Category Archives: Language



We used to say that, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and even as children we knew that meant someone, sometime would love us and see what we really are. Both boys and girls tried to make themselves -maybe not beautiful, but as attractive as possible. Girls could hardly wait to wear lipstick and maybe the boys would notice. If we complained to our moms that we wished we were pretty we were told, “Beauty is as beauty does.” By that we learned that character had as much to do with beauty as did looks. Both outsides and insides were covered.

I thought about all this because I went to get my hair cut yesterday. I wish words could adequately describe the “hairdresser” I was given. She had long “claw” bangs dyed neon pink, the sides of her head were dark and shaved about three inches up, the rest of her black hair was longer and ran down the center of her head like a dead animal. Added to that were the piercings just down from the corners of her mouth, which were shiny black. I didn’t check the tats. All I could think was, “Whatever happened to beauty?”

The question is probably more along the lines of “When and why did people deliberately choose to be bizarre, wild, weird, strange, unattractive or ugly, anything but beautiful? I know, I know, some of them are wonderful, love cats, and wouldn’t hurt a flea. Nonetheless, they make themselves so unattractive at times one has to wonder about their sanity. Even some naturally beautiful people make the worst of themselves.

Remember, you who are older, when NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC writers and photographers would travel the world and bring back stories of tribal customs that distorted bodies, particularly women’s bodies? The rings stacked up around women’s necks to make them long and “beautiful”; or the plates in female lips that made them stick out so far as to make them useless. Even the Chinese foot fetish that killed and maimed women for hundreds of years are examples of how far out of kilter people can get in search of supposed “beauty.” Funny, one thinks about genital mutilation today as being even more ignorant, and yet people tolerate it. I am not a Feminist, but one does have to wonder about men who have no respect for women and force cultural norms upon them that result in pain and degradation.

Men’s excesses today tend to be in the realm of huge body tattoos, which I personally find unattractive, and to ear gages and piercings. I had a friend who told me he once thought about getting tats, but decided to try phony ones first. He used the phonies one time and thought about living with them the rest of his life. He decided he didn’t need tats after all.  Good choice.

If beauty were just a matter of physical attractiveness, or lack thereof, it might be easier to understand, but to go out and hear filthy thoughtless language, hateful hand gestures, and loud pornographic music directed against women, UGH!

Ugliness seems to top all the charts today.



A friend told me of a time when his father was struggling to build an essential business in Japan and having a terrible time because the English translators didn’t seem to get the words out right. Since he didn’t speak Japanese he had no way to tell what was going wrong. He finally concluded that the Japanese were taking advantage of his lack of understanding of Japanese business practices and of the language.

He knew that Brigham Young University would have ex-missionaries who had served in Japan and learned the language so he went there and chose to hire the biggest, blondest, blue-eyed returned missionary he could find, one no one would expect to speak Japanese. He took him to all meetings but told him to just sit as though he were a go-fer and never let anyone know he could speak the language. Later he would tell the boss what was actually said at the meetings. As the boss began to understand what was really happening his business became very successful.

This story reminded me of the many questions I have had over the years about Biblical translations, and of some things that might be of interest to others about their own questions.

One of the questions that intrigues me most is the story of Lot’s wife being turned into a “pillar of salt” for looking back on the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. I’ve always felt that looking on that as a “punishment” for disobedience was questionable at best. Those were her children and grandchildren being incinerated back there. What mother wouldn’t look back in absolute anguish? Also, was it a commandment not to look back or a – what? Recommendation?

At any rate, I was told that the George M. Lamsa’s Translation of the Holy Bible from the Aramaic of the Ancient Peshitta Text had been translated by native Aramaic speakers into modern English. The Eastern Church says that their bible translation, the Peshitta, would be the Old Testament used at the time of Christ and the New Testament as fully preserved from the time of the Apostles. It’s easy to read and clarifies many things.

Reading the story of Lot’s wife shows a footnote that the Aramaic term “being turned into a pillar of salt” is a colloquial saying meaning to be “frightened to death.” Can’t you just see the good King James translators in England staring at their salt cellars and scratching their heads before translating it literally? (And mothers can see a kid in trouble being told, “Get out there and take care of the goats or I’ll turn you into a pillar of salt!”)

