Friday, September 24, 2010

things

... that make me go 'OH FUCK YOU':
I'm sure by now all of you have heard about eggcorn being added to the OED (and hurray for the LanguageLoggers!), but have you also seen the new words they added to the New Oxford American Dictionary? This is a list of the some of the more interesting ones and to be quite frank, some of the definitions are a little fishy. For example, I'd always thought BFF is an abbreviation of "best friends forever" (often written over yearbook pictures), hockey mom refers to a mother who devotes a great deal of time and effort to supporting her children’s participation in any type of extra-curricular activity, not just hockey and to be a hater, you have to be at least a little obssessive or very consistent in your hate for the person or thing in question. But the one that pissed me off to no end is this:

waterboarding n. an interrogation technique simulating the experience of drowning, in which a person is strapped, face up, to a board that slopes downward at the head, while large quantities of water are poured over the face into the breathing passages.

Lovely. First, 'interrogation technique' is a bullshit definition on its own - isn't an 'interrogation technique' technically what we used to call a 'question'? Second, waterboarding something that causes pain for the purpose of extracting information and is thus undeniably TORTURE and only a real evil fuck would deny that. Always was, always will be, no matter who does it to whom in the name of what, end of story - unless you want to describe racking (vbl. n. 3 b) as an 'interrogation technique', too, you fucking cunts. And third, thanks so much for giving ammunition to all the right-wing bedwetting fucktard evil pieces of shit who can now say (and you bet they will): "But it's not torture, see, even the New Oxford American Dictionary says so!"
For all of this, I award you, the formerly good people of OUP USA, a heartfelt FUCK YOU!

... that make me go 'WHAT THE FUCK?':
So you may have heard that we here in Slovakia now have a new government. First time ever led by a woman, which is a good thing and what's even better is that noone seems to care. But other than that, they're even bigger assholes than anyone could have expected (and I voted for them). Defense Secretary who doesn't speak English, hard-core free-market activists who see nothing wrong with conspiring with leftists to defraud the public, PMs who ran on the platform of 'restoring transparency to government' and then refuse to disclose the names of those who tried to bribe them ... You know what, scratch that - it's pretty much business as usual. Unfortunately, this also applies to one of the more notorious achievements of the previous government, the Official Language Act 357/2009. Now you know that my position is that while it's not as bad as some have described it (in fact, several investigations have been launched, but noone has yet paid any fines), it must go. Like with the previous incarnation (OLA 270/1995), one would expect that the new right-wing coalition government (which includes a Hungarian party) will immediately repeal if not the whole damn thing, then at least those provisions mandating fines. Right? Wrong. It took the fuckers almost three months to move on this and when they finally came to an agreement earlier today, nearly all they did was introduce a few cosmetic changes. For example:

- In section 3, which covers the use of the official language by state agencies, they merely moved the requirement for all state employees to speak and use the official language from subsection 2 to subsection 1.

- In section 3, subsection 3 (formerly subsection 4), they replaced "Orgány a právnické osoby podľa odseku 1 sú povinné používať štátny jazyk..." ("All agencies and legal persons as set forth in subsection 1 are obliged to use the official language...") by "Orgány a právnické osoby podľa odseku 1 používajú štátny jazyk..." which not only doesn't change squat because the same verb (používajú = use-3PL.PRES) is used in subsection 1, but also introduces a dilemma for any poor schmuck who would endeavor to translate this piece of shit into English. Normally, the aforesaid poor schmuck would go with "shall use", but this introduces an element of obligation which the legislators apparently tried to remove. Or so one would think, because while the present tense is used in Slovak legislation to mandate, prescribe or proscribe, any distinction between "sú povinné používať" and "používajú" is then lost. One would then guess that the present tense is used here descriptively, but then again, this type of usage in Slovak legislation usually includes an adverb, like "obyčajne" ("usually"). Color me perplexed, especially since the same thing was done to section 6 which covers the use of the official language by members of armed forces, police, intelligence services and fire brigades: "... sa v služobnom styku povinne používa štátny jazyk" ("the use of the official language is mandatory during the execution of their duties") is replace by simple "... sa v služobnom styku používa štátny jazyk" ("... the official language shall be used ..."). So what does the change mean? Are the police officers and firefighters no longer required to only use Slovak? If so, why the fuck do we need a law for that if we have a constitution which says that all that is not prohibited is allowed?

