Why so many Egyptian gods’ names end in “is”?

Isis. Anubis. Apophis. Osiris. Anukis.

Why do the names of so many Egyptian mythological figures end in “is”? You might assume that maybe “-is” is an Egyptian suffix or other meaningful morpheme.

Nope!

This actually has little to do with the Egyptian language, and everything to do with another Greek language: Greek. The Greek rule of Egypt started when Alexander the Great the land in 332 B.C. Not surprisingly, they Greece-ified the names of the Egyptian gods.

Greek is a gendered language, so names ending in ς (sigma) were typically male. Thus, you get Osiris, Anubis, Horus, etc. I do wonder, though, how come Isis, Anukis, and Nephthys came about since these are goddesses…

So, what happened is that the English names for these gods was passed down to us through Greek. You do see this pattern in other ancient figures, though: Zeus, Heracles, and even another famous figure, Jesus.

The more you know.

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Sakura fruits?

Today, as a friend of mine was watching Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card-hen, she shared a random musing with me. She wondered if the 櫻 (さくら、sakura) plant is the same plant that produces real cherries.

Yes, actually! The sakura flower, when fertilised does become a cherry called, in Japanese, (さくらんぼ、sakuranbo). Despite how different the cherry flowers of Jamaica look, the sakuranbo doesn’t look much different from the cherries I see here in Jamaica, based on my Google search:

さくらんぼ

Our cherry trees don’t get nearly as tall as sakura, though… I wonder if their cherries taste the same!

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Created Languages: Why alphabets?

One of my lectures has said on more than one occasion that breaking down our language into individual sounds is not the easiest thing for us humans. It is more intuitive for us to have syllables or meaningful units be the smallest units for us.

That was interesting to me. After all, I am typing this in a writing system that has letters (which each [well, in principle, anyway] represent a single sound, not a syllable or meaning), and this Latin alphabet has spread far and wide. Why?

Well, my lecturer says, the beauty of alphabets such as these is in the fact that, with a relatively small collection of symbols, we can write out all the sounds of the language. That’s the very opposite of the almost 50 hiragana characters of the Japanese syllabary, and the thousands (even tens of thousands!) of characters in meaning-based (ideographic) systems like Chinese Hanji and Ancient Egyptian medu netjer (hieroglyphs).

That explains why the writing systems of created languages of sci-fi and fantasy lore tend to be alphabets.

Take, for example, the Elvish language of Tolkien fame:

tengwar

And then, these’s Superman’s Kyptonian:

U7tmEKx

This does not look easy to write…

And Klingon:

Kli_piqad

Really, using alphabets for these languages makes things a lot easier. Which linguist or writer is going to sit down and create syllabaries or ideographs?

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Writing, grammar, and self-publishing

If you’re reading this, you know I’m a writer. Obviously.

What you might not know is that I’m an aspiring author. I’ve been writing stories of various forms for as long as I can remember, and have started using writing to make a bit of money on Fiverr.com.

Kenliano Fiverr 2018

I also love to read. Throughout my childhood, most (or all, I think) of the books I’ve read have been traditionally published books. That is, the authors went through the rigorous process of being picked up by publishing houses, often through agents, and these publisher would do much of the editing, promotional work, etc.

Things have changed , though. There are quite a few books that are self-published, and with the rise of eBooks, the number has increased manifold. A few of these have found their way into my hands.

And… honestly, some of them are… well… very bad.

I’ve read some traditionally published books that aren’t good, too, don’t get me wrong. The one that comes to mind is The Host by Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame.

But self-published books… wow.

I could talk about storytelling mechanics here, but I’ve decided to discuss grammar instead. Many of these writers seem not to have a good grasp of Standard English grammar. I’ve seen apostrophes misused as plural markers rather than possession markers, incorrect use of capital letters (as in “Stop it,” She said.) and even improper punctuation (for example, “Stop it.” she said.”).

What irks me even more is when these errors pop up in traditionally published works.

I do try not to be overly judgemental, though. Both writing and the grammar associated with it are artificial constructs that someone has to be taught, and not everyone mastered. But…  these types of errors really take away from the experience of reading for me.

My fellow writers, I implore you to pay as much attention as possible to grammar. It looks poorly on you if your work looks sloppy. If it’s a weakness you have, you may want to consider investing in an editor. A good editor.

I’m saying this to myself, too. I’ve been seriously considering self-publishing lately; and hope to introduce my first book to the world in the near future.

To all of my writer friends and colleagues, happy writing!

 

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What does your name say about you?

The University of the West Indies has a tradition of names.

There are quite a few monuments around campus with lists of names of people who came before us for posterity. Right near the main gate, there is one such dedication to the slaves that lived on a plantation all those years ago, which nowadays has become part of the campus:

IMG_4538

Mona Village, which was located on Mona Estate was home to quite a few men and women. Last academic year, we I took a research course in which we were to take a look at these names, and see what we could find.

From the list of female names, one in particular interested me:

Mona Estate names

At the end of the first line is the name “Abba”. My exposure to Hebrew and Christianity led me to make an assumption as to the origins and meaning of this word. If you are familiar with the Christian Bible, you should know this word. Found in such verses as Mark 14:36, this Hebrew word means “father”:

אבא Mona

But… Even though it does mean “father” in Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic, and I told this to my classmates, I was wrong to assume that this was the reason this girl or woman was named Abba.

As it turns out, Abba is a female “day name”, a name given to a baby depending on the day she/he is born. This Ghanaian name is given to girls born on Tuesday:

Abba Tuesday

Many questions come to mind: Was she born in the Caribbean? If so, just how much of their culture were the people in these villages able to preserve? Was she born in West Africa? If so, how was she lucky enough to keep her name? How much was lost when they stole our ancestors and brought them here? How much have we retained?

I didn’t plan to post this during Black History Month (I had actually been planning to write about this since last summer…), but it’s relevant, don’t you think?

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Still here…

It’s 2018 now, and I’ve still got a whole lot of schoolwork to do before the second semester opens.

Well, better get to work!

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I won something!

On the 6th of October, someone posted something in a Facebook group I’m in:

FB post translation competition

I instantly realised that there was no mention of a prize, but I still felt a strong desire to try my hand at it. My Spanish and French aren’t good at all, so, my only choice was the English into Jamaican Creole language pair.

Well, I entered. The document the Translators and Interpreters Association (TIA) of Jamaica sent me was, of all things, an article about climate change and its impact on the Caribbean.

Let me tell you: that was a challenge.

I opened it up, read through it, and instantly knew it would be one of the most difficult things I’d done in a while. I put it down for a few days and then started working on it. And finally submitted it to TIA.

Then… one morning…

E-mail from TIA

TIA e-mailed me on Tuesday, 5th of December

I couldn’t believe it! I actually won! I don’t know why, but I really wanted to win. As someone who graduated from university a few years ago, I entered in the “other” category.

Anyway, the award ceremony was yesterday. It was a nice little event, and a good way to close this chapter of my life. Who knows? Maybe it’s a sign of things to come?

We’ll see!

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