I had heard so many explanations of it being harder for a rich man to get into heaven than it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle that I tuned it all out. I heard the one about there being a “camel’s gate” in Jerusalem where they would have to unload the camel, make it crawl through the gate on its’ knees and then reload it on the other side. Sounds like hard work and very inefficient. Why not just go to another gate? It would make more sense. Mr. Lamsa explains that the written word for “camel” in Aramaic has one tiny dot of difference between it and the word for “yarn” or “twine”. The verse in his translation is that it is harder for a rich man to get to heaven than to pass twine through the eye of a needle. Rich people sometimes do have a hard time holding on to their humility, but some of them do. Why should their riches condemn them?

One of the most perplexing questions I had was where Jesus tells his followers that if their right eye offends them it is better to pluck it out, or if their right hand offends them to cut it off. Every few years someone does one or both of those things. Most people know that this is figurative, but I always wondered just what it was figurative about. The Lamsa’s translation has footnotes indicating that the eye is the seat of jealousy, so that part means not to covet. As for the hand, the punishment throughout middle eastern countries was, and in some places still is, having the right hand amputated, so that injunction means not to steal.

Mr. Lamsa’s translation has answered many questions for me. But I still love the formality and majestic language of the King James Version.

There is also a book on translation called IS THAT A FISH IN YOUR EAR? by David Bellos. It has a section on bible translations and how they had to relate to the understanding of people when missionaries brought them the gospel, the “good news.” On tropical islands where the people had never seen snow, how could the term “white as snow” have any meaning? Looking around the missionaries couldn’t see anything white enough to substitute except for a bird, so they translated snow as “white as a cockatiel’s feather.”

Many of the islands are made only of sand and are very swampy, so the natives built their homes on stilts. When the translators got to the part where Jesus told of the foolish man building his home on sand while the wise man built his on a rock, they had to consider that for awhile. They finally translated that part to read that the foolish man made his stilts of soft wood (which rots in water), while the wise man built his home with hard wood.

Some people object to the translation process, but the main objective should always be greater understanding for everyone.


G. K. Chesterton

The search for TRUE science has always been fraught with peril. Just look to Galileo if you think scientific truth is easily won. And now we have so-called “CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS” to feed to the wolves.

To make a fetish of one’s faith in science, or scientists, alone, places a burden on scientific practitioners that they were never meant to bear. Their opinions on God or religion are just that, OPINIONS only. Being a scientist does not mean your opinion is better than mine as to belief in God and intelligence. And TRUE SCIENCE cannot change the parameters of any discussion on matters of scientific inquiry. To do so is the very definition of hypocrisy. How those parameters concerning so-called global warming have been switched over the years is stunning.

In the field of Anthropogenic Global Warming or Climate Change or whatever else someone chooses to call it, the great scientist Al  Gore’s pronouncement that “the science is settled” flies in the face of all reason. When has science ever been settled? Should mankind’s inquiries have stopped at Sir Isaac Newton? John Stuart Mill said that there is a need to question EVERYTHING in science. Even if many proofs have been given and tested, a true scientist never stops testing again and again. There is always need for a Devil’s Advocate in science. No matter how sound the theory may appear, no advances can be made until results are duplicated again and again. Change just one little thing and the results may surprise you.

What would have happened if Newtonian physics had never been questioned, or Einstein’s theories had not been challenged?  Where would we be without Quantum Physics, Fractal Geometry, String Theory, and oh so many other ideas that have changed our understanding of our world and the cosmos?

If science were really ever settled, why would so much acrimony be stirred by the so-called Global Warming crisis?  Why would careers and reputations be sullied? Why would such ugliness and blackmail be used?  Why stop scientific journals from publishing dissenting opinions and threatening their very right to continue publishing at all? Why would the media stop any questioning and refuse to publish any divergent opinions?

Even after the scandalous e-mails at East Anglia were revealed and clearly showed the lies and intimidation used, there are people who never knew the e-mails were there or never bothered to read them. They still believe that Global Warming is true and have no thoughts or questions on the contrary evidence.

