Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Barack – Its Meaning in Different Languages

by Bernadine B. Racoma
Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama

Barack – it is the given name of the 44th and incumbent president of the United States. It seems like an uncommon name for someone from the United States. It is not an English name, but a name that has origins in Swahili, Hebrew and Arabic. Barack Hussein Obama, the full name of the U.S. President, came from his father, Barack Senior. Mr. Obama Senior was a government official, who held the position of senior economist in the Kenyan government. 
One word, different meanings in different languages

Barack or Baraka, spelled as Bārak in the Arabic language, is a variant of the name Mubarak or Mubārak, its spelling in Arabic. Mubarak and its variants are Arabic given names, which translate to “the blessed one” in English, and is suggestive of the Latin word, Benedict, meaning blessed.

Tracing its etymological origin, the word Barack came from three consonantal roots, the letters B, R and K, which means a body part, the knee. Taking it further, the three consonants become a verbal description of the act of prostrating oneself. And when you say that someone is prostrating oneself, it translates to the simpler and more common description, that of kneeling down “to receive blessing” from an elder or a person of higher authority, like a religious person or the head of a tribe or king or queen. Conversely, the feminine equivalent of the word Barack or Baraka is “barakah,” which means “blessing” when you translate it to English.

What Does Mitt Mean?

by Bernadine B. Racoma

Mitt Romney speaking at the 2012 CPAC
Looking at an English language dictionary, the word mitt is defined as a “glove with only two compartments.” One of the compartments is used for the thumb while the other is for the other four fingers. It is also the term that refers to the glove used by baseball players. Mitt is sometimes used as slang for “fist.” In a scientific point of view, a mitt is the prehensile extremity, like a paw, a manus or a hand of the eminent or greater limb. Prehensile translates to something that is specially adapted to grasping or wrapping around an object. Mitt is related to the Latin word moiety. Moiety on the other hand is a noun related to the literary or the law, and translates to “half” or the two parts of something. The word moiety is derived from the Latin word “medietas,” which in turn came from the word “medius” that means middle.

But while the preceding description refers to the technical aspect of the word Mitt, what we are after is the meaning behind the name Mitt.

Behind the name

According to books on baby names, Mitt is the diminutive or shortened form of the name Milton. The books also list the origin of the name as American. However, in other books, it is also said that the first name Milton, which is given mostly to boys, came from a surname that could be traced to names given to Old English places. It refers to the Old English place-name called Myletūn, which is a compound word from “mill,” which translates to mylen and “town” or “settlement” that translates to tūn. Myletūn in turn came from another Old English word, Middeltūn, which is combination of the words “middle” or middle and “tūn” that could be translated to enclosure or village that is situated in the middle of two settlements.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrating the 67th United Nations Foundation Day

The UN headquarters in New York

The United Nations, an international cooperation agency that was established to safeguard the rights and needs of people around the world,is celebrating its 67th Foundation Day today. It is an agency where many languages are spoken, where many cultures are evident and where customs and traditions observed by its international staff are different and unique – differences that converge to realize common goals for all the citizens of the world. Despite its members coming from different backgrounds and speaking different mother tongues, they do understand one another. The United Nations has six official languages, which are English, Spanish, French, Russian, Arabic and Mandarin Chinese.

October 24th is known all over the world as United Nations Day. It is loosely considered as an American holiday and a day for donning colorful costumes for the parade of nations. But beyond the festivities, United Nations Day is an important holiday that celebrates the diversity of cultures, religions and customs all over the world. It also commemorates the founding of an international body that looks out for the marginalized people, works to stop abuse and human trafficking, as well as foster peace and cooperation among nations.

The United Nations General Assembly established October 24 as a UN holiday in 1948. This was the same day that the United Nations Charter was adopted in 1945. The entire celebration runs from October 20 to October 24 and the main purpose is to uphold the main goals of the United Nations -  international economic development, security, social progress, human rights and world peace.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Navaratri, a Celebration of All the Goodness in Life

A photo describing the image of Lord Durga in Durga Puja
Hindus all over the world are just about to culminate the celebration of their most significant religious festival, the Navaratri. The festival was originally observed for nine days and nine nights, but recently, it has been extended to ten days with a grand culmination of the celebrations on the tenth day For 2012 the celebrations started on Tuesday, the 16th of October and continued for 9 days until Wednesday, the 24th of October. It is a colorful festival that honors the Shakti, or cosmic energy of Mother Goddess Durga, whom Hindus believe to be the nurturing expression of God/Shiva. Durga provides everyone with all the spiritual and material blessing needed to overcome the difficulties in life and so during the Navaratri, Hindus worship her and call on her to provide for them.

Background and Significance

The meaning of Navaratri in Sanskrit is “nine nights,” which is the number of days that the festival is celebrated and the number of forms that the Mother Goddess is believed to manifest. It is also believed to symbolize the nine days and nine nights that Durga battled with the evil force Mahishasura. Thus, Navaratri also commemorates the victory of good over evil.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Do Men and Women Really Communicate? (Unmasking the secret of a woman’s language)

It’s a universal question and a very tricky one. Do men and women really communicate? On one level, they do, since you would find men and women completely understanding each other. On the other hand, there are men and women, particularly couples who are in a constant state of misunderstanding one another, simply because one of the partners remains clueless as to what the other wants to convey. In this case, it’s on the level wherein the woman’s words have deeper meanings than what an “ordinary” man could fathom. It could be said that in most cases, a man wants things in “black and white” while a woman usually wants things in several shades or tints, even if it is just black and white.

