Know your Narts: cattle rearing and cattle raiding

We here at Language Log know our Ossetians:  see "Know your Ossetians" (2/17/20), and be sure to read the informative comments to that post.  Today, let us go one step deeper into their language and lore.  We shall do so through getting to know some basic things about the Nart sagas (Abkhaz: Нарҭаа ражәабжьқәа; Nartaa raƶuabƶkua; Adyghe: Нартхымэ акъыбарыхэ; Nartxıme aqıbarıxe; Karachay-Balkar: Нарт таурухла; Nart tawruxla; Ossetian: Нарты кадджытæ; Narty kaddžytæ; Nartı kadjıtæ) are a series of tales originating from the North Caucasus. They form much of the basic mythology of the tribes in the area, including Abazin, Abkhaz, Circassian, Ossetian, KarachayBalkar, and to some extent ChechenIngush folklore.

The term nart comes from the Ossetian Nartæ, which is plurale tantum of nar. The origin of the root nar is of Iranian origin, from Proto-Iranian nar for 'hero, man', descended from Proto-Indo-European *h₂nḗr. In Chechen, the word nart means 'giant'.

Source:  Nart saga

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Comic entropy

It's in the air, apparently — there are two entropy jokes in current webcomics with four-character titles.

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Cvrk

If you're looking for words with lots of consonants and few or seemingly no vowels, try Eastern Europe, especially Czechia.

I have a friend named Stu Cvrk, and I asked him the story of his surname and how to pronounce it.  Here's what he told me:

It is Czech. The Czech pronunciation is "tsverk". My grandparents Americanized it a bit to make it easier to say, as we now pronounce it "swerk."

The story of its derivation according to family lore is this:

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Irish without translation

Article in The Irish Times (6/3/20):

"Church of England rules Irish inscription on grave stone must have translation:  Family of Irishwoman wanted phrase ‘In ár gcroíthe go deo’ at grave in Coventry"

Here are the first few paragraphs of the article:

The Church of England has ruled that an Irish-language inscription on a Coventry gravestone must have a translation with it to ensure the phrase is not mistaken as being a political statement.

The family of Irish-born Margaret Keene want the words “In ár gcroíthe go deo” on the stone above her grave at St Giles burial ground at Exhall, Coventry. Translated the words mean “in our hearts for ever.” She died in July 2018 at the age of 73.

Stephen Eyre QC in his role as a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court (an ecclestiastical court) ruled that without a translation the inscription would not be understood by many visiting the church yard.

“Given the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic there is a sad risk that the phrase would be regarded as some form of slogan or that its inclusion without translation would of itself be seen as a political statement.

“That is not appropriate and it follows that the phrase “In ár gcroíthe go deo” must be accompanied by a translation.”

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The importance of archeology for historical linguistics, part 3

The cattle head-and-hooves offering in this recently unearthed burial caught my attention:

Since the article is not long and is full of extremely interesting and valuable information, I copy it below.

First, however, I should note that Elizabeth J. W. Barber long ago postulated that the horse head-and-hooves sacrifices had been preceded by cattle head-and-hooves sacrifices, before horses became widespread.  She did so on the basis of the cattle heads and hooves above the royal tombs at Alaca Höyük, ca. 2600 BCE in Anatolia (see The Dancing Goddesses, pp. 308-12 and in Festschrift for J. P. Mallory). Judging from this new archeological evidence from Britain, it would appear that she was right.

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National Security Law eclipses Hong Kong

What the people of the former British colony dread:

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NPC Delegate Proposes To End Foreign Language Translation

Last week at the Chinese National People's Congress (NPC; the annual two-week meeting just ended), a delegate submitted a proposal to end foreign-language translations at press conferences and major events in order to "safeguard the dignity of the Chinese language".

