Thursday, August 6, 2020

Ch and J ...and m-m-more mothers

Just a quick post making a few notes in reference to the consonants. It follows on from the letter [S] post I did not too long ago;

First up, like with the [S] and the [Z] sounds of that last article, it occurred to me that [J] and [Ch] are quite similar. Just as the [S] sound is a [Z] with a push of air so too is the [Ch] sound a [J] with a push of air. (Mouthing these sounds out yourself and noticing the positions of the tongue and the mouth will help if this all seems a little strange).

So this pair can also be added to our list of "push" sounds.
Of course, when developing my stripped back phonetic alphabet I'd removed the [J] altogether. After realising it was essentially a combination of a [T] and a [Y] - that's a [Y] as in the word yeah. So the name John for example, would be rendered Tyohn. Which looks very bizarre, but it essentially gives the same sound. People will argue, no doubt correctly, that there are slight, but important and noticeable differences. Making this a clumsy substitution. However, the aim is to strip things back to represent the basic shapes in the mouth used to make the consonants. Not to split these simple shapes into an infinity of minor variations.

Anyhow, given [J] is now gone [Ch] would have to be written Tyh - the [H] representing the push of air. Quite odd looking xD

..and more mother words

The second thing I want to make note of are some of the eastern words for mother.

Anyone familiar with this blog will be aware of the links between the letter [M] and motherhood. Not only with various words such as mother, maiden, matron, matre, mademoiselle, mamma, mummy ..the list goes on. But also words associated with eating, which perhaps have their origins in breastfeeding. Mammary, milk, mouth. Along with onomatopoeic words such as yummy, mmm, nom, chomp and so forth.

Anyway, I finally got round to checking the words for mother in some of the eastern languages (in European languages the [M] sound for mother seems almost universal).

The fruits were many.

Firstly we have plenty of [M] words in the Indian languages. Courtesy of this very useful Quora page.

Then in Chinese we have; 

We also find the [M] in the Korean word for mother;

The only major outlier I've came across so far is Japan. Apparently the word for mother there is the very cutesy haha. ..typical Japan with their cool emojis and text speak :p Though even there the word for daughter has the double [M] sound.

Obviously it goes without saying that I'm quite far out of my depth with all these languages. I'm basically relying on Google Translate and YouTube videos. Still however, it does very much seem like this [M] / mother association is quite common across much of the world.

Finally, as a consequence of all this I was also wondering about the word more. Does that have similar roots? After all, it too is a word children tend to learn very early. When they want more bottle, etc. "More, more, more.."

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Did Roman Numerals Develop After The Advent Of The Printing Press?

People often ask; "If the Romans were so smart, then why did they have such a terrible number system?" What with Roman numerals being so impractical, especially for Mathematics.

(Standard Roman numerals.)

According to the conventional history Roman numerals originated in ancient Rome, over two thousands years ago. In turn developing from the earlier Etruscan number system. Conversely the printing press is said to have been invented much later, in the fifteenth century. Though printing in general has much earlier origins, going back far deeper in history. The earliest surviving examples of woodblock printing from China said to date from circa 200 AD.

In this article I'm going to suggest that Roman numerals in fact came after the advent of printing. If not after the advent of the printing press itself.

So what's the logic behind this thinking?

When block printing began printers would naturally only have blocks for the letters of the alphabet. If they wanted to print a number they would then need to make separate blocks for the number symbols. However, this would be costly and time consuming. Especially as numbers rarely figured in most printed texts anyway.

So they just used letters. As they already had an abundance of these at their disposal. Hence why Roman numerals are indeed all letter symbols.

One to ten - or I to X if you prefer - is simply a tally system. This is commonly used when counting anyway. So it was a natural way to represent numbers in the absence of the numerical symbols. The V is simply a crossing off - as we normally do when we reach five when we're making tally marks. Likewise with the X.

(tally marks)

The X is simply two V's. A right-way-round V on top of an upside down one. So it makes sense that V is half the value of X.

Other letters were then used to stand for the bigger numbers where this tallying became impractical. For example, C for century and M for mille (a thousand).

So Roman numerals were just used for printing. As a labour and cost saving alternative. They were never used by the Romans, or any other culture, as the primary number system. Their presence on other items and artefacts, such as clocks and buildings, then simply being a product of printed books making them fashionable.

If we ignore the conventional history this explanation makes perfect sense. Though that's quite a brave thing to do. As will be familiar to anyone that has read other articles on this blog my general view is that the conventional timeline is somewhat confused, and that "ancient" Rome effectively blends into medieval history. With much of what we think of as ancient Rome (and ancient Greece) existing only in textbooks from the medieval period onward. Whatever the true history though this idea that Roman numerals are a product of block printing is an interesting little theory.