When I was young we were taught the symbiotic relationship between plants and animals. Humans and other animals require the oxygen produced by plants and plants require the carbon dioxide produced by the animals. We planted trees on Arbor Day to help the environment and even as children we understood the need to clean the air with plants, and greenhouse gases were considered beneficial for the earth. Now, suddenly we are to believe that those beneficial gases are the root of all evil.

Our juvenile junior Senator, Mark Begich, likes to tell how he became aware of the truth of Global Warming when he saw a childhood photo of him and his siblings at Portage Glacier with the glacier right behind them and small icebergs floating by them. Now the glacier has retreated and cannot even be seen. All I could do was sigh and think, “Mark, sweetie, drive about two miles away and look at Byron Glacier, about 1/50th or less the size of Portage and it’s right there where it’s always been. Look up at Gunsight and the other glaciers in a stretch along the mountain tops, even smaller than Byron, right there where they’ve always been. If it’s Global Warming, wouldn’t the smaller glaciers that are within just a few miles of Portage melt first?” I know for a fact that an ice cube melts faster than a large block of ice. Basic science is still that basic.

About fifty or so years ago there was a glacier in interior Alaska traveling so fast it was called a “galloping” glacier. It threatened to reach and cover the Richardson Highway, probably the only road in the area. Some years it would come forward many miles. Officials predicted that the highway would be covered and destroyed by the ice within a year when suddenly the glacier reversed and began retreating just as fast as it had advanced. It seems that glaciers, and the ice fields they come from, have their own rules. Perhaps Portage has retreated because pressures on the ice field have shifted and other glaciers have pushed outward. Who really knows?

The glaciers in the Himalayas were supposed to be all melted by now. Instead they have grown so much their regular summer melt off threatens to flood the valleys below.

When Al Gore played up the tide water glaciers melting and falling into the sea in Greenland he made it sound so ominous and, again I sighed, “They even have a name for the process, it’s called “calving”, and has always occurred. Where do you think the iceberg that sank the Titanic came from?”

Then there’s the matter of the sainted polar bears. There are actually more polar bears now than ever. They are doing what they always do. The daddy bears are aggressive as all get out and eat the baby bears, even their own, so mommy has to be fierce to protect her cubs. All polar bears swim way out to sea and sometimes rest on ice floes in the middle of the ocean. A forty mile swim? Hey, there’s nothing to it for a polar bear.

And the arctic ice, there’s more of it this year than last by a whole bunch. The Antarctic ice is thicker than ever, too. Read if you care about facts.

Climate change? Only if your POLITICS are so inclined.


“. . . within an established totalitarian regime the purpose of propaganda is not to persuade, much less to inform, but rather to humiliate.” Theodore Dalrymple

In the early stages of a totalitarian political upheaval, propaganda is always used to win the hearts and minds of the people being groomed for take-over, so it sounds soothing, reasonable and just. Once a core of supporters is established within a society, propaganda takes on a different purpose and is used to shape minds and make sure no one questions the purposes of the movement or its leaders. This is a very dangerous time for anyone on the inside who wavers in their commitment to the movement.

Once a totalitarian regime is established, propaganda takes on yet another purpose. The people as a whole now need to be controlled so new methods are set up for everyone but the strongest leaders. They control by trusting no one and intimidating and humiliating everyone below them. Any one who questions will be destroyed by any means at hand, whether it means blackmail, loss of home and fortune, threats to family, exile, prison and even death if deemed necessary.

This is also a dangerous time for the leaders because a Strongman will always arise and destroy any one he perceives to be a threat. No one is ever safe.

Eventually everyone in such a society is forced to participate in the evil used against them in order to assure their own survival. They are afraid to speak out against what is happening and give their silent assent to the destruction of their neighbors. They will eventually bear witness against even such neighbors and friends out of fear for their own safety and prosperity. All children are taught to turn against their parents and siblings. And the propaganda includes visible punishment so that everyone knows what awaits them if they speak up. Everyone is humiliated by the lies and ugliness they are forced to participate in. Few people in such circumstances have the strength or will to resist and so they suffer even greater personal shame.

Solzhenitsyn’s novel The Third Circle paints a horrifying picture of people caught in Soviet communism and how they are all subverted by their leaders. In The Black Book of Communism actual first hand witnesses retell the true history of communism in several societies during the time they were under USSR domination and the Soviets were militarily meddling in other countries (which they still seem to be doing).

