s first voyages.

  69. marie-lucie says:

    JC, I suspected something like that, that the sign must refer to some landmark named for the famous queen, but it was not obvious.

  70. Stephen Bruce says:

    There are directional particularities all over the place, e.g. on Cape Cod, where historically the northern part of the peninsula was referred to as the Lower Cape (see “Cape Cod”), though now it’s more commonly the Outer Cape.

    And for some people, down seems to mean “in the direction of the city”, even if the city is to the north, e.g. “I’m in San Jose, and am going down to San Francisco,” I personally stick to the standard map orientation, using up for north and over for east or west, though I might use down if there’s a big descent in altitude, and of course everyone uses downtown.

  71. David Marjanović says:

    This makes me wonder if the standard translations are wrong, and it should be simply North Mongolia and South Mongolia.

    It’s “Inner” in Chinese, for what that’s worth (Mandarin nèi).

  72. From Wikipedia article on Outer Mongolia:

    “In the Mongolian language, the word ar refers to the back side of something, which has been extended to mean the northern side of any spatial entity, e.g. a mountain or a yurt. The word öbür refers to the south (and thus protected) side of a mountain.[7] So the difference between Inner Mongolia and the Mongolian state is conceived of in the metaphor as at the backward northern side vs. the south side of a mountain.”

    Wiki article on Inner Mongolia claims Manchu origin of these terms:

    “In Chinese, the region is known as “Inner Mongolia”, where the terms of “Inner/Outer” are derived from Manchu dorgi/tulergi (cf. Mongolian dotugadu/gadagadu).”

    This requires an investigation.

  73. Due to certain geographical coincidence, Mongolian names for “front, behind”/”south, north” can be used to refer to two countries which border Mongolia.

    Hence, “I just came from behind” can mean “I just came from Russia” and “I am going ahead” is actually “I will go to China”

  74. “And he studied on the right side” means “he has Western education”

  75. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    Athel: para el oriente prefiere Isabel la Católica

    I understand the words, but not the sentence. Perhaps a bit of context would explain the reference to Isabel.

    Sorry. It was a bit obscure. As John Cowan indicated, in this case Isabel la Católica is a street — a large one-way street proceeding in an easterly direction.

  76. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    For us the past is behind us and the future lies ahead, but I beleve that there are some native Americans that take the opposite view, possibly more logically, as we can see the past but can’t see the future.

  77. marie-lucie says:

    some native Americans that take the opposite view

    That’s true of the peope I know best (but perhaps not for the younger ones).

  78. Siganus Sutor says:

    Bruce: The Romance language terms of course stem from Latin: meridies, “midday”, in the south

    Romance languages are typically from the north, and you can hear it in their very choice of words.
    http://mauricianismes.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/meridional/

  79. Stephen Bruce says:

    @Siganus: yes indeed, and those some interesting sources for the unetymological use of méridional in the southern hemisphere. Australie-Méridionale for instance does seem to be pretty fixed. I suppose we could explain in this way: for a Frenchman in Paris, Australia is to the south (his midday sun) and to the east (the morning sun), and South Australia is even farther in that direction, so it is even more méridional. But that’s a stretch, and of course if he crossed the equator he would be moving away from the midday sun.

    Australie australe also sounds a little silly. It would perhaps be nicer if there were a southern-hemisphere equivalent to septentrional, perhaps something related to the Southern Cross, e.g. Australie cruciale. But if we start calling the South Australians “crucial”, that might go to their heads…

  80. PO wrote: l’Etat de la Saskatchewan
    m-l wrote: . . . This means that “l’Etat’” means “the Crown” and does not have anything to do with the status of Saskatchewan.

    Good point. I Googled “crown corporation” and came up with an English Wiki entry, which has a parallel entry in French titled Société de la Couronne.

    “Dans les pays faisant partie du Commonwealth, une société de la Couronne (ou société d’État) est une compagnie ou une entreprise indépendante du milieu des affaires, contrôlée par l’État, gérant la vente ou l’exploitation de certaines ressources, appartenant à l’État. Ce terme étant le plus souvent mentionné au Canada, cet article s’étend sur les sociétés de la Couronne canadiennes pour cette raison. Il existe également dans plusieurs pays de tradition britannique, comme la Nouvelle-Zélande.”

  81. North/South and geographical orientation

    It’s been more years than I care to count, but when I drove along the east coast of Nova Scotia, I realized that the nature of the terrain meant that although I was nominally driving north, at any particular point I could in fact be driving south, or for that matter east or west. The only important thing was to ensure that the ocean remain on my right. Memory’s fuzzy, but there might have been local terminology to deal with the phenomenon. m-l?

  82. marie-lucie says:

    PO, indeed East, West, etc are not very meaningful when following a coast which has no straight lines. I am not familiar enough with coastal people here (or literature dealing with them) to have learned local terminology.

  83. Frans Koppenol says:

    I always thought the “Near East” had disappeared – sort of -, because it used to refer to Turkey, which once extended to a region near “the Gates of Vienna”. So that would be Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria, etc.
    This “Turkey in Europe”, where, before Atatürk, Turkish people still wore peculiar headwear and shoes ((you can read about this in “Le Petit Prince” where an atronomer from Turkey is not taken seriously because of his attire)) was definitely East (to the French, the British and the Germans, that is) and definitely Near.
    Then, beyond Turkey, you’d find the Middle East (Persia, Arabia, and so on), and the “Far East” would be everything from British India to Japan.
    I’m not sure whether my interpretation is historically accurate, but I have always considered it utterly logical…

  84. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    It’s been more years than I care to count, but when I drove along the east coast of Nova Scotia, I realized that the nature of the terrain meant that although I was nominally driving north, at any particular point I could in fact be driving south, or for that matter east or west.