"Chinese legislator proposes banning foreign translation at government press conferences"

Move could promote Chinese culture and cut out inefficiency, the deputy says in one of 506 motions submitted to National People’s Congress this year

But the deputy, a city mayor, claims foreign ministry has already stopped foreign language translation, which is not the case

Sarah Zheng, SCMP 5/27/20

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Public Romanization in Canton

Sign on the wall of a school:


(Source)

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Goblet word

That's the title of a wonderful new Wikipedia article from a volunteer editor who has written scores of major articles (ancient Chinese thought, religion, culture, literature, language and linguistics, lexicography, etc.) for the online encyclopedia of record.  This one is about a peculiar type of ancient Chinese drinking vessel, the zhī 卮, which tilts over when full and rights itself when empty.  The vessel served as an analogy for a rhetorical device called zhīyán 卮言 ("goblet word"), "a mystical linguistic ideology, which is generally interpreted to mean fluid language that maintains its equilibrium through shifting meanings and viewpoints, thus enabling one to spontaneously go along with all sides of an argument."

Along with other neologistic figures of speech, zhīyán 卮言 ("goblet word") is featured in the 33rd and final chapter, "Tiānxià 天下 ("[All] Under Heaven"), which summarizes early Chinese thought, of the Zhuang Zi 莊子 (Master Zhuang), my favorite ancient Chinese text.  For a complete translation, see Victor H. Mair, tr., Wandering on the Way: Early Taoist Tales and Parables of Chuang Tzu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1998; first ed. New York:  Bantam, 1994); also available as Zhuangzi Bilingual Edition, translated by Victor H. Mair (English) and Minci Li (Modern Chinese) (Columbus:  The Ohio State University Foreign Language Publications, production of the National East Asian Languages Resource Center, OSU, 2019) — this is actually a trilingual edition, since the 736 pages volume also includes the original Classical Chinese version.

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Normies and Fudds

Matthew Gault, "Here’s Why Men Are Pointing Loaded Guns at Their Dicks", Vice 5/27/2020:

Like with any other fandom, there’s levels to gun culture. In the online gun community there are "normies" and "fudds." Normies cover a range of people, anyone from a basic handgun owner to the completely uninitiated. Fudds—as in Bugs Bunny hunter Elmer Fudd—are the old heads, weirdos, and dedicated gun nuts. Some fudds hate normies and the way normies talk about guns. Even the normies who know their way around a firearm.

A chief complaint among fudds is the normie’s devotion to safety, typically manifested as knee-jerk praise of trigger discipline. For the uninitiated, watching trigger discipline refers to the act of keeping your finger off the trigger of a firearm until you’re ready to fire the weapon. It’s a safety basic, along with never pointing a gun at anyone or anything you don’t intend to harm, and always assuming a gun is loaded.

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Spelling out whole words

A recent Frazz:

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Welp, sup, yep, yup, nope

This morning, someone sent me a message that began, "Welp, at least word boundaries are respected…".  I had no idea what he meant by the first syllable.  It didn't even seem like a word to me.  Or, I thought, perhaps it's a typo for "well".

Still, I was curious, so I looked around a bit, and found this entry in Merriam-Webster:

"Yes, 'Welp' Is a Real Word:  'Welp' is over 70 years old"

Update: This word was added in March 2018.

Social media is a place where informal language flourishes, which means that lexicographers get to chronicle the exploits of words that don't have much written use in edited prose—words like welp.

Chicago Tribune Tweet:  Welp, here comes the 1st accumulating snowfall of this winter….

Yep, the Chicago Tribune used welp. And yet:

Doug Lambert Tweet:  "Welp" is not a word….

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The Scunthorpe effect rides again

Alex Hern, "Anti-porn filters stop Dominic Cummings trending on Twitter", The Guardian 5/27/2020:

Twitter’s anti-porn filters have blocked Dominic Cummings’ name from its list of trending topics despite Boris Johnson’s chief adviser dominating British political news for almost a week, the Guardian can reveal.

As a result of the filtering, trending topics over the past five days have instead included a variety of misspellings of his name, including #cummnings, #dominiccummigs and #sackcummimgs, as well as his first name on its own, the hashtag #sackdom, and the place names Durham, County Durham and Barnard Castle.

The filter also affects suggested hashtags, meaning users who tried to type #dominiccummings were instead presented with one of the misspelled variations to auto-complete, helping them trend instead.

This sort of accidental filtering has gained a name in computer science: the Scunthorpe problem, so-called because of the Lincolnshire town’s regular issues with such censorship.

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