Why no one pays attention to the histories of the USSR and those countries left within their control after WWII,  or China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cuba, North Korea and all other countries who have endured communism (you can safely read “socialism” here) is a continuing mystery to me.

What but soothing propaganda from on high keeps us believing we will never face such a fate?


“Free thought is key to political freedom.” Myron Magnet

After birth we all learn to speak, and if we are spoken to frequently we pick up grammar, metaphor, imagination, and vocabulary more quickly than one might think. Some forms of speech are more socially acceptable than others, and some forms are repugnant to others. Besides common speech, often called “kitchen” speech, there is sacred speech which some never learn, and there is profane speech that others learn only too well.

In my young life I was assaulted (truly) with profanity and it embarrassed me terribly. However, when I was about twelve a friend and I thought it would be funny to swear and I got pretty good at it. I didn’t swear around my parents even though my father used vulgarities all the time. I had been swearing for a few years when one day a bunch of us were ice skating on the local pond and a boy came up behind me with a snow shovel and scooped it under my feet. I went over on my ankle and severely sprained it. The pain was terrible and I started screaming profanities at the boy. Suddenly it was like my consciousness split and I was standing above my painful body hearing how awful I sounded. My words shocked me more than my pain. I was absolutely devastated by my language and resolved to stop swearing. That was one of the hardest habits I have ever broken.

So, what about free speech? I have heard that the First Amendment was to protect political speech. If that is all it was meant to protect, what about those who use language offensive to others? Why are some things that are not even “speech” protected? Do we go too far when we attach no shame to some speech and actions? I side with Voltaire on real speech freedoms, but some other things I’m not so sure about. I mean, is nude dancing really “speech?”

Politically Correct speech is so pervasive now that speaking what is true is almost forbidden. I see kids who can barely voice a coherent thought, whose speech makes them unemployable anywhere. No one teaches them speech that will prepare them for employment or for a place in a better society. Their language abilities are so impoverished one wonders how they can have any hope of learning to read with any mind expanding  possibilities, or thinking about and desiring a better life. How does a gang member ever break away and make a different life for himself? Do none of these children ever feel a sense of shock at how they sound? Perhaps they are so inured to their vulgarity they are no longer capable of shock. And yet we are forbidden to speak of such “victims of racism” or whatever else is claimed to excuse their “ghetto” language and behavior. What in fairness can be done to bring such people into an open society so they can enrich themselves intellectually and culturally? Why does such advancement mean ostracism and hatred by their own families and former friends? How can they intelligently enter into political life?

Out-of-Wedlock birth rates continue to rise and harm young girls, leaving them dependent and causing harm to their children. Can it possibly be good for society to allow the welfare dependency to continue? For children to continue having children? And what of the fathers who are not present in their children’s lives, do they never grow up? The babies born in these circumstances suffer impoverishment of life and spirit with little hope of escaping from their circumstances. And yet we cannot speak openly in any way about this heart breaking situation.

Such Political Correctness is the very opposite of free speech or thought in any form, and leaves us unable to make any effort to help and understand those most in need of our care and concern. Government has become so shallow and manipulative that many of our fellow citizens don’t recognize their own danger and to try to warn them is futile.

These people have no concept of free thought or speech so TRUTH becomes a daily casualty to the sway of political correctness. The most pitiable people are those who think they are “victims” and that someone else, preferably the government, should take care of their needs.

Those most in need of self control and self reliance become takers and make themselves slaves while forging their own chains.


“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.” Voltaire

Voltaire, who said a lot of things, has probably been the most ardent and most quoted free speech champion of all time. What is speech? When and how do we learn it? How do we think without speech? What is “free speech”, and why is it so important to a free people? Is free thought even possible without free speech?


Studies have shown that human brains are “hard wired” for speech, that babies recognize and respond to the sounds they hear before birth, and even in the womb the child may “practice” sounds. Some researchers and many parents are aware that babies learn grammar and process imaginative ideas long before previously thought.