    Here in Marseilles, where I live, we think of ourselves of being on the south coast, but the local coast follows a north-south line, almost exactly. It look me a long time to internalize the idea that the direction I think of as east is actually south, etc. It’s not helped by the fact that maps of Marseilles never put north at the top (why not, I’ve no idea).

  85. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I have a Concise Oxford Atlas from about 1955, which defines the Near East etc. much as Frans Koppenol describes — even more conservatively, in fact, as I think it includes Greece in the Near East, and India in the Middle East. Even when I read this as a child I thought it didn’t correspond to how people actually spoke, and it certainly doesn’t today.

  86. Athel: I would argue your mistake was thinking you were mistaken:

    At Stanford, ‘logical’ compass directions denote a coordinate system relative to El Camino Real, in which ‘logical north’ is always toward San Francisco and ‘logical south’ is always toward San Jose–in spite of the fact that El Camino Real runs physical north/south near San Francisco, physical east/west near San Jose, and along a curve everywhere in between. (The best rule of thumb here is that, by definition, El Camino Real always runs logical north-south.)

  87. In pre-GPS days, driving through East Tennessee was a recipe for outsiders getting lost, not only because turnoffs were poorly indicated, but because the Great Valley there runs nearly E-W but is still notionally N-S. One had to remember that according to road signs, Kentucky is west of tennessee.

  88. never put north at the top

    Maps of NYC normally put the long axis of Manhattan (or to put it another way, the local direction of the Hudson River) as if north-south, though physically it is northeast-southwest. This makes global maps like Google Maps hard to scroll with a mouse: one constantly has to alternate between vertical and horizontal scrolling.

    One of American-Canadian author Spider Robinson’s stories, about two people being pursued by The Man across North America, contains the line (from memory): “We got out of town, driving (ironically) north by northwest. It’s the only way out of Halifax.”

  89. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve read a German prescriptivist railing against Mittlerer Osten as a recent, recurrent mistranslation from English, explaining that – because England is farther west than Germany – Near East was used for the Balkan peninsula as explained above, so that Middle East corresponded to what’s generally called Naher Osten, literally “Near East”, in German.

    Far East does line up with Ferner Osten, though I had never heard of either including India.

    That’s true of the peope I know best (but perhaps not for the younger ones).

    Interesting! It’s also true of the Aymara, and has been found somewhere in central Africa as well.

  90. Didn’t there used to be a saying in Mitteleuropa that “the East begins at Belgrade” or “Europe ends at Semlin” oder etwas ähnliches?

  91. J. W. Brewer says:

    I assume that sort of saying is akin to “Africa begins at the Pyrenees” or “wogs begin at Calais” etc etc etc, where there are many versions with many nominees for where X begins, but in each case the dividing line is semi-arbitrarily selected based on the speaker’s own geographical location and associated ethnocentric assumptions. I have heard (but not really checked) that in Italy one can find Milanese saying Africa begins in Tuscany, Tuscans saying in begins, in Rome, Romans saying it begins in Naples etc etc until you reach the point where the poor Sicilians have no one to tar with that particular brush.

  92. Can’t help remembering a Russian quite about “moving in with either close relatives in the Far East, or distant relatives in the Near East” where the words for “close” and “distant” are the same as “near” and “far” (meaning Jewish Birobidzhan vs. Israel)
    ~ ближние родственники на Дальнем Востоке или дальние родственники на Ближнем Востоке

  93. AJP Autoclave says:

    I remember the Ancient Near East, including Mesopotamia (Ur), from History at school when I was about 13. “Middle East” wasn’t discussed except as a modern category. “Mid East” is as far as I know a term that originated in the USA about the time (1971-ish) that Kissinger was flying back & forth between Israel & Egypt doing so-called shuttle diplomacy. “Ancient Near East” is still used at the V&A and the British Museum, and presumably other museums, for some of their Middle Eastern collections.

    There’s also a long, dry but fairly interesting Wikipedia article about the term Near East. That part of the British Empire was divided at the time of the Crimean War between Near East (hence the Balkan reference that David mentioned, presumably) and Far East, the Near East extending as far as the limits of the Ottoman Empire.

  94. des von bladet says:

    Belgium, of course, has neither a beginning nor an end, but:

    http://www.gutefrage.net/frage/warum-faengt-bei-wien-der-balkan-an

  95. marie-lucie says:

    “We got out of town, driving (ironically) north by northwest. It’s the only way out of Halifax.”

    True! The historical Halifax is a peninsula oriented Northwest to Southeast, and attached to the mainland at the Northwestern end. I wonder when the work was published: nowadays with two suspension bridges to the mainland (which cross the same body of water) it is possible to take alternate routes, but still in the general northwestern direction.

  96. I have heard (but not really checked) that in Italy one can find Milanese saying Africa begins in Tuscany . . .

    I heard that a little differently: Northern Italians say that while the history books record that Giuseppe Garibaldi united Italy, he in fact divided Africa.

  97. The author was, I think, a Haligonian at that time, which was perhaps the 1980s. He was born in the Bronx and now lives on Bowen Island, B.C.

  98. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks JC, He almost overlapped with me, since I have lived in both BC and Halifax. Haifax has greaty expanded beyond the peninsula since I first moved to it.

  99. Even since I learned about Frankish Kingdom of Austrasia, I always thought that Asia begins at Somme….

  100. David Marjanović says:

    Didn’t there used to be a saying in Mitteleuropa that “the East begins at Belgrade” or “Europe ends at Semlin” oder etwas ähnliches?

