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August 05, 2018


British-American, which sounds pretty stupid...

It doesn't sound stupid to me, quite the opposite.

I have long thought that we should make it a practice to hyphenate every stream that fed "America." That change in the language might help reframe how we all think of ourselves in the US, and make it harder (she said, Pollyanna-ishly) to get away with the notion that there are "real" Americans (white, Anglo, etc.) and the rest of us.

I often pause at the challenge of how to explain my parents ethnically. Easy enough to call my dad "Italian-American," since both his parents were immigrants from Italy. Like you, lj, I could say that my mom was "English-American," but that doesn't really get at the deeper challenge of the cultural divide in my upbringing, which had more to do with temperament, and religion (Catholic/Baptist), and the culture of recent immigrants vs the culture (and standing, even though they were so poor) of people whose lines of ancestry had been here for ten generations. Sometimes I say my mother was from "old American" stock, which gets at something central (if not always healthy) in their sense of who they are.

Hey lj, aren't you also American-Japanese? Or Japanese-American-Japanese?


This is just too much fun not to play!

- marginally left handed. But sufficiently ambidextrous that I have no trouble adapting to the fact that the world (including our written-left-to-right language**) is designed for right handers.
- cisgender, and somewhat incomprensive of other varieties. Intellectually, I know other orientations occur, but I just don't "get it."
- vanilla American of northern Europen ancestry (basically Viking descended English and Swedish). Or so I thought, until a couple of years ago, when my siblings gave me one of those DNA ancestry tests. Then I discover: 1/8 Ashkenazi -- and none of us had a clue (still don't know which great-grandparent was Jewish).
- technologist (i.e. computers). But not actually a technophile -- makes my boss wonder how I ever blundered into the business, especially back in the day. More likely to curl up with a book than a computer.
- retired martial artist, if you call sword fighting a martial art.
- originally a country boy. And still prefer living where there's elbowroom.

** It does rather make one wonder about those languages which are written right to left. Were their literate elites, early on, dominantly left handed? And if so, how would that have happened?

The first time was sort of an accident, but for some time my answer to the question "Who are your people?" has been "The applied mathematicians."

Janie, yes, but the process is almost finished, so I don't want to say anything to jinx it...

As for LtR languages, My just-so story is that I've always assumed that the writing implement and the desire to speed up is what made the difference. Chinese and Japanese use a brush, so the hand doesn't rest on the paper (though they were not set in terms of horizontal direction) and Arabic has the qualam, so I think that is significant.

And sword fighting? Do tell! I'm assuming Japanese, and if so, what school?

Well more like iaido than European fencing certainly. But actually it was European broad sword and shield (although some do use the two handed sword or mace and shield). See Society for Creative Anachronism.

It was the only form of exercise I ever found that I would actually stick with for more than a few weeks.

Sort of like wj’s Ashkenazi discovery, I’ve recently stumbled on the fact that I share DNA with a lot of people from Finland. It doesn’t show up on my ethnicity profile, but I put more faith in the validity of IBD DNA segments shared with individuals than ethnicity results. It must be on my mother’s side, because my father’s DNA doesn’t match my Finns’.

(And the last thing I need is yet another nationality added to my already-long list.)

The direction of writing seems to start as optional historically. Old inscriptions in Europe are often boustrophedon, i.e. changing direction between lines even turning the letters around. Same btw for Runic inscriptions (origin of runes according to current thought are alphabets used in the Alpine* regions in the 1st century BC/AD). Cuneiform was originally written on clay tablets held at a 45° angle for convenience (i.e. / or \ not | or -)

But of course the true reason is that the devil taught his disciples to write right to left ;-)

*there is a debate, whether those were Etruscan or Latin but they are most definitely not a 'Norse' invention.

I just wanted to say that I've rarely regretted going to bed early more than when I checked in this morning, and saw the way the Epitome thread ended. It was already a really good thread, but it became a great one. I want to add my voice to the Count's, wj's, Marty's and russell's, and say that if Janie considers us her people that is our honour. I love the discussions here: at their best they seem to me a microcosm of what the world can be, if people of widely differing views and experiences can meet and share in openness and good humour. (And not to be too highminded about it, even when not at their best the snark and back and forth can be pretty entertaining!)

A few additional notes

I added the "my nation" question cause I thought of using nation as a way of getting at some differences between thinking about different identities.

I was going to start with a reference to an interesting book called the Celtic Empire by Peter Beresford Ellis (not to be confused with the entry in Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt series of novels with the same name) and Ellis acknowledges the title is a bit of a misnomer because there was never really a Celtic 'Empire'. However, people talk about the 7 Celtic Nations (Eire, Alba, Cymru, Kernow (Cornwall), Mannin (Manx), Breizh (Brittany) and Galicia) (only could write the first three, had to look up the other 4) and I wanted to have a riff about how google pulled up gay nation when I looked and how structures encourage groups to form voting blocs to protect their interests, thereby mimicking the structure of nations.

Other points, I should have added my tribe is linguists, but functional, not formal!

I want to add my voice to the Count's, wj's, Marty's and russell's, and say that if Janie considers us her people that is our honour.

