In Search for Normal

There are many words that are misused, there are many words that are ambiguous, and there are many word that depend a lot on context for their meaning (who says it, why they say it, how they say it, etc.). One of these words is ‘normal’, and this a word that has always raised my hackles a bit, because it’s usually used in judgement of what people are doing and how they are. It’s a belittling word when used in the negative, and always carries with it a tone of what ‘should be’.

Here’s a few examples that are implicit and explicit in its use:
– natural
– healthy, sane, good
– usual, habitual, common, average
– conventional, general consensus
– acceptable, approved of

What’s normal in Spain isn’t always normal in England, and vice versa. And what’s normal in the natural world can be out of place in human societies, and vice versa. As definitions, they can be quite close, but at times there can be a great chasm between each one. Questions like “Do you think it’s normal?” are meaningless, until they define what they mean by normal.

In the dictionary, the two basic meanings are ‘natural’ and ‘habitual’, which I don’t think should be confused at all, since not everything that is habitual is natural. And in human society, many things that should be natural don’t have regular appearance in our lives. Perhaps my greatest objection is the idea that anything that is concieved of as average or conventional in society is somehow good, healthy or acceptable, where I believe this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In Spanish I can give a bit of leeway, because estar normal (to be habitual) isn’t confused with ser normal (to be natural), but even so, I tend to avoid it if I can, since there still seems to be an implicit social value of what ‘should be’, which doesn’t always coincide with habitual or natural.

One day, a rather eccentric lady and a friend of the family who didn’t see herself as ‘normal’ asked me “But what is normal?” My response was “Normal is whatever is normal for you, especially if it’s what you normally (usually, habitually) do.” After that I abandoned its use and substituted it with healthy or usual, which more or less matches the dictionary examples.

I’m not against the concept of ‘normality’ or the word, but it’s (mis)use makes it virtually senseless, unless it’s use is well defined. In the end, either we use it in a consistent and intelligent way, or we abandon it completely and search for more appropriate alternatives.

It’s (not) normal > I (don’t) like it

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) usually like that

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) healthy/good

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) naturally occurring

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) generally acceptable

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Words!

I was reading through the European Unitarian Universalists’ website and I found an interesting article called May I have a Word with You? (last article on the page).From it I saw a quote from Mark Twain:

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightining and the lightning bug.

There are many moment when I have read or heard something that made me think “I agree wholeheartedly… except for that one little word, which changes everything.” Sometimes I can overlook it, taking a “between the lines” interpretation, so that my own bias towards certain word doesn’t get in the way of communication. Other times I have to take a word seriously because it changes the sense of a sentence too much for me to ignore. Words aren’t just intellectual categories, they have instinctual and in intuitive aspects to them, too.

Words fascinate me for a number of reasons (or perhaps one reason dressed as many). I’ve written a lot of poetry, which I used as a device to express my inner process. As a writer, words gives form to my thought processes, so I can share ideas; it can also help me create whole new worlds and characters from the imagination. I am a student of languages, Spanish, French and Catalan, learning their similarities and difference (and a student of English – even though I’m a native speaker, there are still things I can learn about it), and a creator of others, inventing news vocabularies, grammars and pronounciations for my invented peoples.

In ecopsychology we learn of “verbalisation”, which has the scientific quality of sharing emprical data through language, and just as (if not more) importantly it has the psychological function of making the unconscious conscious, enhancing experience and impressions by giving it definition instead of letting it sink into anonymity and another thing that we “take for granted”.

Between the anonymity of birth and the anonymity of death there is life. But life doesn’t have to be anonymous, so long as we verbalise.

Today, through a mistake in Spanish, I learnt that emersion and immersion are opposites, where I’d been thinking of them as “immersion”. There’s little difference in pronounciation (or pronunciation for the orthographically correct); both can be /i-MUR-shuhn/, though emersion can also be /ee-MUR-shuhn/). I pronounce them both /i-MUR-zhuhn/ (zh as in viSion, Genre or miraGe), but who’s being picky, right?

Though just to be picky, I pronounce emersion /i-MURJ/ and spell it <emerge>. 😉

How to Speak… (not serious)

For years I have been studying Spanish, French and Catalan, and also observing other languages. Over that time I have made detailed notes and can now share my insights to make learning a language and its correct pronounciation easier.

French – Purse your lips together and make various buzzing sounds.

Spanish – bash two stones together energetically

Catalan – try to speak with a bee, chicken and grasshopper in you mouth; bash two stones together at the same time

Italian – bash two stones together energetically, but with rhythm

Galician Spanish – bash two stones together like Italian, but with softer and slower rhythm

South American/Andalusian/Canaries Spanish – bash two stones together covered with lots of talcum powder; with each “crack” the sound disintegrates into a soft breathing

Portugal Portuguese – make buzzing noises with a wide open mouth, and with a rhythm like Galician Spanish

Brasilian Portuguese – make buzzing sounds with a wide open mouth, as if you have a party popping in your mouth

German – make noises but with no facial movement and a minimum of lip movement

South-East England English (mine) – lose control of lips and tongue, and just “flap” them

Posh English – Purse lips together, but with less buzzing sounds than French

American English – open mouth wide with each syllable, like you’re chewing gum

I hope that helps. 😉

Translating from Catalan

(wow, I’ve just noticed a boost of traffic to this blog. Thanks for the views.)

So, what have I been doing lately? A lot, aikido, walks, gardening, hunting exotic crayfish,  but I’ll leave them for other blogs.

One thing I’ve been busy on is translating the CEN Association website from Catalan to English. CEN is an association that “works for the improvement and conservation of habitats and biodiversity”.  I’ve been involved in several volunteer actions (including “hunting cranks“) as well as being a board member. We  (Biodiversidad2030) signed an agreement with CEN under the Custódia del Territorio (Land Stewardship Scheme in English) to protect the land and its ecosystems and develop projects in a sustainable way for us and the environment.

