Assimilation

This guy Mark Krikorian wrote a blog posting at the National Review’s web site yesterday in which he said that soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor shouldn’t expect her name to be pronounced properly because she’s a foreigner. Further, he said that she should “adapt to us” and that “we” shouldn’t “be giving in to” her name’s weird pronunciation. Oh, and he implied that multiculturalism is bad.

This guy is from the Center For Immigration Studies; I don’t know what that means.

Here is the full quotation:

“Deferring to people’s own pronunciation of their names should obviously be our first inclination, but there ought to be limits. Putting the emphasis on the final syllable of Sotomayor is unnatural in English…insisting on an unnatural pronunciation is something we shouldn’t be giving in to. And there are basically two options—the newcomer adapts to us, or we adapt to him. And multiculturalism means there’s a lot more of the latter going on than there should be.”

Oh, heaven help me. Sometimes I still get shocked that people like this exist.

First of all, Mr. KRIKORIAN, people’s names are their names. It doesn’t cause you physical pain nor inconvenience you greatly to say a person’s name the way it is meant to be pronounced. It’s just plain respectful.

It is true that in English we often Anglicise certain words or names. For example, we don’t refer to Germany as Deutschland in English. But that’s because it’s a translation. In English, Germany means Deutschland, just as the English translation of the French word cochon is pig.

There is no English translation for Sotomayor. That’s her name! And it’s not so difficult to show respect for someone’s name. Really. Come on, try it Mr. KRIKORIAN. Just once.

Secondly: Dude! You’re Armenian! WTF? Your family was once a “newcomer,” and your name is still Krikorian! Krikorian?!? Well that doesn’t sound like any English name I know! Why don’t you adapt to us and make it easier for us so we don’t have to strain ourselves trying to pronounce that foreign-sounding name. Can we just shorten it to Krik? And we’ll let people decide if they’d prefer to pronounce it “crick” or “creek”—whatever’s easiest for them.

Finally, as for his argument that it is unnatural to emphasize the final syllable in English, I wish I could ask Mr. Krekorian how he pronounces the word deny. Does he pronounce it DE-ny? How about annul? Is it A-nul?  What about garage? Is he one of those who says GARE-idge? What about one of the states in his very own country, Vermont—does he pronounce it VER-mint (like “vermin”)? How about inure, or imply, or bereft, or transform, or elect, or subside, or routine…. I really could go on and on, but you get the point.

And that is?

That likely to Mark Krikorian’s pleasure, the emphasis is on the first syllable in the word asshole. And bigot. And doofus. And foreigner.

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On apartheid

I am only going to say two things about the recent kerfuffle regarding CUPE, Ignatieff, and Israel Apartheid Week:

1) I don’t think it is ever right to restrict academic freedom. Nor free speech. “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” – Evelyn Beatrice Hall (often mis-attributed to Voltaire).

2) I’m growing increasingly frustrated by people arguing about what “apartheid” means and whether or not it’s a fair term to use outside of South Africa. It is a word and it has a definition. It seems fairly simple to seek out the definition and end the inanity, but clearly that’s too much to ask. After a fruitless search of the UN web site, I finally sighed and typed “UN definition of apartheid” into Google and found this as the second link: www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/11.htm (see Article II), which states:

For the purpose of the present Convention, the term “the crime of apartheid”, which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practised in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:

(a) Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person:

(i) By murder of members of a racial group or groups;

(ii) By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;

(iii) By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups;

(b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part;

(c) Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognized trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;

d) Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof;

(e) Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them to forced labour;

(f) Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.

Now stop arguing about what the definition of “is” is, especially when you can just look it up.

Birthday wish list

Birthday nomMy birthday is tomorrow; I would like:

  • People to stop being assholes.
  • A new bike.
  • People to stop using the word “anyways.” Please use “anyway” instead. Also, to reinstate “epiphany” or “revelation” instead of “ah-ha moment,” which I blogged about in an earlier post, plus “lesson” instead of “teachable moment.”
  • True love.
  • All of the books on my book list.
  • Time to read all of the books on my book list (and the unread ones on my shelves!).
  • My cats to start speaking like Lolcats.
  • World peace.
  • Summer.

(Not necessarily in that order. Except for the assholes thing—that is definitely #1.)

Thank you.

Gramma

My grandmother (gramma) died on this day two months ago. I miss her so much every day. Generally there is a dull ache I carry around inside, but some moments are excruciatingly painful. When you lose someone you love, you can be reminded of them in the most random ways.

Yesterday as I was making pizzas for my Oscar party, I remembered the first time I made whole wheat pizza dough. For some reason it just wasn’t turning out the way it does when I use regular white flour. It was too liquid. So I called my gramma. “Gramma will know!” I asked her if I should just keep adding more flour until it got to the right consistency, and she said yes. I said, “But won’t there be too much flour in the dough?” and she responded, “Dough is pretty much all flour anyway.”

When that memory popped into my head yesterday, I began to cry.