- In section 5, which governs the use of the official language in media and such, only two provisions were changed: One concerns readings from literary works in their original language and the other now mandates that any printed materials, catalogs and programmes accompanying artistic performances and alike issued in a language other than the official one now no longer have to contain the exact translation of the original text, but only have to provide the basic information in Slovak. This is undoubtedly due to a well-publicised incident with the Hungarian amateur theater troupe Új Hajtás and their four-page programme where three pages were written in Hungarian and only the last one in Slovak. Thanks to the change, the good people of Új Hajtás can now probably return to rehearsals without fear of government sanctions, but boy if this doesn't have the stink of a lazy bureaucrat. Spirit vs. letter and all that, but I also doubt that those who protested these particular provisions were concerned with the volume of the content rather than the stupid requirement.

- And the final example, the contentious and oft misinterpreted subsection 5.7 which governs inscriptions on memorials, monuments and memorial tablets and mandates that all those (like many in my hometown Košice) which are written in a language other than the official one must also include an exact translation into the official language. Well guess what? They still do. Only now the order of the texts doesn't matter, so while the previous OLA mandated that the Slovak text come first, now it doesn't have to. Gee, thanks so much, guys.

Now true, next to these cosmetic changes, there has also been one really important one: According to section 9a.1, self-employed natural persons and legal persons can no longer be fined for violating the provisions of OLA. Only government agencies can be fined and only if the information in question is intended for public use and concerns threats to life, limb, safety or property.

Yay, hooray, etc., state agencies will now fine themselves, but nevermind. So now instead of a really bad and fucking stupid piece of legislation we're stuck with a bad and still pretty fucking stupid piece of legislation. How fucking stupid, you ask? Well, this is what they left in:

§ 2
(4) Akýkoľvek zásah do kodifikovanej podoby štátneho
jazyka v rozpore s jeho zákonitosťami je neprípustný.

§ 2
(4) Any interference with the codified form of the official
language contrary to its principles is unacceptable.

WHAT THE FUCK? Let's ignore the legislative aspect, namely that this provision is not mentioned in sections 9 and 9a in the context of sanctions and what use is a provision like this without sanctions, and just concentrate on the words. Does this mean that non-standard Slovak is now outlawed? Does everyone who uses slang words, non-standard conjugation or even - oh the horror! - wrong spelling violate the law? If so, some people are in deep trouble. Like a ľudák asshole by the name of Pavol Dinka. The fucker wrote a book titled Zápasy o slovenčinu. Novela jazykového zákona: pravda a lži (The Struggle for Slovak: The new Language Act - Truth and Lies). While the title may sound like something that would describe my last post on the subject, the whole volume is nothing but a long litany of perceived wrongs and a detailed description of extinction campaigns waged against our poor opressed language by the Czechs, the Hungarians, the EU and God knows who else. You get the picture. What persuaded me to buy the book, however, is the monumental ironic awesomeness of the cover. Take a good look:


The pensive dude is naturally Ľudovít Štúr, but notice the big writing underneath. With Štúr's picture, you would expect the next most visible thing to be the cover or the title page of his Nárečja slovenskuo (which is actually right there above Ľudovít), but by God, someone fucked up big time. What you got here displayed so prominently is the title page of Hlasz pobosnoho spéványa, a psalter in one of the Eastern Slovak dialects printed in Debrecen in 1752 (note the date). This is the full title page taken from Péter Király's magnificent A keletszlovák nyelvjárás nyomtatott emlékei:


Now it's bad enough that the cover of Mr. Dinka's screed contains text in a variety that doesn't even come close to standard Slovak (which the language of Nárečja slovenskuo would have been, despite its quirky orthography). Even enlightened Slovak linguists are very uncomfortable with the idea of non-Central Slovak being used in writing - if you're lucky, I will come back to that some time in the future. But the real shocking thing about this particular book is that the language of the Eastern Slovak protestants who translated this and other religious works well before Anton Bernolák was even born is written in HUNGARIAN ORTHOGRAPHY. That's right folks - hlasz for hlas, pésnye for pešňe, kresztzanszke for krescanske and so on and so forth. Oh how I wish I, a faithful son of the East and a true hater of all Slovak nationalists and fascists who worship their own dialect as the Golden Calf, could describe to you the splendid irony and the sheer awesomeness of this cover. But alas, no time. I gotta go rat the dipshit and the publishing house out while the old OLA is still in force. The fuckers are so busted...


