Archive for June 17th, 2008

French Letters

L’Académie française, the institution that defends the purity of French, yesterday issued a furious warning that recognising regional languages in the constitution would be “an attack on French national identity”. In turn, local language militants criticised the academy as a ridiculous relic of outdated nationalism.

Yes, well as far as French national identity is something defined and expressed in the French language, I think they’re probably right that it would be an attack on French national identity. I just happen to think that this is a good thing.

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Patted Too Airily

A piece on spelling bees. My powers of spelling correctly have diminished dramatically down the years. I reckon I was a better speller aged 10 than I am now.

But who cares? I am willing to bet a fiver that the harder a word is to spell, the less likely its ‘mis-spelling’ results in misunderstanding. Is someone really going to tear their hair out trying to figure out what the writer means by ‘dessiccated” when standards dictate that he ought to have written ‘desiccated‘? Or ‘acommodate’ instead of ‘accommodate’?

The whole spectacle strikes me as being all about maximum conformity to arbitrary rule. Or an ideological purity contest.

Irish DNA

Genealogists have traced Bush’s lineage back to both parts of Ireland. One of his five times great grandfathers, William Holliday, was born in Rathfriland, Co Down about 1755 and died in Kentucky in 1811/12. One of his seven times great grandfathers William Shannon was born in blah blah hrruaghgh ohmigod I’m chokin aughkkk hrrff aaurk ik.

Want to know something really, really interesting? I have Irish ancestry. Yes, I know! – unbelievable. It turns out that I have ancestors from Tyrone, Armagh, Down and even further afield. In fact, if you dig into these things even deeper, you discover that most other Irish people also have Irish ancestry. And do you realise what that means? It means that most Irish people had ancestors who didn’t have televisions or fridges! I know: mindblowing.

Even more crazy is that some people from Ireland actually left the place to go somewhere else, a trend that must be unique among the many nations who stitch together the grand patchwork that is world history.

So to find out that the President of the United States have Irish ancestors: that just rocks my world. My chest swells, and I feel pretty damn good.


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