Radio and language

Things haven't developed exactly how I wanted them to, but I'm not dead yet, so I still have time to attain some goals. But along the way, I've found something interesting: doing the sound board for some foreign language stations--they're all foreign languages, all the time. I haven't started working there yet because I have to actually be hired, but I've got a good chance. Unfortunately, they're languages I don't understand, such as Russian, Polish, and Korean. I asked the dude in charge how he can work a board for shows he doesn't understand, and he said they just point at you to give you cues to play whatever they've told you to play (the on-air folks are bilingual). At one point when we were talking on the phone, he had to put me on hold, and I heard a Korean song, then a commercial. The only think I could make out were the endings ("da" and "o" which are similar to "desu" and "masu" in Japanese) and I could tell that they were saying numbers. Another day I heard a Polish commercial, and guessed a similar thing--that they were saying numbers, which was probably a phone number.

So if I do end up getting some work there, it would be a good blend of two things I love: radio and languages!


San's comment

I've decided to take advantage of the multilingual feature in Blogger and use Japanese as my default language. So that means that all the directions--and everything else--are in Japanese. So when I go to publish this comment, I have to click on the button that doesn't say "publish" but something a lot more wordy.

But what's cool is when I see people's comments in this or other Blogger blogs, because instead of just showing the name of the commenter, it attaches さんのコメント (san no komento) after the name. So, for instance, if a guy named Joe leaves a comment on a blog, then it will say "Joe さんのコメント" (Joe-san's comment).

As you probably know, Japanese people use the word "san" after people's names, such as Tanaka-san or even Judy-san if the person happens to be a gaijin (they usually call foreigners by their first names, then attach "san" to it). So seeing "san" after commenters' names is really cool, and so different.


Make money

I was reading an excerpt of Ayn Rand's money "lecture" or what seems to be a character's soliloquy and saw this statement:

If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose—because it contains all the others—the fact that they were the people who created the phrase 'to MAKE money.' No other language or nation had ever used these words before...

Is that true? That sounds preposterous--there must be some language or culture in the world that has the phrase "to make money." Also, human history is so old that it doesn't seem possible that the U.S., which is a relatively young country, would be the first to create it--we speak a derivative of British English, which itself comes from a mish-mosh of other languages that have been around for a long time.


English in EU

I learned via Mad Minerva that English is the most widely spoken language in the EU--just check out the chart, where they report: "English is the language which is most widely 'spoken' in the EU. While it is the mother tongue for 16% of the European population, a further 31% of the EU citizens speak it well enough to hold a conversation."

Why did they put "spoken" in quotes? They don't believe people really speak it?

The largest language group, in terms of native speakers, is German. Which means I should start studying it again--just in case opportunities present themselves, cuz you just never know.


White, no sugar

I've never heard of this term to describe tea with milk: white. Well, I'm assuming it means tea with milk, because when someone asked Lynley if he wanted tea, he said, "White, no sugar."

I found that phrase at a BBC site underneath a picture of Prince William, who I'm assuming said that (or would, since the article was about summer jobs) because it says, "Mine's white no sugar, William."

I can't imagine anyone saying that in Da Windy City, or anywhere else in this big land.



In an episode of Inspector Lynley, he and Havers went to his family's estate, which she called a "pile." Then he told her not to use that word.

Okay, I'm American and have never lived in England (though I visited there), so I don't get what "pile" means. Plus, I don't even quite understand if what she was saying was rude, thus if he was letting her know that it was offensive.

According to my edition of the Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, pile is "a lofty or large building or mass of buildings: the noble pile of Windsor Castle."

Sounds harmless to me. But maybe in modern British English, it has negative connotations.


Untying knots

Time for some whining: I did a draft of a novel, then rewrote it, and now I have to comb through it for problems, and have realized that although it's fun to write a draft, it's painful to try to whip it into better shape. This is one of those times that I have to keep myself from falling into despair because I'm pursuing something that is difficult and solitary. It's one of those times when I think, "I wish I knew someone in the business who is waiting for or wants something that I'm writing," because I have to dig myself out of some problems, and I need some solid and constructive help that is going to have concrete results, because I'm having a hard time working by myself in this orbit out in the wannabe universe.

