Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Black History Month and African American Writers

February is Black History Month, a time to focus the limelight on Americans of African descent. It started out as Negro History Week in 1926 with the aim of educating Americans on African American history. It is also known as African-American History Month in the US. It is also celebrated in Canada in February. In the United Kingdom, Black History Month is observed in October.

In the US and Canada, different events and activities are staged throughout the whole month of February in observance of Black History Month. In schools, African American history is given much emphasis in all levels from elementary to university level. Media, print, radio, television and the Internet have their own programs centering on African American history and other related subjects. Focus is placed on black Americans who have made their mark in government, education, media, literature, medicine, business, sports, and other important fields. Their contributions serve as inspirations to fellow African Americans and non-African Americans.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

LSSU: Banishing Words to Oblivion

"Whoomp, There It Is! (1994)" Lake Superior State University or LSSU has released its annual Banished Words List for 2012! The Banished Words List is a collection of words that nominators would like cleansed from the English language. At the very least, these are words that nominators no longer want to hear being used by media personalities or by the general public. The first Banished Words List was issued by LSSU in 1976. Since then, people have been nominating words that they believe should be in the list for a particular year. Although not everyone is in agreement with the words that make it to the final cut, still, it is great fun to find out why these words have been deemed over-ripe and need to be removed from the collective consciousness of society.

Why the need for a list?

LSSU wanted to point out that people have a tendency to over-use and most often, mis-use words sometimes to the point where the words or phrases become generally useless. Words and phrases like "awesome (1984 & 2007)," "you go, girl (1997)," "win-win (1993)," and "to die for (1995)" for instance have been beaten to a pulp. These words started out as interesting and useful. But alas, they eventually became as pleasant to the ears as the sound of fingernails scratching on a chalkboard. To help regain some linguistic dignity, LSSU comes up with a yearly list as a reminder to all.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chinese New Year – Enter the Yang Water Dragon

Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Happy Chinese New Year!

At the heels of the Gregorian New Year is the Chinese New Year. The Chinese traditionally follow the lunar calendar rather than the solar Gregorian calendar. This year’s Chinese New Year falls on the 23rd of January. It will be the 4,710th new year based on the Chinese calendar although some references point out that it is actually the 4,709th year. For many, it is more important to find out what animal is associated to the year 2012 according to Chinese astrology.

The Chinese calendar is on a 60 year cycle. Each year is represented by a combination of one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac (known as Shēngxiào) and one of the 5 elements. The 12 animals under the Chinese zodiac, in order of their appearance, are: "rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The 5 elements are metal, water, wood, fire and earth." This year, 2012, is represented by the dragon, which is the 5th sign of the Chinese zodiac, and by the water element.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Chinese New Year Traditions and New Year Traditions Across the Globe

New Year's Day does not actually come only once a year but several times a year depending on the type of calendar one uses. For countries that adopted the Gregorian calendar, New Year's Day is always celebrated on January 1 of each year. The date never changes. This is the New Year often associated with the countries of the West and those that follow the Catholic faith.

In other cultures, countries and religions, their New Year's Day falls on a different month and day if you look at it through the Gregorian calendar. The day and sometimes the month may be different because they base the calculations of their respective new year's day on the cycles of the moon. The Chinese for instance follow a lunar calendar as opposed to the solar-based Gregorian calendar. For the Chinese, January 23 is the date for this year's Chinese New Year.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sign Language: Not Just for the Hearing Challenged

One language that requires no sound, voice, or speech is sign language. It does not rely on audio like the other languages of the world. The development of sign language has made life for many people, hearing and hearing-challenged, easier, safer and more enjoyable. It has allowed hearing challenged individuals to communicate effectively with others without the use of writing implements and electronic gadgets. At the same time, it has made deaf and mute members of a community become integral members of the society in which they belong.

Sign language is transmitted visually. Hand shapes, hand gestures, movements of the arms or the body, and facial expressions are used to send a visual message to another person. What seems to be a collection of hand movements, gestures and facial expressions that hearing challenged individuals often display is a real, highly developed language. Apart from developing a finger alphabet based on a specific language, specific gestures are created for individual words. Sometimes, gestures come with matching facial expressions or body movement (or both.) Once a basic gesture is created for a specific word, it can be further developed to add more information related to the gesture. There is a constant building upon a specific gesture's meaning in order to convey additional information that the original gesture alone cannot adequately convey.