Ziphen Central

Seeking Wisdom and Sublimity

Adventures of a Language Nut: Meet My Friends!

english

Greetings! I am Mashkioya, and I am a language nut. I am not a linguist (although admittedly, being a linguist would be pretty cool), and I don’t often use the word “polyglot” because it sounds kind of ugly, and not many people know what it means. Plus, I don’t claim to aspire to fluency in 20 languages, or anything like that. I just like to dabble, and happen to have dabbled quite a bit in this particular area. Thus, I am a language nut.

You may have heard this proverb among Latin students:

Latin is a language,
Dead as it can be.
First it killed the Romans,
And now it’s killing me!

I understand the sentiment, but instead of thinking of the languages I learn and speak as enemies out to kill me, I like to think of them as friends. Some of them I’ve been acquainted with my entire life, while others are budding relationships that I’m just beginning to explore. And each one is beautiful and unique in its own way. This post will begin a series in which I will introduce you to my language friends, one by one, and hopefully motivate you to get to know them as well, or at least to begin widening your linguistic circle in other directions. (keep reading)

Posted on 6 May 2016 by Mashkioya
Filed under: English,language,poetry

Talented Presents

I had never thought about Amazon’s products being talented, but a couple of days ago I got an e-mail that proudly proclaimed

Kindle Fire HD: The #1 most gifted product on Amazon

That sounds a bit presumptuous to me. Of course they’re proud of their own creation, this electronic device with a name that sounds like it might burn down your house, but #1 most gifted? That’s even redundant. Take for example, this Swiss army knife. You may not be able to check Facebook with it, but if this isn’t a gifted product, I don’t know what is. Look at that thing: it has a ruler, scissors, saw, magnifying glass, screwdriver–that is one gifted product.

OK, enough of that. I come out from under my rock often enough to know that the Anglosphere has verbed the noun “gift,” and while I’m not against language change in the least, this one seems a wee bit absurd. There’s not even a lexical gap there! On Christmas Day, I’ll have you know, I do not gift presents, I give them. And believe it or not, this handy verb comes with a past participle, so I could even say that the Kindle Fire is the most given product on Amazon.

So if you want a gifted gift to gift for Christmas, just ask Amazon.

Posted on 18 December 2012 by Mashkioya
Filed under: English,miscellany

Talent

I have often wondered about the word “talent.” In English it is almost equivalent to “ability,” and it seems to be derived from the similar Greek word τάλαντον. There’s a discrepancy, however: this Greek word is the name of a measurement of weight, about 59 kg or 130 lbs. As an extension of that, the word also came to mean the amount of coins that weighed that much, which understandably would be a very large sum of money. So are these words related? If so, how did this association come about? These questions were answered by a recent visit to Dictionary.com and Wikipedia.

Not surprisingly, the Greek word came first. It was borrowed by Latin as talentum, and in the Middle Ages it underwent a semantic shift. Influenced by Jesus’s “parable of the talents” in Matthew 25, people started using the word to mean abilities, which fits nicely with the parable—after all, God does want us to use our abilities for Him, and to gain more in the process. This old word with a new meaning was then passed to Old English as talente, and the rest is history.

Now that that’s cleared up, maybe you can read Matthew 25 in a new light. It seems that throughout my life I have always heard the parable taught with the abilities application, and while that is certainly legitimate (Jesus does not explicitly say what the talents represent), the application can really be much broader. What about your time, money, and other resources that God has entrusted to you? Is not each of us responsible for being good stewards of these things, to return them with interest to the One who loaned them to us?

Posted on 5 November 2011 by Mashkioya
Filed under: Christianity,English,Greek,history

No English Allowed!

This past month I went down to “the valley” for a week–that is, the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and northern Mexico. Most people on the Texas side are bilingual, and I was soon exposed to that interesting phenomenon known to some as “Spanglish.” Start a sentence in Spanish, switch to English in the middle, switch back to Spanish a few phrases later. It changed my perspective a little, since before that time, I always felt a bit discouraged when Spanish speakers talked to me in English–I guess I assumed they thought I couldn’t speak Spanish very well. But hearing how they talk to each other showed me that the language switching is something they just do out of habit.

However, this change in perspective hasn’t been the most positive for my language learning. (keep reading)

Posted on 9 August 2010 by Mashkioya
Filed under: English,Spanish,travel

Language change and use

When one reads about language change, and how Latin evolved into its many children over time, it is difficult to see how this is still happening today. The English we speak is essentially the same that was spoken two hundred years ago, and it may seem like little has changed in the language since then. However, change is taking place, and as Spanish speakers have had increasing contact with English speakers in the southwestern United States, loanwords have been exchanged between the two tongues. Words like tortilla and jalapeño have entered the English language because we had no words of our own to describe these things. (keep reading)

Posted on 4 July 2009 by Mashkioya
Filed under: English,language,Spanish

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