Tag Archives: Sanskrit

Babel comes to West Oxford

Tower of BabelSusan Hutchinson has run the West Oxford Academy for a few seasons now.  I’ve spoken there myself about The Register, the Inquirer and TechEye and churnalism.

The talks happen at the West Oxford Community Centre, a five minute walk from Mill Street.  It costs two quid and for that you get a 20 minute talk from locals – and a glass of wine.

Last night we were treated to a most interesting talk by Ian Thompson, called The Tower of Babel: the world’s language families. The place was packed.

Ian started off with a comparison of numbers from different languages – it’s the ek do teen char, eka dva tri chatur common to the Indo-Iranian language groups, but there was an anomaly on his slide, with the Basque language not conforming to the pattern.

In fact, said Ian, language is largely based on onomatopeia – and there are four major language groups although there are exceptions. In Gaelic terms, the last Cornish speaker died in 1974 – there still is a tape of Ned Mandrell speaking the language.

He said: “Gaelic speaking people school kids were punished for using their own language until the late 1940s.”  My mum was born in Aberdeen 1915 and had some Gaelic, but my dad was based in Skye during the Second World War, and told me when I was a kid that no-one there understood English and the people spoke the Gaelic. How times have changed.

Interestingly, Ian spoke about the influence of the west on language analysis by academics, where Sanskrit, Greek and Latin were considered pukka languages, while the truth is somewhat different, considering languages like Chinese, and African families of language were, in the past,  undervalued by western academics. Of course many languages are dying or are already dead. Still, when the west “discovered” India, they were also a bit shocked to learn that one Panini had “discovered” the basics of language before the Christian calendar arrived.

The future talks at the West Oxford Academy look most interesting. Next week, we will be treated to a talk by Iain Tullis who will tell us how digital cameras work by taking one apart. Future topics include Oxford’s Dictionary of Medieval Latin on the 12th November and He’s not the Messiah! The dangers of cinema’s depiction of leadership by Jim Hague. ♦

The Tower of Babel: tongues’r’us

HOW MARVELLOUS the Interweb is. Google is not “evil” but it’s very “live”.

Magee is the 93rd most common name in Ireland, or so it is told.

Sometimes Google  it makes me wonder who I am. Am I Dr Mike Magee, who writes books about all sorts of stuff?  Am I the famous poker player? Am I the soccer player, born in Chicago 1984?  Am I MikeyMagee on Twitter? Am I tattoo artist Mike Magee? Have I translated Sanskrit books into English? Am I Adamson Rust? Am I Eva Glass? Am I Eva’s sister, Harta Glass? Am I C. Shanti? Am I Lokanath Maharaj?

Or am I none of the above?

It’s all very confusing. Who am I?

Am I a Lavengro or a Sapengro, pal?

Monty tells of strange Indian tales

I’M REALLY enjoying reading Monty’s  (Paul Munford) Indian Outlook.

I worked with Monty years back at Castle Despair, or VNU UK as it then described herself.  Monty is on a sabbatical in India for a year, and he’s up to issue number 34 right now.

The latest newsletter says that the Indian government has asked ISPs to ban a web site called www.Savitabhabi.com. This is an adult cartoon site, but it’s very mild by our standards, says Monty.

People who want to defend web content have set up a site called www.savesavita.com. The paradox is that India in the 21st century has rather a puritanical streak. This is despite the fact that India is the land of tantra and the Kama Sutra, and the Sanskrit language and a great deal of its literature is sensuous and even erotic.

Places like Khajuraho and Hampi (Vijayanagar) are full of carvings and statues that express the joy of sexuality and love. But now,  the ra-ra girls in 20/20 cricket matches are shown only for seconds, in case they excite viewers too much.

This picture is from Khajuraho. Some of the carvings have been defaced.

khajuraho

You can subscribe to Monty’s Indian Outlook by sending an email here. I’ve tried to contribute to understanding Indian culture on this web site.