January 14th, 2020

children of dune - leto 1

many names little time

Reddit's AITA (Am I The Asshole) sub is exactly the kind of place that combines 'infuriating' with 'irresistible trainwreck' with a healthy dose of contrariness in every post.

AITA for letting my 7 year old daughter call my husband "daddy", against the wishes of her biological father (my ex husband)?

Weirdly enough, though, that nightmare fuel isn't the point of this entry. Reading this on reddit and the comments, I remembered how many times this has come up in advice columns, about the massive divide of meaning between being called Grandmother and being called Grandma (huge difference, really) to the point of estrangement before the grandchild has even finished developing internal organs, much less vocal cords. And on one hand, I understand on the visceral level, because yes, words have meaning, but when it comes to names--mom, dad, mommy, granny, grandmother, grandfather--there's a sense that this is not just personal preference, a but something not unlike a cosmic transformation of self or a mystical coronation of a high king or god emperor by divine right.

'Hey, I want to use Nana as my grandmotherly name, but no big, how about Grans?' <-- myth or heresy or something????

'Upon my ascension to grandmotherhood, I take the name Nana, Highest of the Grandmothers, set above lesser grandmothers, and all grandchildren will acknowledge me at the best of their grandmothers as natural law. All usurpers who attempt to falsely claim 'Nana' I will meet with my blade and prove my claim on your dead body and knit your shroud myself' with the clear expectation that everyone will be 'Yes, she who takes the name Nana is the best and most loved Nana obviously, that's just how it is' and all the grandchildren have but to address her by that name to gain their adoration. <-- sounds legit

Does that sound insane? Yeah, but its the only vaguely comprehensible reason why two people would go to the mattresses, die on the hill, meet with pistols at dawn, declare war, and burn the world to settle the question of who gets the name 'grandmother' and who gets 'grandma'.

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I do get part of my attitude about names now has been formed by having a top three name for the year of my birth and remains popular. When I was in Finland, the 'J' sound was a work in progress for a lot of the kids in my age group and younger, and for their parents and most adults, if they spoke English, they learned it later in life. While I'd like to say being like "no don't worry, Yennifer's great," was entirely motivated by wanting to avoid everyone feeling self-conscious and not be a gross American, and yes, that was there, but a very real part was hearing someone call me Yennifer and for the first time in my life having a name of my very own and not shared what felt like half the goddamn country and three to ten in any given space not including the many variations of goddamn Jenny. It was maybe one of the nicest gifts I've ever received from anyone; a name they made right there, just for me.

[Note: Pronunciation was Yen-ne-fer with the n's separated so one ends the first syllable and the other starts the second and the i slid into an e sometimes; I loved hearing it.]

Which is why when someone asks "Do you pronounce Seperis like [this] or like [this]?" my answer is invariably "Yes."

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children of dune - leto 1

random linguistic question

For anyone who speaks Arabic native, fluent, third, started two weeks ago or even cares....

Over the last nine months between work and other stuff, I lost duolingo entirely and went back to start over my Hindi (interesting and related here, but I'll come back) I saw they added Arabic, Navajo, and a couple of others, and even if I don't plan to start anything new, I like to start the first lesson to look around, kick the tires, etc. Then I spent three hours happily working through the first two Arabic alphabet skills before I realized what I was doing, which is super weird since I've never actually in my entire life spent any amount of time looking at Arabic script other than when friends would write things and I'd say "pretty" because yes it is, and also, Americans are intimidated by words that look like modern art to us or something, IDK. Americans, dude; we're like this.

I do not know whether this is true or not, but Arabic within the context of Duolingo shares a lot of basic southern drawl rules in how to deal with vowels and the perfectly logical uses of 'ha', 'ya', and 'ay' when vowels try to be boring. I'm not saying I am going to expertise this shit, but it's nice to be hanging in a language that is like 'maybe more Atlanta around here, but here, rural central Texas farmer is perfect, well done!'

Which has had the funny side effect of having to work codeswitching my English out of 'so that's a lot of drawl' which I can hear and have to fight down. This really doesn't happen anymore unless I'm in a conversation with another Texan (born or assimilated) and on first drawl, we both devolve. (We don't do this around Yankees unless we're screwing with you. Yes, you aren't crazy, it is deliberate, we call this 'fun'.) I never defaulted into a hard drawl--Texas variations include twang and a lot lot lot of Mexican Spanish and Texan Spanish influence and my parents spoke two different dialects of Central Texas (Austin and rural Hill Country)--but once you get any drawl variation, it's fairly easy to adjust to anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon from Kentucky and Georgia to northern Louisiana (French-Creole influence then becomes a thing and you have to rebase the rules).

More importantly, I never ever do it at work, because while everyone is fluent in English, I use 'diction is your friend' rules. We all work in tech, and often, I'm the only native English speaker in the room with everyone else super fluent in English but in second, third, fourth, and fifth position with diffent first language start values of, in order of frequency, Hindi and Telugu (yes, I do feel inferior thanks for asking). So I start precise and read the room as Hindi-first language and Telugu-first language speakers also have some variation in how they learned English. Again, perfect fluency everyone (see me, inferior) but that means it's super easy not to even realize something may be off and double check.

(Note: for any native Hindi speakers who come to Texas; eighteen months, you will be saying y'all regularly, lose some 'g' on more than a few 'ing's, and that's just to start, you won't notice, and that means Texas has claimed you for its own for all time and you're now Texan. You can physically leave, sure, but your linguistic English centers are now ours. Y'all will never leave your vocabulary and those 'g's are pretty much lost forever unless you concentrate very hard speaking for the rest of your life. I didn't make the rules, okay, I'm a victim too, this is just how Texas rolls. Welcome, my brothers and sisters; we're all in this together.)

Now, back to Hindi, which is what i was doing before Arabic southern drawl seduction; I erased all my progress because I remembered nothing, my own fault; it took me way too long to form pattern-recognition of Hindi script when they got to consonant-vowel sounds. When I started, I confirmed I have no goddamn language centers: I knew nothing.

This depressing state of affairs continued until lesson one, level three, and it wasn't like a dramatic flash of memory, an amnesia patient going "I REMEMEBER EVERYTHING" but just--there. And this time, my brain set up correct organization.

The first time, it took me a month to get through alphabet lessons one and two, all five levels, by which I mean until I did all lessons perfectly and that was a lot of repetition for something that still barely stuck. This time, it was three hours, give or take, and even better, everything was organizing immediately by consonant --> consonant-vowel --> consonant-vowel-vowel, etc. And I cannot say this enough; this is not like accessing active memory. I don't actively remember anything from before, but I do know that unlike last time, it's persisting. I no longer feel like I'm writing on a white board with an almost empty marker I keep having to go back and frantically rewrite as it fades (quickly), but have graduated to a number two pencil where I need to be careful of smears but remains legible.

Right now, anyone multi-lingual is wondering what sort of deal with Satan happened that I acquired my native tongue or even understand what language is; welcome to my life. I think my language centers weren't appropriately tested before deployment to the live environment via birth and so are not working by design. And this is why testing is important.

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