Jealousy and Flirtation (by Haynes King, a French artist)
Women, in contrast to men, could be very ambiguous and it is for this reason why the famous line, “Women are from Venus and men are from Mars” somehow rings true. This basically translates to the fact that the unequivocal language of men is different from how women speak which often contains double meanings. This is rather confusing for guys and could certainly lead to a series of misunderstandings especially if you are not aware of the true complexity behind the women’s verbal and body language.

As a result, men have been stereotyped as the insensitive ones. Not that you can really blame them. It is just a matter of understanding both sexes the right way. Men are very easy to comprehend since they usually mean what they say while women most often prevaricate. So if you really want to know what is going on in the minds of women, then you need to recognize how they truly communicate by making a little bit of effort to study their ways and manners of speech. Here are some important and astonishing information about the language of women.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hanakotoba, a Japanese secret language using flowers

It is universally known that different flowers have different meanings in different cultures, that is why care should be taken when sending flowers or presenting someone with a bouquet. Still, there is the common expression, “say it with flowers” that has been used by a floral company that delivers worldwide as their slogan for a number of years.

Sakura (cherry blossom) – Kind/gentle
Indeed, for people who know the meaning behind each flower, it is an apt slogan. But not all people know the language of flowers. For the Japanese, who have been exposed to Buddhism and are naturally lovers of nature, flowers and their meanings are interwoven in the Japanese way of life. Flowers figure prominently in their costumes, in their daily lives, in art, including tattoo or irezumi, even in their legal documents such as passports and government seals. The Japanese have always been spiritual, and they carefully interconnect and associate the intricacies of living things and nature. The flower arrangement Japan is famous for is called Ikebana, which translates to “living flowers.” Others refer to it as kadō or “the way of flowers.” Ikebana is a beautiful art form that combines the beauty of nature, its natural elements as well as the beauty of the mind and the disposition of the one doing the flower arranging. It requires great discipline, a wonderful sense of creativity, combining line, form and shape to bring about the intended meaning behind a particular flower arrangement. Japanese kimonos usually have flowers on them, to complement the occasion or as a symbol of the wearer’s status in society.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cheesy Dancing ala Gangnam Style: Crossing Social Strata

“Dress classy and dance cheesy.” This was what the famous singer of “Gangnam Style” said. Psy, the one person who created and took over the world with his hit single has made another feat, as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, also a South Korean, deemed him and his single a strong force for world peace. It managed to easily cross social class borders and broke the global language barrier with its simple, bouncy and humorous tune and lyrics.

Even the UN Secretary General was taken by the groove and dance moves shown in the catchy MTV of this hit song that is played everywhere. The Agence France Presse interviewed Secretary General Ban about the song and he said that he had seen it several times. He expressed his pride on how Psy, whose real name is Park Jae-sang, brought the Korean wave as well as the sense of humor of the country globally through the Internet. Psy’s music video had reached more than 480 million views online since its release only three months ago. Even with the Korean lyrics, millions of people continue to listen to it and even dance to the tune. Currently, the MTV for Gangnam Style is the most watched South Korean music video, overtaking the MTVs of other South Korean pop groups.

The "Gangnam Style" (강남스타일 in Korean) is a hit single by South Korean Psy, a rapper, singer/songwriter, record producer and dancer. It was released on July 15, 2012, the title track for the artist’s 6th album, PSY 6 (Six Rules), Part 1, debuting at number one in the Gaon Chart, South Korea’s national music record chart. Nelly Furtado and Maroon 5 even made their own cover of the song and the Harvard Business Review, CNN International, the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and the Foreign Policy featured the song as well.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sukkōt, a time to rejoice and reaffirm the trust in God’s providence

Sukkōt is one of most prominent and most celebrated Jewish festivals of the year. It is a biblical holiday for our Jewish brothers. Following the more solemn Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, Sukkōt is the time to rejoice. It is celebrated for seven days, as a traditional way to remember the trials and hardships the Jews brothers went through to escape the slavery they suffered in Egypt. Their arduous journey through the desert from Egypt to Israel took over 40 years.

Pray with lulav during Sukkot at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
They traveled and braved the harsh desert environment without any real shelter or a sturdy roof above their heads. By some miracle, there would always be clouds in the sky, which provided them temporary shelter from the unforgiving heat of the sun in the desert. Jewish ancestors referred to the cloud cover as clouds of glory. And their belief in God Almighty is so strong and they relied on that belief. Manna rained from the heavens, providing them with food until they reached their destination.

Etrog, silver etrog box and lulav, used on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot    
Sukkōt, the plural of sukkah, is the Hebrew word for booth or tabernacle. These are temporary and flimsy dwellings that the Israelites constructed as their shelter during their exodus in the desert. These simple booths provided them a place to stay, sleep and eat while taking a brief rest from their trek.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Celebrating the National Hispanic Heritage Month

The Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States is almost over, and a lot have brought out their  sombreros and have a fiesta!