    Probably, but the only one I know states that the Balkans begin at the Rennweg, an ugly street in Vienna south and somewhat east of the very center. It’s still in use.

  101. David, if I’m not mistaken your country of origin is the empire of the east (oster reich), no? It is a bit confusing when you think of its French name (“Autriche”, not to be confused with a large flightless bird), and even more of its English name (“Austria”), which could both suggest something lying to the south of those using that name.

    Siganus Sutor, un ostrogoth

  102. marie-lucie says:

    Siganus, Austria does suggest a relationship with Australia, but l’Autriche never suggested that to me, probably because I have known the (French) name since elementary school (Louis XIV’s mother and regent was Anne d’Autriche), long before I learned the English names of European countries. And at that time I did not know why l’Australie was called that.

  103. David Marjanović says:

    your country of origin is the empire of the east (oster reich), no?

    Yes.

    (Though it’s not obvious in the modern form. If coined today, it would be *Ostreich with /ɔ/, not Österreich with /øː/ and a whole extra syllable*; östlich “eastern” has short /œ/ – indeed, Ostern “Easter” and Österreich are two of about three or four Standard German words that have a long vowel in front of a consonant cluster.)

    The confusion probably dates back to the invention of the Medieval Latin name, when Austria formed the southeastern corner of Charlemagne’s and then of the Holy Roman Empire.

    There are T-shirts with the Australian traffic sign for “watch out for animals crossing the road” under “NO KANGAROOS IN AUSTRIA” – English in the original to make sure the American tourists get it. 🙂

    *…which is widely omitted in Germany.

    un ostrogoth

    😀

    Allegedly, the Ostrogoths were etymologically bright and shiny rather than eastern; heroes in shining armor or something.

  104. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    If you ask someone around here where the north of France begins you may be told that it begins at Valence, and in some ways I’ve found that to make sense. Travelling west, the north begins between Carcassonne (clearly in the south) and Toulouse, which despite being on the same latitude as Marseilles has a northerly feel to it.

  105. I know a German who was born and bred in the North Frisian country (he’s not a Frisian, though), and he considers even Hamburg to be a Southern city.

  106. Siganus Sutor says:

    David, you must go out every now and then!
    http://worldalldetails.com/Slide/Vienna_Schonbrunn_Zoo_Austria_Dwarf_Kangaroo-388.html

    Ostrogoths are bright and not eastern Goths and Wisigoths are noble and not western Goths, all right. But still…

    I once read something in a book about Madagascans using the cardinal points for everything, even the most mundane, even inside the house. Like: “Where’s the salt?” “It’s to the south of your plate.“ But I can’t find it back, despite looking here and there, and I am left a bit disoriented.

  107. David Marjanović says:

    considers even Hamburg to be a Southern city

    I’m reminded of the “X is the Canada of Y” snowclone, and the nested meanings of Yankee.

    using the cardinal points for everything, even the most mundane, even inside the house

    That’s apparently universal in Australian languages (“look, there’s an ant on your eastern leg”) where the concept of left & right is completely absent. Has also been found elsewhere (Aymara again, if I remember that right…?). People who grow up speaking such languages always know where the cardinal directions are, even if you spin them around 10 times (the experiment has been done). And if you teach children to write left to right when they happen to be facing north, they write right to left next time they happen to be facing south.

  108. Siganus Sutor says:

    if you teach children to write left to right when they happen to be facing north, they write right to left next time they happen to be facing south ► That one is hard to believe, boustrophedon or not — but who knows in the end?

    I still remember when I went to the Northern hemisphere for the first time, aged eighteen, how baffled I was not being able to point out the north from the south and the west from the east. Almost traumatic.

    Now I have just been wondering how it came into custom that the north was taken as the main cardinal direction instead of the east (cf the verb “to orient” and the noun “orientation”). Maybe something to do with the use of the magnetic compass as from the 13th or 14th century in Europe?

  109. Wow. Do you know if they also write the first line of words at the north end of the page? How do they orient the letters?

  110. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    There is a relevant article about using compass points instead of relative directions at http://tinyurl.com/qxfyqwk. Although it’s a newspaper article the author seems to know what he is talking about. I was led there by a link from another page at http://tinyurl.com/psq8xdk which has the interest of being written by someone who speaks such a language (in the Philippines).

    None of the people I know in Chile speak in such terms, but they are all far more conscious of the compass points than most people in Europe. I think this is because from anywhere in Santiago you can see the Andes, which follow a clear north-south axis.

  111. marie-lucie says:

    Siganus: I still remember when I went to the Northern hemisphere for the first time, aged eighteen, how baffled I was not being able to point out the north from the south and the west from the east.

    When I went to the Western hemisphere for the first time aged twenty-one, how baffled I was when people kept referring to north, east, etc to give directions within the city. I am still not quite used to it. After a while I understood that that was because I was used to French cities, which are not built on a grid with most streets at right angles with each other (a boring plan) but don’t always go in a straight line and intersect with each other at odd angles. If you ask for directions in a French city people will direct you towards landmarks, and say “when you get to such-and-such, ask again!” because it would be too complicated to explain (and to remember) without looking at a map. They won’t say “go north, then turn east”, which would be meaningless in the context.

  112. Marie-Lucie, in Washington, DC, we owe our reliance on compass directions to a Frenchman.

  113. marie-lucie says:

    Keith: Yes, but L’Enfant designed the city, it did not grow “organically” from small beginnings like old European cities. I notice that the plan has diagonal streets too, with a few “hubs”.

