26 January 2013

Admiring the Sunset

Here a picture of the sunset from my apartment in Brunei.

There's a story from Chinese philosophy that goes like this:

There was once a monk who every day went out for a walk. And each day he would invite one of his disciples to accompany him. There was just one rule: no talking.
One day, he went out as usual with a selected disciple. As they stood on the top of a hill, there was a magnificent sunset. And the disciple blurted out, "That's magnificent!"
From that day on, the monk never again invited that disciple to join him.
One day, the disciple asked him, "Why are you so cruel? I only said two words!"
And the monk replied, "Yes, but when you were saying those words, you were no longer appreciating the sunset."

Why do we have this constant urge to say something? Why can't we just admire the sunset in silence? What is it about humans that makes us need to keep on talking all the time?

In the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams, an intergalactic visitor to Earth, called Ford Prefect, ponders this same question:

One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in "It's a nice day", or "You're very tall", or "Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you alright?" At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working. After a while he abandoned this one as well as being obstructively cynical.

I am with Ford Prefect here. I have never understood the need for us humans to talk all the time. And if we talked a bit less, maybe we would think a bit more.

Anyway, here's another sunset from my apartment.

19 January 2013

Associate Professor

There is a tension in Malay between indigenous vocabulary and words borrowed from English. So, for example, one finds both kegiatan and aktiviti, which both mean 'activity'.

Sometimes, this affects not just words but also phrases, so a calque from English can compete with an indigenous phrase.

The usual Malay for 'Associate Professor' is Profesor Madya. However, I saw Profesor Bersekutu on page 2 of the Media Permata of 17 January, 2013:

where bersekutu means 'federated' so is presumably the equivalent for 'associated'.

Or perhaps Profesor Bersekutu does not really occur in Malay, and this was just a mistake by a translator who was looking up every word separately in a dictionary..

17 January 2013

Frogs on the Wall

Here's a story from the Analects of Confucius (论语):

There were a bunch of frogs sitting at the base of a wall. They had heard that there was a splendid view from the top, and if they climbed up there, they would be able to lie happily in the sun, admiring the view. So they all started climbing.

But, after a while, one of them said, "This is tough. Do I really want to climb all the way up there? I'm going down."

On hearing this, another one said, "He's right. Why are we doing this? It's much too tiring." And he too quit.

Soon, one by one, the frogs all abandoned the attempt and returned to the bottom. Except for one frog, who kept on going, steadily climbing, till he reached the top. Then he happily sat in the sun, admiring the view.

All the other frogs were amazed, and when that one frog eventually came down again, the others asked him, "How come you continued going when we all gave up?"

But he did not answer them. Because he was deaf.

And the moral of the story is this: if you want to get on in life, don't listen to the moaning and griping from the people around you. Just get on and do it.

I sometimes think we all spend a bit too much time listening to the complaints of people around us rather than getting on with things.

13 January 2013

Presents from Santa

In England, we have certain spoken routines for children. For example:

Parent: What do you say when someone gives you something?
Answer: Thank you.

And here's another one:

Parent: What do you have to be to make Santa give you presents?
Answer: I have to be good.

But sometimes children don't give quite the expected answer. I was just watching a video of my granddaughter, Elsie, aged 2 years 10 months, talking to her Dad about Christmas.

Dad: What do you have to be to make Santa give you presents?
Elsie: I want to be a princess.

08 January 2013

Borneo Bulletin

This is from page 10 of the Borneo Bulletin of 8 January 2013, quoting from the welcoming speech for the new intake of students given by the Vice Chancellor of UBD:

It starts out:

UBD is not simply about rote learning and memorising facts, it is not about examinations and testing what you do not know, it is about preparing you for a job in the Civil Service ...
Unfortunately, this seems to be misquoting the VC. The context suggests that he actually said:
... it is NOT about preparing you for a job in the Civil Service ...

What a big difference a little word like not can make!