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News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin August 2011
47 AUGUST 2011 ESPERAnTO This, as many readers would know, is the language created by L Zamenhof, circa 1887. He hoped that his simple, easy- to-learn and politically-neutral language would foster peace and understanding between peoples and nations. It is still taught and spoken in about 100 countries. The concept of an international language is excellent. In international forums, translations from one language to another are expensive, and can lead to many ambiguities. And arguments. Currently in Belgium, the difficulty of choosing an official language out of French, Flemish and Dutch has led to the use of English as neutral ground. Much the same thing has happened in India. According to Bill Bryson’s book, English is spoken by only five per cent of the population. However, their Constitution is written in English, which has also been adopted as an official language, not because of its virtues, but as a necessary expedient. This is because there are more than 1,500 languages spoken in India, 15 of which are official, and no one of these is spoken by more than about 15 per cent of the population. A similar situation exists in Malaysia, where there are speakers of Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Malay and Chinese, the last two in many quite different dialects. Your Columnist well remembers an elderly Chinese patient in his clinic at the University of Malaya Dental School with whom we could not communicate, because she spoke a dialect that none of the staff, who spoke Mandarin, Cantonese, Hainanese, Hakka, Shanghainese, Hokkien, Taiwanese, Taochu or Soochow, could understand. In Malaysia, most government activities are recorded in Bahasa Malaysia, business activities in Chinese, and English in the professions and education. Government policy is to educate in Malay, but the problem is that the textbooks are all in English. Even though it is difficult to learn, has complicated and confusing spelling and grammatical rules, often subtle shades of meaning and an enormous vocabulary developed from dozens of different languages, the number of people using English as their first language is very high. It is estimated at over 300 million speak English, 250 million, Spanish and 150 million, Portugese. Mandarin has the largest number of speakers, about 750 million. English is universally spoken in about 45 countries and it is used as an official language by about 400 million worldwide. You can use it anywhere in the world, and it is likely that someone nearby will understand you. That is why air traffic controllers around the world use English as the lingua franca when communicating with aircrew, no matter where they come from. It is ironic that its universal acceptance can be described using an Italian dialect word. But don’t worry. Lingua franca is listed in the Macquarie dictionary THE REbUS And THE HOLORIME Crossword puzzle addicts will know the meaning of the first word, but may have trouble with the second because it is not listed in the Macquarie or Oxford English Dictionaries. A ‘rebus’ represents a word or words by objects, letters or numbers, and was used extensively in the days when family crests were common. Thus the name Bolton could be represented as a bolt (arrow) shown transfixing a tun (barrel) and MOONCEON, represents ‘once in a blue moon’. Clever letter- and number- rebuses are common on car numberplates, such as RUNVS, seen on a red Ferrari convertible. Holorimes (or holorhymes) are short poems, usually two lines, which sound the same but have separate meanings, and are very popular with the French. Google the word for many examples. Here are two: On Hitler: He’s a rootin’-tootin’, high- falutin’ son-of-a-gun. He’s a routine Teuton, Eiffel-lootin’ sawn- off goon. The French do it better: L’un dit: Comment cela se mène? (He says: how does that come about?) Lundi commence la semaine. (Monday starts the week.) Children sometimes sing the Christmas carol line ‘When shepherds washed their socks by night...” and the hearing- challenged sometimes hear the Beatles songline “The girl with kaleidascope eyes” as “the girl with colitis goes by”. The Mother Tongue (p 229) offers a children’s riddle, which comes close to being a holorime: “How can you prove, in three steps, that a handbill is a lazy dog? Thus: (1) A handbill is an ink-lined plane; (2) an inclined plane is a slope-up; (3) a slow pup is a lazy dog.” LETTERS And nUMbERS This is the title of an ABC TV program (Channel 2 in NSW) in which two contestants compete to form words from a string of nine randomly displayed letters, and also match a randomly chosen number by mathematically-manipulating six randomly chosen numbers. The MC is Richard Morecroft, the numerical ajudicator is Lily Serna, an arithmetician and the spelling adjudicator David Astel, a cruciverbalist. The program is loads of fun, a mental challenge and a favourite in the Gillings household. David is particularly fond of the word retsina and says that you can make a string of eight letter words by addinga,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,andlotsmore of the remaining alphabet to it. He also noted that there is a word on a sign in New South Wales that uses half the letters in the alphabet, and all the vowels, and no letter is repeated. So there you have two puzzles for the staff room coffee break. In a recent show, David Astel commented on the number of English words which used every vowel letter in their spelling, and in alphabetical order. Abstemious and facetious are the two best known, but there are at least ten more. Sequoia has all the vowels, though not in alphabetical order, but has another distinction. Astel explained that George Guess, an illiterate Irishman, lived with the Cherokee Indians, and created a syllabary based on word sounds that enabled the Cherokee language to be written down. By 1830, 90 per cent of Cherokees could read and write their own language, and used it for over 100 years. George Guess became Chief Sequoyah, of the Cherokee. He was held in such high regard that when the Cherokee were asked to put a native name to the California or Giant Redwood, the very large tree of the Cypress family, they chose to name it after their Chief Sequoyah. nEvER MInd PAInT yOUR wAGOn, PAInT yOUR ROOf The UK magazine New Scientist has a ‘Last Word’ column where readers ask questions which are answered by responding experts. A reader suggested that if everyone painted their house roof white, the earth’s temperature might fall, thus counteracting the postulated temperature rise. The first answer was that three per cent of the earth is covered by roofs, and if they all were white, this could lead to a drop in the world’s temperature of one degree Celsius. But to achieve this would be expensive, and impossible to police. In addition, the calculation ignores the effect of clouds. The second suggestion was an alternative and more achievable activity: cover the roofs with photovoltaic (solar) cells. This would reduce dramatically the need for burning fossil fuels to provide electricity, and reduce the climate temperature rise accompanying the increased concentration of carbon dioxide and methane in the earth’s atmosphere. HOw TO AvOId OffEndInG Many folk will admit that they have no ear for music, or that they do not appreciate poetry, fine wines or art, but almost everyone, especially males, will not admit that they have no sense of humour, are unsafe drivers or poor lovers. Many think they are great joke tellers, but few can judge when the joke they tell may be offensive to others. clinical hints
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