  114. Marie-Lucie, if you ever find yourself on Mars, never ever ask a Martian for any direction. As “everyone is supposed to know where everything is” (it’s a tiny place), people simply can’t explain where the next petrol station is, or where they live.

     

    apparently universal in Australian languages (“look, there’s an ant on your eastern leg”)

    On top of (so to speak) having people walking upside down, Australia must be full of west-handed people, with about one in ten being east-handed.

    “Doctor, I have a pain in my eastern ankle.”
    “Okay, just turn 180º then.”

  115. As a Southerner I associate the universal use of compass headings in directions with the Midwest and its Northwest Ordinance. I found it useful outdoors but was always flummoxed if I was in the middle of a large building, in a windowless hall, and a sign instructed me X IS THREE DOORS WEST.

  116. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    The first North American city where I spent much time was Toronto, and there it’s very easy, because not only are the streets arranged in a cartesian grid, but the city is built on a slope, with north at the top and south at the lake.

  117. m-l, all cities in the Americas (N & S), I believe, are built on a grid plan, which has its roots in the Roman army castrum, or camp, with the exception of St Augustine, Fla., and Victoria, BC, though I think Lower Town of Quebec City is the same. Newcomers to Vicctoria complain that street names and directions change willy-nilly, and you can find 5 and 6 street intersections.

    Vancouver Island is oriented Northwest-Southeast, so I grew up with the cardinal directions Upisland and Downisland.

    In the Eighteenth Century, the Backside of America was the West Coast.

    The Near East that I learned was Greece, Turkey and Egypt (I thought the Levant should be included to connect Egypt to the other two). I can’t remember where I read it, but apparently at the end of WW 2 the order came down through the British Foreign Service that the Near East would be included in the Middle East to conform with American custom. Sic transit gloria mundi.

  118. David Marjanović says:

    if you teach children to write left to right when they happen to be facing north, they write right to left next time they happen to be facing south ► That one is hard to believe, boustrophedon or not — but who knows in the end?

    The trick is to write the letters upside down – north side north – when you write right to left. The experiment has been done, I’m just too lazy to google it today.

    There is a relevant article about using compass points instead of relative directions at http://tinyurl.com/qxfyqwk.

    Oh, thanks, now I remember that it’s Tzeltal (a Mayan language in Mexico), not Aymara. “One report relates how a speaker of Tzeltal from southern Mexico was blindfolded and spun around more than 20 times in a darkened house. Still blindfolded and dizzy, he pointed without hesitation at the geographic directions.”

    Although it’s a newspaper article the author seems to know what he is talking about.

    Guy Deutscher is a linguist.

    a sign instructed me X IS THREE DOORS WEST.

    o_O
    O_o

  119. David Marjanović says:

    a grid plan, which has its roots in the Roman army castrum, or camp

    Alexandria was also founded that way.

  120. Well, the Romans got everything worthwhile from the Greeks.

  121. Except the arch.

  122. Boston is by no means a grid city, and there are probably other exceptions along the East Coast. Manhattan has a mixture of four systems: the long-axis-oriented grid covering most of the island, which is a 19th-century invention (with the exception of Broadway, the old Albany post road, which wanders randomly across it); the N-S-E-W grid of Greenwich Village; the grid below the aptly named Division Street in the southeastern corner, which is aligned with the waterfront at that point; and the downtown area, which is the usual atrocious European chaos.

    Or as they say in the Kingdom of Kemr, just one universe away:

    What did the Romans leave us?
    Three things: our language, our law, and our will.

  123. Mongolian appears to use a mixed egocentric and geographic system.

    For instance, when you say that a building is ‘behind’ another one, you mean that it is in the north. Even if the building in the north is a large building that faces a main street (i.e., it is on the south side of a street), a smaller building to the south of it, say in the same compound or in a minor street, will be considered to be ‘in front’ of the other building by virtue of being in the south. We would normally say it is ‘behind’ the other building.

    But when giving directions in a taxi, right and left are always described from the point of view of the taxi, not as an absolute geographical direction.

    I’m sure that there must be ambiguous cases but with my primitive level of Mongolian I’m not totally sure how people would disambiguate them.

  124. David Marjanović says:

    Except the arch.

    And concrete.

    And the alphabet came from the Etruscans, who had received it from the Greeks themselves…

    our language, our law, and our will

    Will?

    Obligatory:
    “My cause is just… my will is strong… and my gun is very, very large.”

  125. Hey, I’m not a mediaeval Kernow poet, nor do I play one on FrathWiki. I’m just quoting here.

  126. but the city is built on a slope

    There’s a slight rise from the lake, as might be expected, but it’s not really noticeable. The slope you’re thinking of must be the shoreline of Glacial Lake Iroquois, a pronounced rise about three miles from the shore of Lake Ontario (the Wiki figure is incorrect) and several miles wide. Davenport Rd. runs mostly along its lower edge, it being one of the few streets in the older part of Toronto that doesn’t adhere to the grid. The silly, though not without charm, Casa Loma was built on the escarpment. (A far more pronounced downstairs-upstairs effect is evident in Hamilton, about 40 miles southwest of Toronto, where the Niagara Escarpment *really* bisects the city.)

  127. Newcomers to Victoria complain that street names and directions change willy-nilly, and you can find 5 and 6 street intersections.

    The same thing happens in lower Manhattan. Because of a crank in the grid in the West Village, West 4th Street ends up running roughly N-S.

    a grid plan, which has its roots in the Roman army castrum, or camp

    Oh no, it’s much older. There are Indian examples from 2500 BC, and Miletus from 450 had a grid rotated to take advantage of the direction of summer prevailing winds. The difference between Greek & Roman grids is that in the latter the public buildings are on the grid’s axis, whereas the Greeks had a (in my opinion) more sophisticated way of approaching their public buildings on the diagonal, rather than flat-on, so you could immediately see their 3-d form.

