Favorite

Danehy 

This week, Tom looks at the wacky world of language

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. [Then the Lord got all butt-hurt about the Tower they were building in Babel and said], "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other." So the Lord scattered them from there all over the earth ... the Lord confused the language of the whole world.

—Genesis 11.

I'll tell ya, that God guy has a wicked sense of humor. (He did, after all, make the Irish.) I'm not really sure why God got mad at the people who were building the thing. I'm pretty sure the guy at the xkcd website would tell us that it would have been impossible to reach the heavens. So, throughout all these millennia, we've been having misunderstandings, great and small, just because of a building project with misguidedly lofty expectations. Just look what God hath wrought:

The other day, on the "Today" show, host Matt Lauer was interviewing the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power. The conversation went like this:

Lauer: So, ISIS did this.

Power: Yes, ISIL did that.

On and on it went, ad infinitum. Power refused to budge off ISIL, clinging to that stupid-ass acronym as though her paycheck depended on it. The Obama Administration needs to realize that they've lost that particular PR battle. You want to form broad coalitions? How about joining everybody else in the world who is talking about the terror group?

On a lighter note, a guy named Chris Deschene is running for the office of president of the Navajo Nation. The former Marine is a nice enough guy, but he has one small problem: Apparently, he speaks Navajo only slightly better than you or I do.

His campaign speeches have been unintentionally hilarious. The Navajo language is tricky, with all kinds of glottal stops and inflections that can make the exact same words (or even sentences) mean two totally different things. (An example given in a recent article shows that "neezná" means "they died," while "neeznáá" means the number 10. (There's just all kinds of potential trouble there.)

So far during this election campaign, Deschene has tried to say, in Navajo, "I will work on the issue on your behalf," but it has come out either "I will spy for you" or "I will crawl." The other day, he tried to use the word for "soil," but it came out "urine." (That would be "soil," the noun, and actual urine didn't really come out.)

He's an interesting guy. He was born in Los Angeles, where his parents had been relocated by the feds for educational purposes. He attended the Naval Academy, served in the Marines, became a lawyer, and was elected to the Arizona State Legislature in 2008.

He never learned to speak Navajo from his parents; his mother had been punished for doing so at her boarding school in California. After his time in the Marines, he moved to the Navajo Reservation in search of his identity. He's been working on his Navajo, but it isn't easy. It is, however, mandatory for anyone serving as Nation President. He promises to be fluent in the language by the end of his first term, but it is a huge campaign issue against Joe Shirley, Jr. Some question whether he should even be on the ballot.

I would wish him luck, but it would probably come out, "The cattle are dying."

On an even lighter note, there's a kid named Soomin whom I coached in volleyball and track last year. After she graduated, she moved back to her native South Korea. She posts all kinds of stuff on her Facebook page, but she does so in Korean, which is, you know, Greek to me.

Fortunately, Facebook offers a translation service provided by Bing. It's some of the funniest stuff I've ever read. The other day, one of the translations read, "Park, I knew the cake about a predatory rematch." Another said, "Culture system of controlling the kite's ear. Elephant playing darts are then giving my brother taught me."

This stuff is classic.

And finally, our very own Tucson City Council member Regina Romero, who speaks more than one language (often at the same time), had an interesting reaction to a huge grant that would allow for the re-introduction of school resource (police) officers onto campuses in the Tucson Unified and Amphitheater school districts. She wants Tucson Police Department officers to break the law by not following the mandates of those parts of SB 1070 that have been deemed constitutional.

What's left of SB 1070 remains a blight on Arizona, but it is constitutional. Members of the City Council, including Karin Uhlich, who want TPD officers to break the law, are inviting a lawsuit (with the legal bills being paid for by whom, exactly?).

Just a thought: If a kid doesn't get in trouble, he/she will have no need to interact with the Resource Officer in a legal matter. Or is that asking too much?

Meanwhile, Romero, who, like Boyd Crowder on "Justified," often uses 40 words when four would have sufficed, said, "Parents and students not having the complete confidence of not being asked their immigration status is something that could be very nerve-wracking and chilling, actually."

Where's my Bing translator when I need it?

More by Tom Danehy

  • Danehy

    Death has been way too busy in Tom's world lately
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Old-School Corporate Greed

    Hundreds of men were illegally rounded up and brutally deported from Bisbee 100 years ago. Here’s why.
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • Danehy

    Tom remains distressed by the nation's cult of ignorance
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • More »

Comments (7)

Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-7 of 7

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • Danehy

    Tom remains distressed by the nation's cult of ignorance
    • Jun 22, 2017
  • Old-School Corporate Greed

    Hundreds of men were illegally rounded up and brutally deported from Bisbee 100 years ago. Here’s why.
    • Jul 6, 2017

The Range

Bear Needs a Home

A Few Thoughts on the New AzMERIT Scores

Laughing Stock: The Dating Game, Repeatedly

More »

Latest in Danehy

  • Danehy

    Death has been way too busy in Tom's world lately
    • Jul 20, 2017
  • Danehy

    How to get on board with the racists and the dolts
    • Jul 6, 2017
  • More »

Most Commented On

Facebook Activity

© 2017 Tucson Weekly | 7225 Mona Lisa Rd. Ste. 125, Tucson AZ 85741 | (520) 797-4384 | Powered by Foundation