Yes. Mine too.

The epitome thread was amazingly varied. I skimmed over much of the non IP stuff, but might go back and read it slowly. I meant to contribute a data point about Memphis — we moved there just before MkT and right after MLK was murdered. My best friend in the fourth grade said he was glad he was dead. I would guess the majority of my fellow whites were like that. I think we liberals kept a lower profile. When black students or teachers weren’t around the n word was used all the time. There were also whites who didn’t use it but would say things like “Black people are the real bigots” and who thought once the signs of the water fountains were taken off everybody was on equal footing, they worked hard to be where they were and black people should stop complaining. Ah, heritage.

My identity— being a WASP in this country I don’t think about it much.

A WASP eh? I thought you were Jewish, and belonged to the same sort of determinedly objective "JFJFP" camp as my friend!

i am more or less at a loss to articulate what people or nation i belong to. a foot in many, real identification with maybe none.

regarding script direction, my wife and i spent a day in gubbio last fall, up in the northeast corner of umbria, where we saw the eugebine tablets. i was surprised (don't know why) to see that the etruscans wrote right to left, kind of a backwards early latin alphabet?

whole worlds existed of which we know hardly a thing.

"whole worlds existed of which we know hardly a thing."

Joe Arpaio's People, Donald mp's Nation:


The NRA is running low on American currency.

Unfortunately, the Unabomber is unable to send them a box of cash.

they worked hard to be where they were

This refrain is still going strong...and not just in relation to race. But let me not sidetrack myself with it right now.

I wanted to respond to lj on "my nation." If I get around to making my list modeled on the OP, I will probably end up saying that "American" (i.e. my nationality) is the only unblurry, item on it. It's a legal status, right? I was born here. I have a birth certificate and a passport to prove it. Cut and dried.

But in this era, mind-bogglingly enough, I have seen even that questioned, or more accurately worried over. Recently a commenter at BJ (someone who's only very occasional there, and here as well, at least historically) was fretting that once Clickbait's minions are finished purging the ranks of naturalized citizens of anyone who has ever looked cross-eyed at them, they're going to start on the descendants of immigrants. It was "First they came for..." on steroids.

And lest you be tempted to point out that we're a nation of immigrants (even the ancestors of Native Americans came to this continent from somewhere else, after all), Ann Coulter sneeringly asserts that hers is not a family of immigrants. No, *her* ancestors were *settlers*, and that apparently makes all the difference. (I don't know what her excuse for not ackowledging the prior right of the Native Americans is, but I’m sure she has one.)

Long ago I read an article by some radical conservationists who said that the rest of us should go back where we came from and leave the land to the Native Americans, who are the only ones who know how to take care of it.

I’ve wondered ever since: if everyone had to go back where they (or their ancestors) came from, where would us mutts go?

There was a time when being “a nation of immigrants" (mutts following a generation or two later like clockwork) was our glory. Maybe we could have another experiment like that, where people came from everywhere and made a vibrant nation....

“eh? I thought you were Jewish, and belonged to the same sort of determinedly objective "JFJFP" camp as my friend!”

No, though I am a sort of not very participating member of Jewish Voices for Peace. Used to subscribe to Michael Lerner’s Tikkun magazine and just keep forgetting to renew. I used to be a Christian Zionist — read Hal Lindsey as a kid and other stuff, moved away from that.

My identity is pretty boring. Middle class suburbanite. My father’s story is more interesting. Raised in the Ozarks, worked at a sawmill where they still used mules. My sisters and I think he is the biggest reason we didn’t absorb the racism around us ( or no more so than most whites in America).

He would correct us immediately if we said anything racist. Gently. As a nine year old I was reading a book about the Indian wars, with a chapter given to Chief Joseph and I said I liked Indians better than black people because they fought back. He very calmly explained that this wasn’t correct and anyway, it was wrong to generalize. I am not sure how he became a liberal. There was a black dog in the neighborhood where he grew up and it was given the n word as a name. A black man came by and asked my father for directions and they were talking and the dog came up to be petted. The man asked for his name and my father felt so ashamed he made one up.

He fought in WWII, part of the time as a tail gunner in a dive bomber ( like McCarthy, I guess). Later he was part of a team that worked in Siberia, I think, setting up weather stations for the planning of the Japanese invasion. He always assumed that the A-bombs were justified, but unlike a lot of people he wasn’t upset when Gar Alperowitz and others said they were unnecessary. He liked reading books about the Japanese view of WWII and let me read the two he had— one about the Battle of Midway by two Japanese aviators, one of whom I think helped plan and lead the Pearl Harbor raid and the other John Toland’s “The Rising Sun”.

He got a college education because of the GI bill. I could go on about him. Much more interesting than me. His mom was like the people described in Fischer’s book “ Albion’s Seed” — the mountain people. She used the word “nary” in sentences. “I ain’t seen nary another one”, for instance. My father was given a teaspoon of kerosene to treat croup when he was a child.

they worked hard to be where they were

That seems to be one of the reasons I just have never been able to identify with those people. Objectively, I suppose I did work hard to get where I am; after all, I worked my way thru college. But I never felt like I was working hard. Perhaps not "hardly working", but not working hard.