    There’s a long wiki article on city grids that I saw has quite a lot of misinformation. The standard book on city plans is by Edmund Bacon, and now I come to think of it he’s the uncle of the actor Bacon – Kevin – through whom we’re all connected to Cary Grant & Marilyn Monroe.

  128. Well, the Romans got everything worthwhile from the Greeks.

    After the fall of Rome ~450 AD, the Greek-speaking eastern half of the empire persisted until Constantinople fell in 1453. Over that thousand-year span, there’s scarcely a philosopher, scientist, physician or poet of note. The only military type that comes to mind is Justinian and the only invention Greek Fire. Wha’ happened?

  129. Over that thousand-year span, there’s scarcely a philosopher, scientist, physician or poet of note.

    Of course, “of note” means “remembered today,” and the legacy of Byzantium was sneered at and swept under the carpet by the nineteenth century, with its worship of the Ancients (the antiquarian Germans pretty much forced the newly liberated Greeks to ignore their heritage from Constantinople and focus on Pericles and other irrelevant folks they’d long forgotten). There were lots of poets in the Eastern Roman Empire, and maybe someday they’ll come back into fashion.

  130. There were lots of poets in the Eastern Roman Empire

    Any anthologies? (in English)

  131. I seriously doubt it. But there’s plenty of material out there to read about them, e.g. Poetry and its Contexts in Eleventh-century Byzantium.

  132. I know of one Byzantine engineer – Callinicus Of Heliopolis. He invented “Greek fire” – superweapon which saved Constantinople from Arab invasion.

  133. crank in the grid in the West Village, West 4th Street ends up running roughly N-S

    Just so. That’s where the pre-existing Greenwich Village grid meets the 1811 general grid. Some of the Village’s streets were assimilated to the numeric names of the new grid, with bizarre results: 4th Street, which natively runs NW-SE, was assimilated to a N-S Village street, whereas 10th, 11th, and 12th Streets, parallel to 4th St. in the main grid, were assimilated to E-W Village streets, so that they actually intersect 4th St.

  134. until Constantinople fell in 1453. Over that thousand-year span, there’s scarcely a philosopher, scientist, physician or poet of note

    That’s a bit late, isn’t it? Even if you’re not counting Hagia Sophia, which is 6th Century, or any other Eastern stuff, or anything Gothic (Sainte-Chapelle consecrated 1248, Chartres finished in 1250 – actually you can’t not count them), there are tons of Renaissance European architects & artists. And Dante’s dates are 1265 – 1321. Giotto died in 1337, Chaucer in 1400. Brunelleschi was 1337-1446. Alberti was born in 1404. Etc.

  135. the antiquarian Germans pretty much forced the newly liberated Greeks to ignore their heritage from Constantinople and focus on Pericles and other irrelevant folks they’d long forgotten

    If 19th century Greeks had forgotten Pericles, there was already something amiss in their society.

    There were lots of poets in the Eastern Roman Empire, and maybe someday they’ll come back into fashion.

    Poetry, and literature in general, are subject to fashion. Science and medicine surely are not (and surely shouldn’t be). After all, new developments are usually built on earlier discoveries. Other than Greek Fire, what contributions to scientific/medical learning did the Eastern Roman Empire make?

    As I see it, the Eastern Roman Empire fell asleep when Rome fell — just like the rest of Europe/Christendom. Some 900-1000 years later Western Europe woke up, but the domains of the Eastern Church remained in a stupor from which most, if not all, have yet to emerge.

  136. If 19th century Greeks had forgotten Pericles, there was already something amiss in their society.

    For God’s sake, man, 19th century Greeks had been living as peasants under the Ottomans for centuries, they weren’t going to Oxford and studying the classics! Those few who got an education got a religious education; they studied the Bible and the Church Fathers. Obviously there were a few Greeks who knew about Pericles as a dusty figure from the pre-Christian past, but your vision of Classical Greece as a great pinnacle of human achievement is a complete anachronism in this context.

    As I see it, the Eastern Roman Empire fell asleep when Rome fell — just like the rest of Europe/Christendom.

    That was a popular view a century or so ago; I’m surprised to learn there are still intelligent folk who subscribe to it

  137. With Greek independence came a deliberate strategy of tying the modern state to classical antiquity. Even the choice of Athens as the capital was made, in part, as an allusion to its premier importance 2400 years earlier; unlike Rome, which had maintained its great importance because of the presence of the papacy since classical times, Athens was merely one of several moderately important cities on the Greek mainland.

    One reason for the deliberate harkening back to pre-Roman times was the fact that, in the Byzantine period, the center of Greek culture had been in Asia Minor. For obvious practical reasons, Anatolia was not going to be part of an independent Greek state. So it made sense for the Greek nationalists to downplay the historical significance of Asia Minor in Greek history, even though there remained a large population on Greek speakers in Ionia and elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire until the twentieth century.