... that make me go 'YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING':
My buddy E is a fucking idiot. He's also a brilliant historian of the Israel-Palestine kerfuffle, especially the largely ignored early years, and, incidentally, a perfect definition of the word 'vyčuranec' (cf). But mostly he's a fucking idiot. You see, he is actually interested in the opinion of the august institutions that are tasked with regulating the Slovak language and has even sought their advice on a number of issues. Chief among them is the proper way to spell the terms "západný breh" (The West Bank, الضفة الغربية) and "pásmo Gazy" (The Gaza Strip, قطاع غزة). Currently, the usage is as above, i.e. non-capitalized. Now since these two terms refer to unique geographical areas, one would think that the rules of Pravidlá slovenského pravopisu 3rd edition (section VI, subsection 1.1, item 1.) would apply, namely that all proper names, which includes any general term (consisting of one or more words) used to designate a specific object, are to be capitalized. This unquestionably includes names of geographical areas and - and this is important for political as well as linguistic reasons - it doesn't matter whether the area in question is a recognized political or administrative entity. It is also of note that it does not matter if the adjective(s) name in question are derived from proper names or not. One thus writes "Blízky východ" for "Near East" or "Svätá zem" for "Holy Land" - both geographical areas with a murky definition and no administrative or legal status whatsoever. So E naturally assumed that the proper way to refer to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be "Západný breh (Jordánu)" and "Pásmo Gazy", respectively. But being the fucking idiot he is, he wanted to consult the proper authorities and confirm. And so he wrote to the Institute of Linguistics of the Academy of Sciences who, after some back and forth, referred him to Dr. K, the head of - and I am not making this shit up - the Department of Geographic Nomenclature of the Institute of Geodesy and Cartography. Yesterday, Dr. K replied:

Dobrý deň,
názvoslovná komisia rokovala o vašich návrhoch a na objasnenie si
vyžiadala stanovisko palestínskeho veľvyslanectva k týmto názvom.
Podľa ich stanoviska názvy západný breh a pásmo Gazy nie sú názvami
administratívnych celkov, ale len ľudovými názvami. Preto komisia
tieto názvy zatiaľ neodporučila štandardizovať.

s pozdravom

Dr. K
----

Dear Sir,

the Naming Committee has discussed your proposal and requested a clarification from the Palestinian embassy regarding these names. Their position is that west bank and Gaza strip are not names of administrative units, but only folk names. For this reason, the Committee has recommended not to standardize these names.

Best regards,

Dr. K

Behold, my friends, standardization in action. I don't even have to whip out the George Carlin scale of stupid for this one, although for 'folk names', I think I could. But let's just consider the momunental cluelessness of Dr. K and the august Committee who probably don't realize that "Blízky východ" or "Ďaleký východ" ("Far East") are not names of administrative units and thus spit at PSP and the Institute of Linguistics. Against that sort of cluelessness, the colossal stupidity of the idea of consulting the embassy of another nation while deciding how to spell their shit in our language and then actually taking it into account is a mere afterthought. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING. Thank God these people weren't around when we decided to call the capital of France "Paríž" or Germany "Nemecko".

Goddam there's a lot of stupid bastards walking around. And some of y'all wonder why I walk around cussing all the time. This is why. Fuck this shit, I'm gonna go kill me some zergs. Anybody wants to join me, add me - bulbul[at]chello.sk

12 comments:

Radovan Garabík said...

My biggest gripe with the law is that we have to publish conference proceedings and scientific journals in Slovak (we don't need no stinking English, thank you). I even asked then-director of JÚĽŠ to ask the ministry for exception, but my request was somehow lost in the brouhaha over "Akýkoľvek zásah do kodifikovanej podoby štátneho jazyka v rozpore s jeho zákonitosťami je neprípustný" (means the new SSSJ will be 'illegal') nd "funkčné využitie" of non-standard language means (§11 1) - who is going to tell what if "funkčné" and what not?