I've got nowhere else to put this, so I'm rationalizing that the folks who do things like this are "my people".

is today's Astronomy Picture of the Day. It's real time images from the Fermilab's NOvA Far Detector -= updated every 15 seconds. What's striking, at first look, is how drastically the number of cosmic rays changes from interval to interval.

My father was given a teaspoon of kerosene to treat croup when he was a child.

There was a great confusion when kerosene replaced coal oil. Coal oil may have had some medicinal value in that it contained sulfur compounds. When I was a kid in the '50s, people were still putting kerosene on wounds and getting chewed out by their doctors.

Seems to have been used outside the Ozarks. I just remember reading it in Albion’s Seed as a folk remedy and knowing my father had taken it.


I could go on about him.

Your father sounds exceptional and fascinating, Donald. I for one wish you would go on about him, and I bet I'm not alone.

Your father sounds exceptional and fascinating, Donald. I for one wish you would go on about him, and I bet I'm not alone.

Seconded. That was a lovely piece.

kind of a backwards early latin alphabet?

Semitic -> Phoenician -> Greek -> Estruscan -> Latin

letters got flipped around, their sounds changed, etc. because people who didn't speak the original language nonetheless recognized the usefulness of a phonetic way to write words. they'd just adopt the letters for their own language.

Whether the Etruscnas got theirs from the Greek or directly from the Phoenicians seems still to be a matter of serious debate.
And there are Etruscan inscriptions in both directions. We also know so little about early Latin that there are many (short) inscriptions where we don't know whether they are Latin, Umbrian, Oskian, Faliskan...
Even the ones with the obvious meaning "X made me for Y" use several different ways for the past tense of 'to make', iirc in at least one case even on items from the same tomb.
But the Romans of classical times didn't know much more on the topic either and it was common knowledge that even the priests of some traditional Roman cults did not understand their own old cult songs* and others had some old Etruscan geezers on short dial for those cases where they couldn't decypher their own effing manuals. ;-)

*old Latin, not Etruscan

-i hate most condiments. mayo (and anything made with it), ketchup, horseradish, mustard - all right out.
-wannabe musician. been playing guitar for decades. haven't played with anyone else in decades.
-cisgender. it works for me.
-as far as i have a people, it's the rednecks of the rural upstate NY and north-central PA area. lucky genetics inside my head gave me a way out of that dead-end situation.
one uncle fried himself on liquor and drugs, he was brilliant, i'm told. last time i talked to him, at his father's funeral, he managed to slur out a challenge to me, the hot-shot college grad: what's the formula for the volume of a sphere. amazingly, to me, i remembered it. now he's dad after a stay in prison.
my mother, his sister, was smart too, but also bi-polar and an addict. she, i think, killed herself by drinking rubbing alcohol. it's hard to get the story out of the people who know. they want me to think she was hit by a car on I95.
-been a computer programmer since i was 13. wrote my first computer language when i was 16. i had read an article about a competitive programming game called "Corewars", and wrote a version of what i assumed it was like for the C64. couldn't find anyone who would play with me.


...now he's dead ...

... i assumed it was like, for the C64.

A man who has the good taste to abjure condiments can be forgiven much.

For fun, another story of a multi-talented person, this one someone I knew of as a child only in her career as a well-known actress.

I don’t know if it counts as “little known” anymore, but Hedy Lamarr helped to develop frequency hopping spread spectrum communications as a way to avoid radio jamming during WWII. She had a remarkable combination of beauty and brains.

From commenter Roger Moore at BJ.

Shall we say acting talent and brains?

My people Is family descended from my grandfather who emigrated from Russia. His three sons stayed clos and started a tradition of family reunions 50 some years ago. The three brothers are gone now but the now large extended family still comes together every few years. Now with FB we stay in touch easily. Other than that I would say my people are my high school music department and the jazz/rock band my closest friends put together. After a bad marriage I reconnected with my comrade-rival trumpet player from high school. I was sweet on her back then but my passes never got anywhere.
Now the two of us are fixing up an old hunting lodge adjacent to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge.

I admit to some jealousy of people who have large families in a small area. When I got married, it was a bit of a shock to discover that my wife was related to a significant fraction of the people in a three-four county area in rural Kansas (although we met, and lived, >800 miles from that lot). None of my parents' generation lived within 200 miles of each other or their parents. My sister and I have lived >500 miles apart much more of our lives than not, despite both of us living in a variety of places. Having both of my grown kids live within 65 miles of my house still feels... odd.

Hedy Lamarr helped to develop frequency hopping spread spectrum communications as a way to avoid radio jamming during WWII

there's a good doc about her on Netflix these days.

And Gal Gadot wants to do a Hedy Lamarr series for Showtime. She should be powerful enough to get it made right about now.


GftNC and Janie—

Thanks for the kind words. I might say more later.

Not my people. Not my Nation:


Executions first.

Then elections.

I'm shocked!


Presumably, Kushner will go along this:


We are just a couple of trigger warnings away from a hot civil war and massive, catastrophic violence.

Obama must've been really bad*, if they called him a "tyrant"!

* - in their imaginations

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