  138. Oops. Never mind. I should go back to saving Soviet jewelry.

  139. With Greek independence came a deliberate strategy of tying the modern state to classical antiquity.

    But that was the strategy of the Germans who bankrolled the new state and supplied its royalty and who had all learned from Winckelmann to worship ancient Athens; the Greeks had to be bullied into it, since what they wanted was to restore the Byzantine Empire:

    Σημαίνει ο Θιός, σημαίνει η γης, σημαίνουν τα επουράνια,
    σημαίνει κι η Αγια Σοφιά, το μέγα μοναστήρι,
    με τετρακόσια σήμαντρα κι εξηνταδυό καμπάνες,
    κάθε καμπάνα και παπάς, κάθε παπάς και διάκος.
    Ψάλλει ζερβά ο βασιλιάς, δεξιά ο πατριάρχης,
    κι απ΄την πολλήν την ψαλμουδιά εσειόντανε οι κολόνες.
    Να μπούνε στο χερουβικό και να ‘βγει ο βασιλέας,
    φωνή τους ήρθε εξ ουρανού κι απ’ αρχαγγέλου στόμα:
    “Πάψετε το χερουβικό κι ας χαμηλώσουν τα ‘αγια,
    παπάδες πάρτε τα γιερά και σεις κεριά σβηστήτε,
    γιατί είναι θέλημα Θεού η Πόλη να τουρκέψει.
    Μόν’ στείλτε λόγο στη Φραγκιά, να ‘ρτουνε τρία καράβια°
    το ‘να να πάρει το σταυρό και τ’ άλλο το βαγγέλιο,
    το τρίτο το καλύτερο, την άγια τράπεζά μας,
    μη μας την πάρουν τα σκυλιά και μας τη μαγαρίσουν”.
    Η Δέσποινα ταράχτηκε και δάκρυσαν οι εικόνες.
    “Σώπασε κυρά Δέσποινα, και μη πολυδακρύζεις,
    πάλι με χρόνους, με καιρούς, πάλι δικά μας είναι”.

  140. Although Buryat may be using left and right as cardinal directions in the facing-southwards mode, Evenki, who live interspersed with Buryat over much of the area, use the common orographic left-right conventions (facing downstream).

    Most of the major rivers in Northern Transbaikalia flows southward so one can’t tell the difference. But just cross the mountains of Upper Angara Range and the very first major river there flows North (Mama, Evenki “River of the Woods”) and it is formed by the confluence of Left Mama (on the West) and Right Mama (on the East).

  141. That was a popular view a century or so ago; I’m surprised to learn there are still intelligent folk who subscribe to it

    Sorry, that came out snarkier than I intended. You’re entitled to your views, of course, but I wonder if you’ve kept up with the scholarship on the Eastern Empire, which has shown it to be a far more creative and successful entity than had been assumed for so long.

  142. J. W. Brewer says:

    When I was a freshman in college it seemed to be the official position of the philosophy department that there had been no philosophers of note in any part of Europe (or any part of the world) in between the death of Aristotle and Descartes’ first publication (so-called medieval philosophy was left by default to the Divinity School faculty). I believe that this was rather inaccurate and provincial of them, but at least it treated East and West even-handedly.

    One might say that the great non-philosopher of late medieval Byzantium was Gregory Palamas, who (executive summary of complex situation . . .) convinced the Orthodox world that the sort of reductionist/rationalistic philosophy being developed by Aquinas et al. in Western Europe was mad, bad, dangerous to know, and should be ignored by decent and sensible people — beating that Ivy League philosophy department to the bottom-line conclusion by approx six centuries.

  143. Stefan Holm says:

    there had been no philosophers of note in any part of Europe (or any part of the world) in between the death of Aristotle and Descartes’ first publication

    Isn’t this due to the fact that it wasn’t the Romans but more so the Arabs who adapted the Greek philosophy and science? After all – the Romans didn’t translate any of the Greek classics since they were expected to read Greek themselves. So practically all we know today of Greek thinking is mediated through Arabian scholars. And they developed it, particularily in the sciences (physics, chemistry, medicin, astronomy, mathematics etc.). The renaissance wouldn’t have occurred without the Arabs.

    Protestantism, Islam, Hinduism, Catolicism, Buddhism etc. have all had their periods of progressiveness and also – unfortunately – of extreme darkness.

  144. J. W. Brewer says:

    Stefan, which “Greek classics” do you contend were not preserved in the part of the Greek-speaking world that managed to avoid being conquered by Arabs only to eventually be conquered by the Turks at a later point in time?

    One can date the “Renaissance” a number of different ways, but surely one of the key factors was the reemergence of direct reading knowledge of Greek among the intelligentsia of Western Europe, which in turn was at least in part a side effect of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the resultant substantial influx of learned literate-in-Greek refugees into Italy etc. Because 12th century France was a remote and barbarous place, no one from Constantinople would have any particular reason to travel there, so the illiterate-in-Greek natives were naturally more likely to depend on Arabs from across the Pyrenees to mediate old Greek texts to them. But that’s not a fact about the insignificance of Constantinople, but a fact about the insignificance (at the time) of Paris, whose scholars might have benefited from access to, e.g., the then-recent commentaries on various Aristotelian texts referenced in http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/byzantine-philosophy/

  145. Stefan Holm says:

    The mediator is supposed to have been Spain during the Arab expansion period. From the high culture of Córdoba knowledge reached the universities of (modern) France and the empire of Charlemagne. This is the route through which we know of our modern mathematics – and of our understanding of Greek philosophy. Those are the routes, through which new ideas reached Galileo and Bruno. From Rome they could learn nothing but ideas of maintaing the power of the holy church.

  146. J. W. Brewer says:

    The particular routes by which particular texts traveled are largely the result of contingency and chance. Example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Aristippus, who was from Southern Italy (where competence in Greek had never been completely lost),* did the first translation of Ptolemy’s major astronomical/mathematical treatise into Latin. He worked from a Greek manuscript he obtained when serving in Constantinople as a diplomatic emissary of the Norman rulers of Sicily. However, his version apparently proved in the event less influential in the Latin-reading parts of Europe than a rival one done by a Northern Italian fellow working from an Arabic manuscript (itself a translation from the Greek) found in Spain. But ceteris paribus you’re going to get a better translation working directly from the Greek original (unless something had gone very badly awry in the manuscript tradition) than from an intermediate Arab version even if that had been a very good translation into Arabic in the first place.