¡Hola, chicos y chicas! It’s the time of year to celebrate the National Hispanic Heritage Month, a time when America honors the great and numerous contributions that the Latino Americans and the Hispanics made to its culture and traditions.

The Hispanic Heritage celebrations began in 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson declared the week covering September 15 and 16 as Hispanic Heritage Week. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan stretched it out into a month-long celebration beginning on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was also enacted into law in the same year.

Cutting the cake in celebration of the National Hispanic Heritage Month    

The month of September marks the independence of several Latin American countries from their Spanish colonizers; Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua on the 15th; Mexico, Chile and Belize on the 16th, 18th and 21st, respectively. The duration of celebration also coincides with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1942.

So what better time to honor the Latin Americans who have greatly contributed to American culture and progress, making it the rich and colorful nation that it is now!

The Hispanics have been in the United States as early as 1565, in the fortress of St. Augustine in Florida, the first continuous settlement made by Europeans in North America. It was founded decades earlier than the settlement in Jamestown in Virginia. The Hispanics had a small outpost that they had built in Alta California in San Francisco in 1176. They were also in Texas when it was still a separate province, where the vaqueros or cowboys found work in the cattle ranches.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Double Ten, an auspicious number for our Chinese brothers and sisters

A symbol often seen during the National Day of the Republic of China on 10 October (stylized version of character ).

October 10th or Double Ten, a number combination that gives out happy thoughts and feelings. If you ever wondered why clocks and watches displayed at stores are always set at 10 minutes after 10, it is because when you look at the clock’s face, the hour and minute hands in that position make a happy or a smiling face.

Clock 10-10

For our Chinese brothers and sisters, it’s a national holiday, a day of remembrance, a day for celebration. For it was on this day in 1911 when the dynastic rule over China and the resentment of the people towards the government at that time were put to an end. October 10, 1911 – the day the more than 2,000-year reign of the Qing Dynasty ended. It was also the beginning of the formation of the republican form of government in mainland China.

Many types of activities are staged during the celebration of the Double Ten, but it is not just fun and aplomb all the time, because before it became a national day of celebration, a long and grim history enveloped this specific date.

Double Ten Day, what is it?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Canadian Thanksgiving: Tracing its Origins

Canada celebrates Thanksgiving every second Monday of October. The celebration, as we know it today, keeps the essence of being grateful for a bountiful harvest received. It also mirrors deep faith and gratitude to a supreme being that protects, blesses, and listens to every citizen's prayers.

Thanksgiving dinner in Canada
The origins of Thanksgiving have been subject to much debate and argument. The Americans claim that the tradition began with them; however, Canadians say that their Thanksgiving celebrations are closely associated with their European roots. Early Europeans have had a tradition of holding festivals of thanks after harvest time. This takes place in October. Additionally, the first North American Thanksgiving celebrations happened in Canada in the year 1578. An English explorer named Martin Frobisher set foot at Newfoundland and wanted to offer his gratefulness for his safe passage and arrival into the New World. This would mean that the initial Thanksgiving in Canada happened 43 years earlier than the time the American pilgrims first arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Ideophones, Bling bling, kira kira, dugeun dugeun (What do these words have in common?)

Words are truly fascinating. We’ve all known that without words people would not be able to communicate. And words are learned since childhood, from parents, siblings, friends then teachers, slowly building a lexicon that allows one to construct cohesive and intelligent sentences.

Bling bling hip hop jewelry
And discovering new words, even foreign ones is a delight. It somehow bridges the communication gap, when new and foreign words are added to your personal dictionary, particularly since globalization makes the world shrink, figuratively speaking, just a little bit.

Even if you do not have the patience to learn a new language, or you do not have the propensity for languages, you would eventually come across words that give you a vivid impression of things akin to action, color, sound, and movement. These words are called ideophones. You might not be aware of the term, but you have surely used some of the words that belong to this category. Though rarely found in languages in the Western world, ideophones are quite common in several languages of the world. For specific clarification, the word class in which ideophones belong is called phonosemantic. It sounds a bit technical, especially for a layman who only uses words because they are there and universally known, without delving deeper into word classes, etymology and grammar rules.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Money Talk and Insurance Speak (In the “interest” of learning where the terms came from)

images of various US dollars    
The word “interest” came from the Anglo-French term interesse used during the late 14th century, which translates to “what one has a legal concern in.” The term in turn came from the Middle Latin word interesse” that is equivalent to “compensation for loss.” In the mid-15th century, the word was used to mean, “concern,” “advantage,” “benefit” and even “legal right or claim.” Later, in the financial sense it became the term to define “the money that is paid for the use of the money that was lent.”

So in the “interest” of knowing where these common present-day money, banking and finance terms originated, let us trace their history of origin, since some of them may sound Greek, er, Latin, I mean, to you.

The language of finance and insurance is filled with many terms that may sound intimidating to some, while it translates to dollars and cents to others. What is interesting to note is that many of these terms and words used often have quite a unique etymology.