My daughter finally had her treasured girl (after five boys), and one day when Andreina was about five months old her mother told me she thought she was already talking. My own children had been rather precocious speakers, but I told my daughter Andreina probably couldn’t be speaking so young. Leah, our dog, came walking by and Andreina stuck her lip out, glared at me defiantly, smacked the dog and said, “Hi, Leah.” I’ll be darned if I know when and how children understand language. Leah was about all the baby babbled on about for some months, but she sure wanted me to know she could talk.

My best advice to parents is to speak to your children about everything, don’t use “baby” talk, and assume they understand just about everything you say.

I have decided here to add in about my eldest son who now speaks several languages and is big in the linguistics field.

When he was a baby, around a year old, I would try to get him to say something, anything would do. He stubbornly kept his mouth shut for months and I couldn’t  get him to even wave “bye-bye”. One evening when he was 17 months old we decided to go out for dinner and as I was putting his sister in her car seat, he started to whimper. “Don’t cry,” I said, “We’re going to feed you soon.” He stopped for a second, then said, “Are we getting Chinese soup and noodles?” I was stunned and tried to get him to talk to his dad when he got into the car. No deal. He didn’t say a word until we pulled up to the restaurant, then this is what we heard, “Oh boy, Chinese soup and noodles, my favorite. Are we getting egg rolls, too? Do you think Steve (the waiter) will give me extra fortune cookies?” We figured out later that he didn’t like doing anything until he knew how and had a horror of being thought stupid. By the way, he never closed his mouth again, taught himself to read, saw a book on learning Norwegian, asked me to buy it and proceeded to try learning how to speak it.

Never underestimate your children.

Part Two tomorrow.


“Ah, so, you are surprised I speak your language.”
Charlie Chan, fictional Detective, Honolulu Police Department.
(Movies made between 1925-1949, later shown on TV)

In the course of his investigations the “inscrutable Chinese” detective, Charlie Chan, would fool a witness/suspect into believing he could speak very little English. When the person would get careless and give away a clue Charlie would shock everyone by speaking impeccable English and saying “Ah, so, you are surprised I speak your language”, and almost immediately solve the case.

Do we all even speak the same language anymore?

When I was young the term “Confucius say” was a kind of joking way to introduce words of supposed Chinese wisdom. I seem to remember that Charlie Chan was the one who began the use of the term in the United States. When I actually read Confucius I was surprised about his absolute insistence on correct language so that people could clearly understand one another. He felt that knowledge of language and vocabulary is the most important skill for maintaining a civilized society, and that whoever controls the language controls the society.

Over many years I have thought of how words have been used to change and degrade our moral and religious perceptions. The most obvious example has been the bastardization of the word “abortion”. I had never even heard the word until I was in my late teens. Everyone in my social milieu knew that abortion meant killing- no, murdering- a baby, and the practice was never condoned. Did abortion occur and did women die in back alleys? I’m sure they did, but not nearly as many as proponents say. Then came the drive to legalize abortion. I have tried to remember how the word “baby” was changed, to “zygote”, “clump of cells”, “fetus”, “tissue mass”, “products of conception”, even “parasite”. I can’t even remember the iterations used to change hearts and minds away from the child lost.

The word “abortion”, too, went through many changes until the words “a woman’s right to choose” were finally hit upon. And now “choice” has become a woman’s sacred right.

One afternoon I picked my young children up from school and my third grade son was unusually silent. Suddenly he started to cry and said, “Mom, my teacher says that abortion means killing a baby. Did you know that?” “Yes,” I told him truthfully. “Then why don’t you stop it?” he sobbed. What could I say? I knew his teacher that year was bad and I had been excusing her crassness, but now she had crushed my child’s tender heart. I went to see her the next day, and described his reaction to her revelation. She snorted with laughter and said, “So what? He’ll get over it. He has to grow up sooner or later.” How does one cope with that?

Seeing my son with his little babies today I’m so glad he didn’t “get over it,” and still weeps for the loss of those other little babies.

Now we have the specter of political correctness hanging over our heads, destroying the enlightenment that comes from free and accurate speech. I fear for the young minds being formed in an environment of verbal poverty and profanity. How can one think and question if the words are not available?

It was George Orwell who wrote: “(Language) becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

More on language later.