Words are funny things. We use them on a daily basis, and as far as we can remember they have always been there, meaning that they seem incredibly natural to us (which is, oddly enough, one of the reasons learning a foreign language feels so unnatural. I mean, what do you mean ‘dog’ is ‘perro’, that makes no sense! A dog is a dog, end of story, and breaking that association so that both words feel equally natural in our minds is all but impossible). Sure, from a rational perspective we know that is not the case. We know language makes no sense, which explains why we are stuck with so many of the blasted things, and we have all seen babies learning to talk, but words are so integral to the way we think that it is all but impossible for us to conceive a world without them... and yet language
Could we please just give geologists their scale back? I’m asking nicely. I’m also adding my two cents to the debate as to whether the Holocene has given way to the Anthropocene. Now, don’t get me wrong, I get where it is that climatologists, anthropologists, and all those other ‘ologists’ promoting the use of the Anthropocene as a name for a clearly distinct epoch are coming from. I am also incredibly frustrated due to the number of people referring to the proposed Anthropocene as a period, or even an Era. In fact that is the part that bothers me the most because it reflects a basic ignorance of how the geologic scale is supposed to work... which is why I suspect there are so many people arguing on behalf of the Anthropocene in the first place. I also won’t deny that there are some valid
Yes, I know it has become fashionable to look down on history --along with the rest of the humanities-- as a form of glorified navel-gazing. We live in the present, and the past is in the past: there’s nothing we can do to change it, so why bother (besides, we can always google whatever date we happen to need); we should be looking forward, not backwards; and so on, but I am here to tell you that, if used properly, history --or something close to it-- can be one of the most powerful tools in your mental toolkit... you just have to learn to think about it in a different way. (more…)
A huge jumble of bricks does not a house make. That, I believe, is a statement we can all agree on. It is also a good explanation of why is it that most attempts at mastering a foreign language tend to fall short. In a nutshell, we tend to think of words as the building blocks of language, and when trying to master a foreign one our first instinct is to try to gather as many of those blocks as we can. In some instances that is not a bad idea. In others it is a recipe for disaster. The reason is simple enough: different languages are different, but they are not all different in the same way. If the language you are trying to master is close enough to your native one, then that words first approach may work, even if it leaves you with a few unusual linguistic quirks, but the farther afield...