Not even speaking about publicly singing songs not in their original language (and not Slovak) - §5 (6).

bulbul said...

My biggest gripe with the law is that we have to publish conference proceedings and scientific journals in Slovak
Yep, this is the practical part of it and I've heard a lot of people at SAV or UK complaining about it. We could go provision by provision and highlight what's wrong with them, but my biggest gripe with the law is that it does not do what laws are supposed do, i.e. solve problems (yes, I'm a liberal). It's main purpose is to ... I was going to say 'affirm the ethnic nature' of Slovakia, but even that doesn't sound right, at least not entirely. It's more about trying to impose some people's idea of what Slovakia (and Slovak), an idea that is at least outdated, if not an outright illusion. It's the very same thing English-only advocates in the US are trying to achieve - they don't care about the language, they are only using it to make sure the United States will remain English-speaking, Protestant and white. It is much more difficult to define precisely what kind of Slovakia our ľudáks and neo-ľudáks trying to preserve, but you get a rough picture. Sweet Jesus, they might have as well written "Akýkoľvek zásah do status quo ako ho definujeme my je neprípustný".
Now it doesn't surprise me at all that a piece of crap legislation like this was put together by the likes of Slota and Čaplovič. But the fact that the new nominally right-wing government did not do away with the law right away speaks volumes about the nature of Slovak politics and Slovak politicians. And what the flying fuck is Bugár thinking?

Radovan Garabík said...

the law is that it does not do what laws are supposed do, i.e. solve problems

I wholeheartedly agree. However, the law is here and we have to live with that, and it is not going to go away completely. I think each and every politician (apart from Hungarian ones) thinks that revising it from scratch is a recipe for a political suicide. Even Bugár shows he has no teeth to bite through it (a bit of disappointment here).

Now, the law (in its roots) seems firmly cemented (only the details differ with each election), but perhaps something will be done with Ústredná jazyková rada - like changing the demented status of it being a political and not scientific council.

John Cowan said...

You indeed state the etymology of BFF correctly, but etymology is not current meaning, and the current meaning of BFF is what the list says it is: boys don't have BFFs, and girls' male friends are not BFFs either.

Hater means different things in the second person and the third (nobody calls themselves a hater, obviously). People referred to as haters are indeed obsessives, but to be called a hater it suffices to disagree politically with the speaker. I've been called that, and I'm the least politically obsessed American you're likely to know.

Torture can be used as punishment, not just as an interrogation technique. Crucifixion was unquestionably death by torture, but the Romans didn't care what the victim had to say: they were done with all that. And interrogation is by no means limited to asking questions simpliciter; it is any technique designed to elicit answers. Racking was indeed both an interrogation technique and torture, as is waterboarding, and I don't see that the definition denies that merely because it doesn't include the word torture.

Sounds like Dr. K was merely asking the embassy for clarification on the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, not on their Slovak names. Why he should care is a question.

John Cowan said...

On the other hand, the NOAD's definition of steampunk is really stupid. I am no lexicographer, but look at the WP article and tell me if that definition doesn't miss the point totally.

bulbul said...

John,

BFF: What you say is very true, but they are referring to the etymology - it says "ORIGIN 1996:" right there and goes on to say "from".

Hater: nobody calls themselves a hater, obviously
I did, in this very post, albeit somewhat ironically :)
Also, I associate the word 'hater' with some aspects of popular culture, rather then politics.

Waterboarding: Crucifixion is a form of capital punishment, so it's irrelevant for the purposes of this debate.
I don't see that the definition denies that merely because it doesn't include the word torture.
Leaving out an important element sure sounds like denial to me. Denial by ommission, but denial nevertheless. Or as we used to call it, a half-truth.

Steampunk: Oh that one ticked me off too, but I couldn't think of any alternative. Even WP's "speculative fiction" doesn't quite cover it.

As for Dr. K., she did indeed requested the clarification of the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but specifically for the purpose of determining their spelling (perhaps I should have included E's original message to clarify that) and then she and the committee used it as the only criterion in their decision, without even considering PSP.

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