Right now, I'm looking at the "scenes" that I've written, and see that it was fun to write the drama and conflict, but the problem is that they're not in order, or there are clumps of scenes that are in order, and then the next clump should go elsewhere. So now I have to untie the plot knots that I've created--I've literally gone through part of the draft and have numbered scenes in the order that I think they should go and have written notes to myself where I think a scene should be created and inserted.

In other industries, you're either already working within an organization or know someone who is, so all you have to do is contact them if you need some help. But in the impossible fiction-writing world, the established/successful writers and/or editors and/or agents and whoever else is in the biz don't want to deal with you unless you're already in the system. And even then, they may not even want to talk to you because they have their own impossible dreams to fulfill in the ever-shrinking scene as they compete for readers and consumers. And besides, they have thousands of hopefuls clanging the gates around their moats, so why the heck would they want to deal with any peons?


Chinese whispers

I was listening to a sermon (in English), and a woman behind me was whispering to her kid in Chinese, probably telling him to settle down. I've heard different languages before, so it didn't strike me as surprising that someone was speaking another language in a mostly English situation. However, it made me wonder about whispering in Chinese and other tonal languages.

English and lots of other languages are easy to whisper in because all we care about are the words that are being spoken, and it really doesn't matter how we're saying them because it's the words that matter, not the delivery (unless you're asking a question or are angry or whatever).

But whispering in a tonal language is a whole other issue, because the tones convey the meaning of the words. So was the mother shifting or flattening or de-emphasizing the tones as she was whispering, or was she just partially expressing the words, thus it was up to the kid to get the context? It seems that whispering would deaden the tones because they're not uttering sounds, just punctuated breaths.

I should ask someone, and I will--next week I'm going to ask a Chinese person if whispering in their language changes the sounds of the words, thus the clarity of the meaning. Or I can ask a Thai person--who I'm sure is freaked that there's been a coup there!


Star Trek hell

Today I heard Kira say, "What the hell" when she was wondering why DS9 had disappeared. Even though I'd seen that episode before, I hadn't really questioned her use of the word because various characters say it.

But when I heard it today, I had to wonder: why would a Bajoran say it? Their spiritual beliefs do not include the concept of hell, so if there's no cultural basis for it, then her language wouldn't contain it, either.

Then my mind got going: have any other aliens used it, or is it just Bajorans, or more specifically, just Kira? Could it be that she never speaks English but only speaks in her own language, and the Universal Translator is converting her own Bajoran-based word to an English approximation, which equals "hell"? Did the writers even consider this, or does this go into one of those nerdy lists of Star Trek discrepencies (which I'm sure exists somewhere)?

This is another layer that I have yet to explore in that series, which can easily be answered if I did some online research, but I'm not obsessed enough with the show to do that.


Counting chickens

Sometimes I'm tempted to "count my chickens before they hatch," which means that I'm planning for something that hasn't happened yet, and it may never happen. Like, "What if I get a really cool gig, then I'll be able to do this and that, and I'll have a great time, and then I'll meet someone else who will give me an even better gig," etc.

Well, after I thought about that idiom, I wondered where it came from, and was surprised to find out that it was from Aesop's fable The Milk-Woman and Her Pail:

A FARMER'S daughter was carrying her Pail of milk from the field to the farmhouse, when she fell a-musing. "The money for which this milk will be sold, will buy at least three hundred eggs. The eggs, allowing for all mishaps, will produce two hundred and fifty chickens. The chickens will become ready for the market when poultry will fetch the highest price, so that by the end of the year I shall have money enough from my share to buy a new gown. In this dress I will go to the Christmas parties, where all the young fellows will propose to me, but I will toss my head and refuse them every one." At this moment she tossed her head in unison with her thoughts, when down fell the milk pail to the ground, and all her imaginary schemes perished in a moment.