Gramma was eighty-six years old and had been in the hospital just over a month when she died. While she was old, and while things were bad at the very end, it doesn’t make it any easier. As Jamaica Kincaid wrote, “The inevitable is no less a shock just because it’s inevitable.”

She was an awesome gramma. She was strong and fiesty and independent, and she beared a lot. My grandfather died twenty years ago, and my gramma lived all this time on her own, fending for herself for the most part until an aging and ailing body required her to depend on others more than suited her pride.

She loved to laugh and was always game for whatever zany things I would ask of her—some of my favourite photos of her: gramma with a lampshade on her head, gramma wearing my cousin’s skateboarding helmet, gramma in the driver’s seat of a vintage car wearing my sunglasses, gramma donning the dog’s reindeer antlers, gramma wearing a Power Rangers walkie-talkie headset, gramma posing with a nearly naked man at Buskerfest….

She loved her children and her grandchildren. She always told me she loved me and that she was proud of me. Now that she’s gone, I have no one to say that they’re proud of me.

To honour my gramma, I am going to recount my favourite conversation I had with her. Please indulge me.

We were driving in the car and we passed a store or business of some sort that had closed down; she expressed surprise that it was gone:

Gramma: That place has been there for donkeys’ years.

Me: Donkey’s ears?

Gramma: Donkey’s years.

Me: Donkey’s years?

Gramma: Yeah.

Me: Donkey’s years? What does that mean?

Gramma: Oh, it’s an old British saying. It means a long time.

Me: Yeah, but why does it mean that?

Gramma: I don’t know; it’s just the saying.

Me: Are you sure it’s not donkey’s ears? Cuz donkeys have pretty long ears.

Gramma: No, it’s donkey’s years.

Me: But why? Do donkeys live a long time?

Gramma: I guess so.

Me: What about turtles? Or sharks? They live a long time. Probably longer than donkeys. Why isn’t it “turtles’ years”?

Gramma: Because it’s donkey’s years.

Me: But how long do donkeys live?

Gramma: A good long time!

I love you, Gramma. You are missed every day.

(Note: In my research to discover if it is donkey’s or donkeys’, I found this link: www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/donkeys-years.html, which explains that I was in fact right! It seems that the earliest incarnation of the term was donkey’s ears, and rhyming slang (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhyming_slang)—which makes no sense to me whatsoever, despite my British blood—turned it into donkey’s years. But had I discovered this when my gramma was still alive, I wouldn’t have told her.)

What a doofus

Hey! I'm Tom Cruise! I'm crazy! Gracias, gracias, gracias....

Hey! I'm Tom Cruise! I'm crazy! Pew-pew-pew! Gracias, gracias, gracias, gracias, gracias....

Tom Cruise is in Brasil with his stepford wife promoting his tepidly reviewed movie Valkyrie. While there he thanked a crowd of people with “graçias” (except that they speak Portuguese in Brasil, Tom, not Spanish) and talked about how much he loves the tango (whoops! that’s Argentina, Brasil’s rival country—you probably meant to say “samba” right? Of course you did).

You don’t have to know everything about every country in the world, but if you’re visiting a country you should probably learn something about it—most importantly, what language they speak and how to say “please” and “thank you” in said language.

Tom, don’t you have an assistant or something? Maybe he or she could prepare a little half-page primer on each country you visit, which you could then read before you gaffe. Really, even just printing off the first page of the Wikipedia entry on Brasil would suffice; the first line is: “Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil).”

But more than that, don’t be so disingenuous. People know you’re just there to sell a movie and that you don’t really care about the country or the people. The public is well aware of how these things work by now. You’re no more genuine than a rock star who shouts, “Good evening <insert town/country name here>! You’re my favourite <town/country>, <insert town/country name here>! You are so much cooler than <insert rival town/country name here>, where we played last night!” Granted, a lot of people will scream and applaud at lines like these, but not because they think you mean it; rather, because they’re caught up in the fervor and patriotism of the moment.

So the next time you’re in Brasil, or some other country you don’t care enough about to even discover what language they speak, at least have the backbone to admit that you just want them to pay money to see your movie and leave it at that. Graçias. I mean, obrigado. Or maybe danke? Merci…?

Ah…shut up

An Ah Ha moment from the '80s

An Ah Ha moment from the '80s.

Can we please stop calling them “ah-ha moments”? You know, we already have words to describe such moments: revelations, or epiphanies.

Oprah, you’ve already made us suffer the pseudoscience and/or psychobabble of Deepak Chopra, “Doctor” Phil, and Dr. Oz. You’ve given the world The Secret, Jenny McCarthy talking utter ignorance about vaccines, Tom Cruise acting like a lunatic (to be fair, that wasn’t just you), and Kate Winslet’s “real” breasts (actually, thank you for that last one). But do we really have to replace perfectly good and useful words with lame linguistic jingles?

Maybe we could go retro, invoke C + C Music Factory, and start calling epiphanies “things that make you go hmmmm.”

Published in: on January 16, 2009 at 9:55 am  Leave a Comment  
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