(P. S. - you may have noticed I avoided giving an explanation for the meanings of the L and the D symbols. I have some ideas, but haven't quite fleshed them out just yet ..or you could perhaps say I don't really have a good enough explanation yet. So have cheated a little bit :) Either way I may come back with another article that goes into these aspects in more detail.)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

The Letter "S" - Another "Push" Consonant

This is just a quick one to make note of something I hadn't previously noted. Namely that the letters [S] and [Z] seem to be related in the same way that the other "push" consonants are related. With an [S] essentially being a [Z] with a push of air.

(I'm using an old image as I'm too lazy
to knock up a new one)

I missed this correlation as I quickly dismissed the letter [Z] at the start of all this, what with it being so under used in comparison to [S], and relatively easy to get rid of.

With the above pairs I got rid of the symbol with the push. So [P] went and I kept [B] for example. Following that logic I would also need to get rid of the [S] and leave the [Z]. However, the [S] symbol looks so snake-like and fits it's purpose so well that I'm definitely not going to lose it. So the [Z] remains gone.

It has made me consider if I've made the right call on the other symbols though. Is the [V] symbol more fitting than the [F]? Is the [G] symbol better than the [K]? Maybe something worth some further thought. The [V] symbol does look a little too similar to the [U] after all.

The Letter "B"

One pair where I'm fairly sure I have the right symbol though is the [B].

It looks a little bit like the female body (at least the side view anyway - belly and breasts), and seems fittingly related to childbirth. Just as the letter [M] seems to be.

Birth, belly, breast, bust, bosom, born, baby. Words relating to bursting forth. Of course, the mechanics of how we make the sound with the mouth also suggest this. As we purse the lips together and pop them out. We also have many rounded words. Like ball, balloon, bulge.

So the [B] symbol seems very apt.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Oink - A Phonetic Alphabet: The Full Alphabet

I've knocked up a little graphic showing the full alphabet as it stands.

(click to enlarge)

I've ended up with 10 vowels and 13 consonants. Quite far removed from the original aim, which was to strip things back to seven sacred vowels with twelve constellation consonants.

Hopefully I can start using this now to make some, no doubt illegible, texts :)

Oink: A Phonetic Alphabet. Vowels Given Notation

This is a little short one. I've recently been re-evaluating all the phonetic alphabet posts. I think it's time I started to nail it down into some sort of usable form. To start really trialling and playing around with it. So I've finally affixed some symbols to the various vowel sounds.

You may recall that we noted how the ten vowel sounds I'd identified, common to the English language, seemed to correlate rather succinctly with the five vowels in the English alphabet - if you took into consideration both their upper and lower case pronunciations.

I knocked up this little graphic at the time.

Anyhow, I've decided to stick with this general theme. Keeping the lower case letters as they are, and then representing the upper case sounds with the same letter, only this time accented.

So the above graphic now looks like this.

I've decided to use the forward-leaning acute accent to make the distinction just as these are commonly available in other alphabets, and therefore readily available on keyboards. As opposed to creating completely new symbols say. Or choosing more obscure ones.

I've also decided that I'm going to use the following accented [o] symbol for the "th" consonant sound.

Ø, ø
(upper and lower).

Again, as it can be more commonly found on keyboards, as opposed to the thorn symbol I was using. Plus it's not too dissimilar in look to the thorn symbol. So it's a nice substitute.

I'll do another post with the graphic for the consonants next.


Also it's worth mentioning that for elongated sounds I've decided to just double up the vowels. In an earlier post we mentioned the word first. How we tend not to pronounce the [r] sound as we would a normal [r]. With it instead acting as a marker that the [i] sound (actually more of an "e as in egg" sound really) is lengthened. Without the [r] it would just look like fist though (or fest rather). However, fest becomes "ferst" by lengthening the vowel - f-errrr-st. If you get the drift.

Again, I've had to use the "err" sound with the [r] to illustrate this to people reading who are used to standard English spelling, but really that "err" sound. A sound we often make during speech when we stutter or pause, or can't find the right words. Is actually just a single long vowel sound if you mouth it out.

So for words like first I'll just be using two [e]'s together. Feest. Of course, it looks like it would sound like the word feast with our normal vowel conventions. Like as in the word speed in the above graphic. However, as per the graphic, in my phonetic alphabet that would now be represented by an [é] symbol. So I'll be spelling "feast" as fést.