Not America

A couple of Brazilians are staying with me, and when I've talked about this country (in English), I've said "America" because that's what Japanese people and other Asians and folks from some other countries say. Then it dawned on me: in Portuguese it's "os Estados Unidos" or USA (pronounced "oosa"), not "America" because they're living in America Latina.

What's interesting is that the Brazilian Times calls itself "O jornal dos brasileiros nos Estados Unidos da America"--they've literally translated "United States of America" into "Estados Unidos da America."

Overall, though, avoiding the word "America" with Latin Americans isn't a politically correct decision but an obvious one, since they really are from America--just not the same kind of one Americans are from. Which reminds me that in Spanish, Americans are called "Americanos." Which really confuses the issue, actually, because the land mass "America" is huge, along with the variety of different regions of Americans.

But I'll still call myself an American, and adjust when necessary, depending on which language I'm trying to tackle.


Hebrew alphabet chart

Even though I studied Hebrew growing up (and eventually spoke it when I went to Israel, though now I can't even put two words together), I recently had a brain freeze on how to write some of the letters in cursive. So I found a good chart to help me. It's straightforward, and provides the pronunciation, print version, and cursive version of each letter, which is a lot more helpful than the typical charts that usually just have block letters.


Not undersold

Sometimes I hear the line, "We will not be undersold" to advertise a sale. For instance, I might hear an ad for a carpet store, and they'll say what types of carpets they have, the discounts, etc., then they will proudly declare: "We will not be undersold."

I've never really understand this statement. What does it mean, exactly? They want to get rid of their inventory, but why do they have to phrase it like that? It sounds like some kind of legalese. Do they think that we really care whether or not they'll be undersold? All we care about are good prices for quality products--it's the company's problem if they have to get rid of their products.

Maybe, a long time ago, someone once came up with that line and said, "That sounds Important--let's use it" and then other companies decided to say the same thing because they wanted to sound important, too.

Well, they're just selling stuff--they're declarations are not for posterity.



I just had a very long day: I left at 7:30 am and got home at 9:30 pm. So I settled down, expecting to find some entertaining tv, when I saw that I had missed a fresh episode (at least in the U.S.) of the hot inspector. No! I can't believe it! I've become slack in my obsessive Lynley recording and/or watching (depending on if I'm around to see it "live" or have to tape it for later viewing). In the past, I would've sought out any important Lynley-related info and taped accordingly, but I missed it. Oh, the suffering we endure in our cushioned societies.

I just hope that some nutcase/evil people don't want to celebrate the 9/11 anniversary in some horrific way. :(


Loaf ward

I've been reading about the history of lords in England, which was sparked by yesterday's pondering, and saw that the word "lord" comes from an ancient compound:

hlaf weard, literally 'loaf ward'--the guardian of the stock of bread in a household. Since this was usually the master of the household, the word came to mean specifically that in Anglo-Saxon (in the somewhat reduced form hlaford). Hlaford was used by Christian missionaries to translate the Latin word for 'master'...

and the ancient word "[reflects] the Germanic tribal custom of a superior providing food for his followers."

I was also wondering how the Labour party deals with lords, and while I haven't fully come to understand how someone becomes a lord (besides inheritance of title), I did find out that in 1999 "The Labour government...banished the hereditary peers from the House of Lords."

That's some serious history-making! I wonder how the lords are dealing with it now?


Labour lords

I've been watching BBC Newsnight on C-SPAN, watching them talk about Tony Blair's resignation. It's weird to see them interviewing American politicians, but it's refreshing to not see all the bells and whistles that the American news has to put on to keep the attention of the masses.

There are some things I still don't get, which makes me realize that I have to read more about European history. I've been in the Asian scene for a while, and sometimes feel that I understand more about that area than Europe, since I haven't been fortunate enough to live over there or travel the Continent extensively.

I have to do some digging, or maybe someone out there can explain: why would Labour party members want to be called "Lord"? Isn't that title based on a privileged system of elite decisions? People don't earn the title, they're just given it, aren't they? And if Labour is for The People, as an MP said tonight, then are The People wondering why there are Labour Lords running around?

