Friday, February 15, 2008

On Archbishops words and other rude ducks eggs. 

A site worth visiting is the ‘Language Log’ which has serious and not so serious explorations of – well, language and how it is amused and abused. Archbishops of Canterbury and Chinese dictionary mishaps both feature currently.

See for example this story about building blocks from China aimed at helping Chinese children learn English. They each have a Chinese character, a picture, and the English translation – allegedly. One of the entertaining examples is of an egg, which in English is given as ‘Dick’.

Explanation suggested:

"ji1 dan4" 鸡蛋 = "chicken egg" was mistranslated using the entry for "ji1 ba[1]" 鸡巴, translated "penis [colloquial]" in my dictionary but presumably translated "dick" in some other ones.

As for the Archpuzzle of Canterbury there is a long and interesting analysis of his recent Sharia speech which is well worth reading especially by those commentators baying for Dr William’s blood. It lays out rather more clearly what he actually said - and that was not to call for the establishment of one law for Moslems and another for everybody else. I would invite all fair-minded LibDems to have a look at this analysis.
the Archbishop is saying that if religious and secular legal authorities interacted and considered their own roles and operations critically they could learn something from each other, which might help us avoid pointless clashes between legal authorities that behave like unyielding bitter rivals.

An example might be the way that diamond traders traditionally submit disputes to the Jewish Beth Din courts, even when neither party is Jewish, because of the historic expertise of the Beth Din in this field. This is a private agreement amongst individuals to submit to non-state arbitration.

The ‘What a Burka’ ravings of The Sun should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

Serious things to consider, even if one does not, in the end, like what the Archbishop actually says. So does the writer (Geoffrey Pullman) come down strongly for the Archbishop overall? No, he thinks that he should probably resign because of his political ineptitude in the way he handled the whole matter.

Dr Williams is a gentle, learned, brilliant, scholarly man, and a bit of a public relations doofus. The calls for his resignation are not unjustified. He should be the holder of an endowed professorship in some suitable subject at some research-led university. He should not be a prominent church administrator, and certainly not the Archbishop of Canterbury. Someone duller, less original, less intelligent, and more political should be found for that job.

In the language that might be used by one of the learners of English from the blocks, politically a bit of a鸡蛋 in fact. Ah well...

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