It's all very confusing :)

I think this doubling up though makes more sense as it's a natural thing to do when illustrating elongated, more sustained sounds. For instance, when we "shush" people at the cinema (not that I would ever do that!), we often spell that out for dramatic effect as something like "Ssssshhhh!". The more S's the more emphasis and exaggeration. Or like when someone screams, "Aaaaaaaahhh!".

We naturally do this when writing to illustrate these vocal exclamations, even though they're not proper words in the conventional sense. It just makes intuitive sense, as that's how they actually sound. An "Aaaaaaaaaahhh!" really is just someone saying an [a] for a really long time.

So I'm going to try to follow that logic.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Am I A Christian? Am I A Stars Wars Fan?

Another quick one. This time; Christianity through the Stars Wars lens.

I'm a huge fan of Christianity, but I'm a fan of it in much the same way that I'm a fan of Star Wars or the Beatles. I've read the New Testament and I really found it fascinating. Agreed with lots of its tenets, and I took a lot of it to heart. It means something to me. It's now part of my palette of influences. Again, like the Beatles or Star Wars or all the other things I love and identify with.

So, am I a Christian?

..and this is what gets me to the topic of this article.

If you say you're a Christian people assume that you believe in it all literally. That you follow a particular version, and follow that version to the literal letter.

There's no middle ground for people who just like it. Or enjoy it. Or find some value in it in some way or other. People just assume it's either all or nothing. There's a total lack of nuance.

Imagine Christianity Was Star Wars.

Getting to my Stars Wars comparison I would paint it something like this;

Imagine you have a situation where, in say a thousand years time, you have people who believe that Star Wars really happened. That the Star Wars movies were literally true.

Now if you're just an average Stars Wars fan (who just likes the movies) you may be denounced by these "true believers" as not being a genuine Star Wars fan - even though you love the stories and find real meaning and value in them.

Alternately, when you state that you're a Star Wars fan to people who aren't fans of Star Wars they may just assume you're like the other "literal believers".

"What, you actually believe Darth Vader really existed??"

"Duh. How stupid do you have to be to believe that people can levitate objects using the force??"

It's a bit of a silly example, but you get the point I'm making. You'd be accosted by ignorant hardliners from either side. Simply for liking something. Very much like it is now with Christianity and many other religions.

If someone sees you reading the Bible they assume you're a literal believer of some description. There's no appreciation that you may be reading it because you find it interesting, or meaningful, or enjoy it in some other way.

"Why are you reading that? *confused look on the face* How stupid do you have to be to believe that someone could walk on water??"

Assuming that as you're reading it you must literally believe it verbatim. It's a bit strange really when you think about it. You wouldn't get that with any other content you were consuming.

"What? Why are you listening to that? Duh, do you really believe that there was an actual Yellow Submarine??"

No one would think you literally believed in magic because they saw you reading a Harry Potter book.

Are fans of Harry Potter expected to actually believe in magic by people? Do the real hardcore Beatles fans take all their songs literally? Completely missing all the poetical depth and meaning. It would be a strange world.

A literal interpretation. Be it by literal believers, or by those denouncing something under the belief that it's all meant to be taken literally. Just diminishes the whole thing. I think all the great religions of the world have been diminished greatly by this attitude.

You don't have to believe Moses was literally talking to a burning bush to find value in the tale. You don't have to believe that Master Yoda actually levitated Luke's X-wing out of the swamp to enjoy Star Wars ..or to find some meaning or resonance in the battle between the dark side and the force. 


Now, to summarise, I should state that I'm not saying that Christianity is or isn't true. Or that it's as fictional as Star Wars. My personal view is that it's impossible to know for sure what happened hundreds or thousands of years ago from such a removed position, but that ultimately it doesn't matter as if a story has value it has that value either way.

"Judge not lest ye be judged" makes sense regardless who said it or what the origin is.

This is just my personal opinion though, and ultimately it's an individual choice or judgement.

However, I do think that the lack of nuance from both sides means that literal believers miss out because they're overly consumed with concerns and doubts as to whether what they believe is literally true or not. Whereas those on the other side miss out completely as they deem something completely valueless because it isn't one hundred percent true in a literal sense.

..and no doubt those people reading this are now both equally annoyed. The literal believers annoyed that I'm comparing Christianity to Stars Wars, the Beatles and Harry Potter. The literal unbelievers annoyed that I'm saying Christianity has so much beauty, meaning and value.

(In fact, as I'm finishing this I'm listening to Kate Bush and the song Cloudbusting has just came on. What a song :) Personally I like all these things in similar way. It's all art. It's all religion. Why can I not like the New Testament in the same way that I like a Kate Bush or Beatles song?