I guess it's one of those seeming contradictions based in a history that I have to better understand.


City shock

If I have to spend a lot of time in the suburbs for work or whatever, I sometimes get "city shock" when I go back home, especially if I have to take the "El" (what Chicagoans call the elevated train--there are trains that are just elevated and others that become subways, but for some reason, we call all of them "the El").

This is how city shock can occur: if I'm in a suburb that is far away from the city, where people mainly drive, and the streets can be easily navigated. If I spend some time driving in the 'burbs and then come back to the city, I have to weave through other cars, some that don't care about the rules of the road or with drivers that may not have licenses. Also, I may have to put on the brakes for various reasons, including guys pushing grocery carts in the streets or doors suddenly opening up, or folks sauntering against the light.

Another difference is customer service: especially in the 'burbs that are farther away from the city, the workers are nicer and simply do their job: there's not much emotional baggage because they don't have to wade through dank neighborhoods or stand in a crowded bus to get to work on time.

Also, the boony 'burbs are so clean and orderly, there really isn't much externally that can stress people out. All they have to do is wait for the traffic to move, and if they want to stop somewhere, they can just go into a number of strip malls, which are well-maintained.

Lately I've been spending a lot more time in the city, so there hasn't been much shock. But then I start to become nitpicky about stuff I see and hear. When I'm in the 'burbs, there's just a general wonderment about how people can live with such organization and not many surprises. But in the city, there's so much more to look at, the only way to process it is to attempt categorization.


Laborless day

Today was Labor Day, which was created in the 1880's as a "workingmen's holiday." But since a lot of people in different kinds of professions (not just industrial workers) have the day off, it should be called Labor-Free Day. It wasn't quite labor-free for me since I taught a class, but because it was a holiday, I stupidly forgot to finish up some stuff that's due (!) Which means that tomorrow will be filled with much labor to make up for my slackfulness. I could have also become lax because I've been preoccupied, wondering about some labor-related changes that will hopefully be coming my way, though it could just be another disappointment that can be stored with the rest of them.


Music I don't understand

Sometimes I prefer listening to college and independent radio because they play music that other stations don't--the playlists are up to the dj and the variety isn't predictable. Actually, if technology will ever allow us to run music from the internet directly in our cars, terrestrial radio is going to be in trouble.

Yesterday I was listening to a world music show and heard a lot of stuff from Zimbabwe, then music from Southeast Asia. It all sounded great, so I kept listening. I was making my way through the north side of Chicago, which has a lot of different kinds of ethnic neighborhoods, and then it hit me: what if the music I'm listening to has some bizarre lyrics? I thought about all the times I've listened to Indian music and Arabic music and Jamaican hip hop and other stuff, and I could be listening to a bunch of garbage. I remember hearing Cuban music, then watching the English subtitles on television, and realizing the music was all about admiring a woman's behind and wanting her. Great--that's really what I want to listen to [NOT]. So it made the interesting music raunchy and I just couldn't appreciate it anymore. One time, I was having dinner with a fluent Spanish-speaking friend of mine, and she was telling me what the Spanish hip hop that was playing in the background was all about. Not something that women would want to be subjected to, even though they put up with that trash all the time in English hip hop.

So I still appreciate music from different countries, but I can't help but wonder what they're really saying.


At this very moment

La Shawn tagged me to participate in a meme on how I feel right now:

1. Are you craving anything and if so, what?

I'm craving a change in my work situation.

2. What is the weather outside, and do you wish it would change?

The weather is perfect: cool, partly sunny, and comfortable--no need to change.

3. What two websites do you think you will go to next after you are finished here?

WordReference to use their French-English dictionary and Yahoo to check my mail.

4. Do you wish you were somewhere else and if so, where?

Yeah, I wish I was either traveling or at the radio station where I work part time.

5. Do you wish you were someone else, and if so, who?

I used to wish I was someone else, but at this point, I'm glad to be me. It's just the context I live in that is not so exciting. I've met some people who have really interesting lives, and I wouldn't mind being in a similiar situation as theirs.