    *Note the following amusing line from the wikibio, providing an insight into the austere scholarly lifestyle of scientific translators of that era: “He may have helped himself to some of the royal concubines during the rebellion of 1161.”

  147. I wonder if you’ve kept up with the scholarship on the Eastern Empire, which has shown it to be a far more creative and successful entity than had been assumed for so long.

    No, I haven’t kept up with such scholarship. On the other hand, I’m a fairly eclectic reader of non-fiction and I recall nothing in support of your statement that the Eastern Empire was a far more creative and successful entity, etc.

    Let me mix a metaphor by going out on a limb as I draw a map: Mark a roughly north-south line that divides Europe into Latin- and Greek/Cyrillic alphabet users. Almost every scientifically important discovery or development from antiquity until modern times happened on the Latin-alphabet side of things. (Yes, I know about al-Andalus, and that other civilizations were not dormant through this period, but under discussion here is stuff that happened within Christendom.)

    I’ll readily change my take on this. But to do so I’ll need examples of that creative and successful stuff.

  148. David Marjanović says:

    the antiquarian Germans pretty much forced the newly liberated Greeks to ignore their heritage from Constantinople and focus on Pericles and other irrelevant folks they’d long forgotten

    Hasn’t quite worked.

    *puts pukebucket in middle of room*

  149. But how Greek were the Greeks?

    It is well known fact that in 6-8th centuries, all of continental Greece (and some nearby islands) was occupied and colonized by Slavic tribes.

    Byzantine military recovery in 9th century restored imperial rule over these lands and pagan Slavic barbarians were forcibly baptised and mostly assimilated (but parts of Greece remained Slavic-speaking even in 19th century)

    Same thing happened to Asia Minor which was invaded, liberated and re-invaded innumerable times with its ethnic composition changing each time.

    In light of this traumatic experience which reminds me of complete transformation of Roman Britain in the Dark Ages, it makes little sense to begrudge Greeks for losing classical heritage.

  150. David Marjanović says:

    ^ You’re just highlighting the stupidity at the very foundation of nationalism.

  151. You’re just highlighting the stupidity at the very foundation of nationalism.

    I presume this means you’re in favor of a world porridge, where everyone plays the same music, eats the same food, speaks the same language (ahem!), and so forth.

  152. Stefan Holm says:

    plays the same music, eats the same food, speaks the same language

    We´re practically there. The decline of nations depends on technological progress, neither on socialism, liberalism nor any other -ism. How to organize and govern a globalized world is though a matter of politics.

  153. “Nagulnov smiled dreamily, then heatedly went on: “Wait till we break down all the frontiers, and I shall be the first to shout : ‘Lay on with you, marry yourselves off to the women of foreign blood!’ Everybody will get mixed up, and there won’t be the scandal of one man having a white body, another having a yellow, and a third having a black, and the whites reproaching the others with the colour of their skin and regarding them as lower than themselves. Everybody will have pleasantly swarthy faces, and all alike.” (c) Mikhail Sholokhov “Virgin Soil Upturned”

  154. marie-lucie says:

    nationalism vs “world porridge”

    I am not a historian, but it seems to me that the breakup of empires in the last two centuries (Austro-Hungary, Ottoman, British, Soviet) and the current separatist movements in states with more than one ethnicity (Canada, UK, Spain, where separatists are a substantial minority) argue against the possibility of the “world porridge” idea. When people feel they are being forced into a mold they find ways to break out of it (sometimes quietly, sometimes explosively).

  155. Stefan Holm says:

    The increasing popular support for right-wing nationalism in Europe is for sure explained by many as a reaction against the globalization. So is to some extent even the green environmentalism. Both appeal to a longing for ‘the good old days’ when people felt affinity to ‘natural’ collectives, may they have been family, village, clan, congregation, nation, class, linguistic community, cultural circle or whatever.

    But the globalization is ‘real’. Goods, capital, people, ideas are world wide transported and traded in a scale and at a speed never dreamt of earlier and this is irreversible. I believe man just has to cope with it and find new ‘collectives’ to stick to, whatever they will be (empires I think not). The last thirty years or so dominated by ultra-liberalism with focus on the invidual haven’t exactly promoted this.

    In this perspective conservative nationalists and a lot of the ‘greens’ are fighting windmills (even if the latter like windmills, as long as they are NIMBY).

    Unfortunately the shrinking of our planet probably also will decide the fate of many threatened languages.

  156. David Marjanović says:

    I presume this means you’re in favor of a world porridge, where everyone plays the same music, eats the same food, speaks the same language (ahem!), and so forth.

    o_O

    I’m very happy with the UK’s national dish being ṭikkā masala, thank you very much for asking.

    Unfortunately the shrinking of our planet probably also will decide the fate of many threatened languages.

    I’m not actually sure about that. Just today on Facebook, I read people talking about the fact that there’s a several-week-long Mohawk language course somewhere else on Facebook – and one of those people is going to take it.

  157. Once I’ve read a wonderful story about a tribe living in remote jungle of Yunnan province in China. According to their legends, they were descendants of Mongol invaders. However, by 20th century they all spoke Hmong language and were engaged in rice agriculture. Racially, they were indistinguishable from other Yunnan natives.

    Sometime in 1980s, tribal elders decided that it’s time to recover their Mongolian heritage. So they applied to the local party chief and had their nationality officially changed to Mongolian.

