Compare / Contrast

Have a look at these two articles, and see if you can spot the difference:

Man loses testicle after strange young woman on street kicks him

Canwest News Service
Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009

Police in Langley, B.C., are investigating after a woman kicked a man in the groin so hard he lost a testicle — the latest in a series of similar assaults. “I just want to know what her problem is,” victim Anthony Clark, 22, said this week. Mr. Clark was walking in Langley in early September when he passed his assailant on the sidewalk. “I was looking down and then I took a passing glance and saw her walk up to me,” he said. That is when the young woman inexplicably kicked him in the groin hard enough to send one of his testicles into his abdomen. Mr. Clark said he was not aware of the severity of his injury until later that night when he “noticed something was missing.” The force of the assault caused his testicle to rupture. It had to be removed and will be replaced by a prosthetic before Christmas. Constables have told him there have been three or four similar assaults on other men, Mr. Clark said.

And this:

10-Year-Old Boys Arrested Over Alleged Rape in U.K.

SkyNews (Emma Rowley, Sky News Online)
Thursday, October 29, 2009

Two 10-year-old boys in the U.K. have been arrested over a claim of rape, according to Sky News.

The alleged victim is an 8-year-old girl who was out playing with the boys on Tuesday.

She went with them to a park where she says she was sexually assaulted, Sky News reported.

The allegation was reported to police on the same day and is being investigated by police.

File this under ‘H’ for “Not necessarily”

Charlotte Allen over at IWF defended her use of “crying rape” in a headline as having a neutral connotation, thus:

Just to clarify: The expression “crying rape” (like “crying murder” or “crying theft”) doesn’t mean the accuser is necessarily a liar. It just means she’s an accuser.

“Crying rape” does not bring the phrases “crying murder” or “crying theft” immediately to my mind (in fact, I’d never heard them used before Ms. Allen did so) but instead, evokes the phrase “crying wolf” from Aesop’s fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf“.

This most definitely does not have a neutral connotation, but a negative one: that of a false claim.

To be completely anal about it, I will do the most heinous of acts and consult a dictionary of the English language:

The Idioms section of The Free Dictionary:

  • cry wolf:
    to ask for help when you do not need it, with the result that no one believes you when help is necessary.
    She had repeatedly rung the police for trivial reasons and perhaps she had cried wolf too often.
    [search link]

Not satisfied? How about these:

  • [], under ‘wolf’: (11) cry wolf, to give a false alarm: Is she really sick or is she just crying wolf?
  • [Merriam Webster], under ‘cry’: cry wolf : to give alarm unnecessarily
  • [Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable], under ‘wolf’: To cry “Wolf!” To give a false alarm. The allusion is to the well-known fable of the shepherd lad who used to cry “Wolf!” merely to make fun of the neighbours, but when at last the wolf came no one would believe him.

Incidentally, I did Google both “crying murder” and “crying theft“, and the connotations were generally negative.

Compare this with some of the phrases captured when googling “crying rape“:

And those are just three of the top ten hits. Imagine if I went through all 130,000 of them.

I’d say there is substantial evidence that the phrase “crying rape” is not as neutral as you make out, Ms. Allen. That may be your intention, but I don’t think that’s how many people interpret it.

You would be correct if you insisted that “the lion’s share” does mean all of it, but if you insist on that meaning, who will now understand you? … Do not be so right that you will be misunderstood. Language is what we make of it by a language convention. — John Ciardi

just for the record…

as of today I have been exposed to 35 languages in one way or another: 21 modern languages, and 14 extinct or older forms of existing languages. One is obvious. Care to take a guess what the other ones are?

edit: I’ve had to come back and change this number three times now. I keep thinking of other languages.

These are all languages in which I either know and understand at least one word or phrase, whether written or spoken. Languages that I would recognize when written but that I would not understand (such as Cherokee) I have not included.

Neither have I included languages created for fiction (Klingon), computer languages (Basic) or languages that are otherwise artificial (Esperanto).

falling into place

Once upon a time, during high school, I think, I took one of those daft personality quizzes, or birthday personality profiles or something equally as doubtful, which described me thusly:

“…If you’re looking for hidden motives, you’ll be disappointed. Underneath Jocelyn‘s care and concern for others is more care and concern for others.”

I don’t remember my reaction at the time. However, looking back from almost 10 years ahead of that time, I find myself agreeing with that sentiment.

I have always been asked why I learn languages, especially when I show interest in obscure ones or older forms. For years I have wavered in my explanations, wondering myself where this fascination comes from. The best (i.e. shortest and most coherent) answer was always “because that’s what I do. I learn languages.”

I have an answer now.

Of all places, the final realization came from Star Trek. I have been watching Enterprise lately, and have found myself most identifying with the character Hoshi, Com officer and, you guessed it, gifted linguist. In one episode it is mentioned that she has learned 38 languages. My instant reaction to that was “man, I would love to do that.”

On my way home tonight, I got in front of two young men who were speaking in their native language, something like Hindi. As I walked, listening to them, I was imagining what it would be like to be able to understand them, when a not-so-errant thought dropped into my mind: I learn languages because I want to reach people where they are. I want to understand them on their own terms, with their own words.

Every impulse I have to learn a language, no matter how obscure it may be, or how useless the pursuit may seem to others, is important to me because there are people who speak it, or in the case of dead languages, people who wrote in it. I have dabbled in Icelandic, a language with only 300,000 native speakers, and a friend told me how to pronounce a few words of Turkish when we were out eating döner a few days ago. She was amazed, in an almost skeptical manner, that I could be interested in learning her language. She says, it’s not practical, it’s not useful, why would anyone who speaks English want to learn it?

And those thoughts never once entered my mind. They never do. I want to learn languages because I want to learn languages.

But it doesn’t stop there. I would like to think that it’s a purely academic matter, that I am simply fascinated by and drawn to languages for their own sake, but that is not so.

I love people. Of all races, creeds, stations and nationalities. And what better way to be close to those people than to talk to them using words that they truly understand. Language is not just the expression of a thought, but it instructs thought. Understanding a person’s language can give insight into the very formation of thought.

What more intimate, loving gesture could possibly exist than to seek to understand people in the way that they understand themselves.

unbridled linguageek

My God. I am such a Geek®. Of all the inane things that I could hook onto… this is my excuse now to learn Latin:

Harrius Potter et Philisophi Lapis.

Not academic reasons, no… not that I might need it to research medieval documents, oh no… I want to learn a language that has been dead and relegated to academia for effectively 1500 years, all for the sake of a modern “children’s” novel.


Not that it will keep me from buying it, you know.