Am I a Christian? Am I a Kate Bush fan?)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Turtles All The Way Down..

This'll be a nice little fun one hopefully. Concerning the famed "flat earth" idea that the Earth rests on the back of a giant turtle.

The idea is said to originate in Hindu mythology. The general idea being that the Earth rests on four elephants, who in turn stand on the shell of a giant turtle. However, it's also a common cliché in the west and is often used to ridicule flat earthers and other ideas that employ illogical reasoning.

The story that most often gets repeated goes something like this;

A lecturer giving a scientific presentation about the Earth finishes his speech and then gets accosted by a little old lady who states; "You're wrong, Sir, the Earth rests on the back of a giant turtle".
The lecturer then politely asks; "..but what does the turtle stand on?"
To which the old lady insistently replies; "Another turtle".
He then further questions her; "..but what does this second turtle stand on?"
She then triumphantly answers; "It's no use, Sir, it's turtles all the way down".

Some of the various versions of this story can be found on the following Wikipedia page;

The first question that always springs to mind whenever I hear this story is how odd it is that a little old lady in the western world would believe such a thing in the first place. Was this a common belief in this part of the world in earlier times? Was she well read up on her eastern mysticism perhaps? Or is it simply a made up story, in part inspired by these eastern ideas, used to conveniently illustrate the ignorance and superstition of unscienced folk?

It's certainly an odd little story.

Etymology of the Two T's

Anyway, returning to the basic idea, what I really find fascinating is the etymology.

"Turtle" and "Tortoise" both contain a double "T" sound. In fact, in many ways they're both just variants of the same word, more or less meaning the same thing.

Curiously, we also have many words containing this double "T" sound denoting places at the edge of the world; Antarctica, Tartaria, Tartarus.

In Greek mythology Tartarus was a place at the edge of the world where souls where tortured after death. Torture is another word containing this double "T" sound and means "to twist" (another word with two t's).

The name turtle/tortoise no doubt simply denotes a shell or shelled creature. Shells, seashells and such, are often twisted too it's perhaps worth noting. The ring-shaped pasta tortellini also springs to mind.

So could it be that this idea of the Earth on the back of a giant turtle is simply a misunderstanding of what was originally meant? Maybe the idea was that we were "in" the turtle shell. After all, a turtle's shell is its home. As shells are for many other creatures. So it's a fitting motif.

Perhaps the idea was originally used as a metaphor for the "outer edge" surrounding the Earth. Hence why we have words conveying this double "T", suggestive of a shell, for places at the edge. When considered this way the idea of a "world turtle shell" doesn't seem quite as silly. It's also very similar to the concept of the "cosmic" or "world egg". Again, another conceptual idea where the world is within a "shell".

(Also as a side note, is "shield" related to "shelled"??)

It's also thought that the words turtle and tortoise could be related to the name Tartarus. The keepers of Tartarus were called Tartaruchi. According to Wikipedia the Italian and Portuguese word tartaruga (tortoise or turtle) derives from this noun.

The Arctic and Tartaria

A further thing worth relating is the potential overlap between the words Arctic and Tartar (or Tartaria / Grand Tartary). In fact, the Arctic Ocean was often labelled the Tartar Sea on older maps.

(Carte Generale Des Decouvertes
De L'Amiral De Fonte)

(Close up - "Mer De Tartarie")

I would imagine part of this confusion is due to the way directions can easily get confused. In this case the directions north and east.

If you travel from Europe to north eastern Russia or Alaska you can go straight east through Russia, or straight north across the North Pole.

(Which way?)

So there's land to the east and land to the north, but it's the same land. It would be easy to imagine how mapmakers, on hearing about land in these directions, could perhaps duplicate this land on their maps. This is maybe why the large area labelled "Tartaria" on older maps disappears so suddenly. It may have been that they overestimated the size of the territory by placing it both to the east and to the north of Europe.

Also, finally (and back to etymology) we have tartar sauce. This is a white coloured sauce normally eaten with seafood dishes. Its name is said to derive from the Tartars. According to Wikipedia;
This name comes from confusion over their allies the Tatars, because of whom the Europeans called Mongolia Tartary. This misnomer came from associating the name Tatar with the Greek mythological hell known as Tartarus.
However, given it's a white sauce perhaps its name also comes because of its similarity in appearance to the snowy Arctic. There's also steak tartare too, which similarly is said to get its name from the Tartars - owing to their fondness for eating raw meat. Again, Eskimo peoples tend to eat raw meat. So the overlaps seem numerous.

Ta-ta :)