    This, of course, meant that they had to learn Mongolian, so they invited a few teachers from Inner Mongolia to teach Mongolian in their school.

    In addition to language, Inner Mongolian teachers also taught them Mongolian wrestling which the natives really liked.

    And a new tribe of Yunnan Mongols was born…

  158. marie-lucie says:

    SFR: a new tribe of Yunnan Mongols was born

    I wonder how well they learned Mongolian. Only thirty-odd years on, I would be very surprised if it completely replaced Yunnan Chinese and enabled the learners to be linguistically undistinguishable from “native” Mongolians.

  159. It doesn’t really matter. There are two million authentic Mongols in China who don’t speak Mongolian at all.

    In their daily life, they continue to speak Yi language (not Hmong, sorry for mistake) among themselves and Mandarin Chinese to outsiders, but they adopted Mongolian as a sort of prestige language.

    It’s more than enough for their purpose – which I gather was to distinguish themselves from other speakers of Yi language.

    PS. Most interestingly, as Chinese regulations for authonomous ethnic townships require, they put bilingual signs in Chinese characters and Mongolian script over the entrances to shops and public buildings. No doubt some of the signs are in Mongolian, but some ought to be in Yi language written in traditional Uyghur Mongolian script.

    That would be interesting to see.

  160. Here is a relevant about Yunnan “Mongols” and their attempts to “relearn” Mongolian

    quote

  161. Once the era of cheap fossil-fuel based energy ends globalization will probably come to a crashing halt anyway, but that is the dystopian sci-fi fan in me talking.

    The one advantage of nationalism I see is that nationalism produces more interesting literature classes, (and possibly better literature). In Russia, where nationalism has always been strong, there is a heavy emphasis on the canon, which at least results in teen-agers reading and often appreciating Pushkin, Tolstoy, Turgenev, Blok, etc. In Austria, where the educational establishment is allergic to the smallest hint of German or Austrian nationalism, the kids in gymnasium get a steady diet of anodyne “young adult” literature, translated often from the American.

  162. Good news everyone!

    You can speak the same language[1], eat the same foods, shop at the same retail outlets, share the same popular culture and still have savage, genocidal wars: Just look at Yugoslavia-as-was!

    [1] Of course Croatian and Serbian are now completely different languages whose speakers exhibit a spectacular unwillingness to mutually comprehend.

  163. Stefan Holm says:

    David, Vanya and des:

    I don’t deny there are wishes among people and attempts made to preserve national languages, cultures life-styles etc. So are pretty strong efforts made in Sweden for revitalization of Saami, Meänkieli and Romani. People attend courses, documentations of the tounges are made etc. The crucial point however is, whether the young generation will adapt a language or not as a means for communication – and there no turn of tide has so far been seen.

    Growing nationalism is what all Europe is discussing these days. In the recent elections the right-wing nationalist Sweden Democratic Party more than doubled its number of votes (following the European trend). It’s analyzed as a protest against the traditional big parties in Europe, which today in the eyes of the public are impossible to differ from each other in their devotion to a historically quite extreme liberalism. Whether they call themselves conservative, liberal or socialist is today irrelevant.

    This conformity has opened a space for opposition. Since socialism in Europe for thirty years or so has been in a deep dormancy (left-wing intellectuals only discuss climate, environment, feminist and HBTQ issues), conservative nationalism is the remaing choice. Their particular target is immigration but, as I said earlier, that is due to technological progress and a shrinking world and can hardly be stopped. It probably would just lead us to a US situation with millions of illegal immigrants.

    So, dreams and wishes is one thing. Possible real world options is another.

  164. Is there any danger of Swedish being replaced by English?

    I have an impression of widespread English-Swedish bilingualism in Sweden. Usually in such situations the more prestigious language eventually wins.

  165. “Of course Croatian and Serbian are now completely different languages whose speakers exhibit a spectacular unwillingness to mutually comprehend.”

    You forgot Bosnian. Actually, in my experience only a small minority of speakers exhibit that attitude. Most Serbo-Croatian speakers will sigh wearily and say “of course it’s the same language”. Unfortunately the minority is far more vocal and energetic.

  166. Stefan Holm says:

    Is there any danger of Swedish being replaced by English?

    Not at the kitchen table. No kids are raised with English at home but all of them learn it in school (since early 1950’s). Sw. economy has for ages been highly dependent upon exports and many companies are multinational. So English is essential in most professions. As a native English speaker you can live in Sweden without too much problems but of course you will miss a lot in terms of culture, politics, debates, everyday social life etc.

    Industrial and financial sectors are more worried about the rapid decline in knowledge of especially German and French among young Swedes during the last, say, 40 years.

    English loanwords flow into Swedish but in most cases they after a while smoothly slip into the Sw. inflectional system. I also see only microscopic impact on grammar and phonetics. Among the 6000 spoken languages Swedish is No. 70-80 in amount of speakers. Add a developed economy and worries about the status of Sw. can be dismissed for a forseeable future.

  167. David Marjanović says:

    In Austria, where the educational establishment is allergic to the smallest hint of German or Austrian nationalism, the kids in gymnasium get a steady diet of anodyne “young adult” literature, translated often from the American.

    Not in my experience; I had a teacher that heaped lots of deuterocanon on us, Das Fräulein von Scudéri and Peter Schlemihls wundersame Geschichte being among the best-known ones of what we had to read.

    Appreciating it is another matter.

    Growing nationalism is what all Europe is discussing these days. In the recent elections the right-wing nationalist Sweden Democratic Party more than doubled its number of votes

    That’s protest-voting and xenophobia, and hasn’t changed in decades (one word: Haider).

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