So, I’m translating the website so it’s accessible to the anglosphere. Moreover, it helps in an application to EOCA to do work for the Glorieta river, such as litter picking, control and eradication of invasive exotic species, regulation of canyoning, restriction of access to vulnerable areas and raising awareness of environmental issues, both local and in general. It’s tough work (I am not a professional translator) but I enjoy it.

I can read Spanish fairly well, and because of that other Romance languages are more accesible, like Portuguese, Italian and Catalan. I can read them a bit and make “educated guesses” at what they’re saying. But to hear them… no entenc res! (I don’t understand a thing!).  I understand enough Catalan to translate it, and there’s plenty of resources online to help me,  but the mental gymnastics I have to do translate from one grammar to the other is mindbending. A long list of de… de… de… de… might sound okay in Catalan, French or Spanish, but in English of… of… of… of… doesn’t flow. Then there are the technical terms that I have to accurately translate to make them meaningful. But I think this sort of saturation is good for learning a new language.

Well, I think I should get on with the translation now. Time’s a wasting!

Mor Spelling Alternativs

I’v just seen this on Wikipedia and feel it’s on to somthing intresting. You don’t hav to change the entire alfabet, just make a few useful adaptions to the present system.

A few simpl steps to get the ball rolling:
– write e-sound as e (head, any, said hed, eny, sed)
– get rid of useless e’s (have, freeze, valley hav, freez, vally)
– change ph to f (alfabetical!)
– and doing somthing diffrent with those infernal augh and ough words (maybe I should rewrite my surname as Bruf? That’ll stop the awkward “Mr. Broo… Brow… Broah…” phone calls, lol).

I was surprised that the Australian government did attempt to work with the first one (hed, eny, sed, etc.) but it didn’t stick.

By the way, I’v been working on a new wikispaces to present a few of my orthografical experiments, which I’ll share shortly.

(don’t worry, I won’t always be writing like this, just occasionally 😉 )

Articulation

When we use words to describe things we are not merely “pinning them down”, we are entering into relationship with them, and giving them a chance to become a presence in our lives, not just a vague feeling or amorphous phenomena. We relate to the world with words, and by articulating our experiences we also give a chance for the world to communicate with us, whether it be human or not. A forest may not speak our language, but by us articulating our experience of it the forest  has a way of communicating with us, making itself known to us. We understand much of our world through word, and there is a web of words surrounding us, if only we listen.

Anglish

If you want to play with the English tung and fand with another trim you can always wend to Anglish, it’s English but without all those irksome Ledenish and Greekish incarrys. I’ve got a few lays that might be beffitingly Anglished like this, lol.

A great orshaft for it here (it’s a bit of fun – not sure how well I did though)

tung – language

fand – experiment

trim – style

wend – turn

irksome – annoying

Ledenish – Latin

incarry – import

lays – poems

befittingly – appropriately

orshaft – resource

Other or Other Half?

“My other half” and “my significant other” are two phrases that basically point to the same sort of thing: husbands, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or some sort of longterm life partner. Superficially they look the same, because they are used interchangeably, and also because they share the word “other”, but if we look at them they can mean very different things.

“My other half” is the person that completes me, someone that compensates my shortcomings, and vice versa. Without them I cannot live a full life, and can never be a person in my own right. Together we form two functions within a wholeness, but it cannot be called a relationship because we are not two wholenesses interacting with each other.

“My significant other” is someone in my life who is not me, who does not complete me but is important in my life; significant. We do not supplement each other’s personalities, we don’t need to. I may need you to cement the house, and you may need me to paint it, but that’s not for lack of wholeness; it’s simply because our skills are complementary, and we are working as a team, not serving co-dependent functions.

Personally I like “significant other” because that means there is an Other to have a relationship with. “Other half” isn’t a relationship, it’s a arrangement, my lungs aren’t in relationship with each other, they are organs that form functions for a whole (my body). A relationship happens between two wholenesses, two individuals that have their own thoughts and feelings. They can interchange skills and be a balance in the life of the other without completing each other.

Since I am in a relationship with “my significant other” and not “my other half”, where exactly is “my other half”? That’s a question for another time. 😀

Love is Transitive

(I don’t mean transitional, transient or transitory, but transitive)

It’s a grammatical terms for some verbs that need an object to be grammatically complete (like to have, to see; not to sleep, to sit).

As well as a lover, the verb love needs a beloved to be complete. To say “I love”  doesn’t say much really. To say “I love you” refers to something outside “I” and “to love”, something other. And that bridge between self and other, between subject and object, is “to love”.

I love… who? You!

Happy Valentines day 🙂

 

Patterns of Speech

This is something that’s been a draft for a while, and I hadn’t published it. So here it is. 🙂

I’ve been asleep or something! It’s like looking at a computer program and seeing the code that constructs it, or like seeing the streaking green Matrix-code behind the Matrix-world. I’ve been learning so many grammatical concepts (some understood, some not and many in a twilight in between) and beginning to see the structure of sentences in a different light. It makes learning languages easier: I think once you have the basics of a languages grammar (word order etc.) then the only barrier is the vocabulary and its use (and that’s not too hard if you immerse yourself in it). I can look at another languages grammar and understand some of it without having to learn the whole language.

It can get very technical, but I think there’s something artistic in the structure of language: the concepts and the structure used. There’s something quite creative in it, and it’s fascinating to think that there are many different ways of explaining the same thing, grammatical structures that at first glance aren’t the same, and may have contradictory meanings across cultures, but actually mean the same thing!