Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Brief rant

Who let an Eastern European compose the "international" language? Did the man stop to wonder if ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, or ŝ appeared on anybody else's keyboards or were even letters that made sense to anyone else? And why the ham sandwich would you construct a language with cases if you wanted to make it so easy to learn? The random choice of vocab from Germanic and Latin roots is driving my poor etymologist's brain up the wall, too - you can't have "god" be the word for God and "adiaŭ" be the word for goodbye!

In other words, I'm learning Esperanto. Even my mother thinks this is a new height of geekiness. It's almost certainly my most pointless language yet, but it's keeping me busy.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Eighteen years and one day ago my dad was fired and I had conjunctivitis in both my eyes. A storm broke our attic window, flooded our basement, washed out the roads, and swept away my mother's flower bed. Eighteen years ago today, there was a rainbow and my sister was born. Not a bad deal in the end.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse - and Thou

I've fallen in love with a pronoun. "Thou", specifically. I've just finished reading a lovely book called Ella Minnow Pea, in which more and more letters of the alphabet keep getting outlawed, so after "u" is banned people have to call each other "thee" because "you" is impossible. It makes their dialogue so much sweeter.

I'm sad that we ever lost the word. I've always liked that older Christian texts address God not with the formal "You" as if to a superior, but "Thou" as if to a parent. The language that seems stuffy to modern ears is actually a mark of closeness, almost an endearment. Familial, intimate. "Be Thou my God" just doesn't work in modern speech. Joseph Campbell talks about the relationship between Native Americans and the bison, and how they addressed all living things as "thou". The whites came and called the bison "it" and slaughtered them. "The ego that sees a 'thou' is not the same ego that sees an 'it.' And when you go to war with people, the problem of the newspapers is to turn those people into 'its.'"

I've met a few old Quakers who still use "thee" - although they've developed their own grammar for it, which is a little distressing. The custom of using only the informal started in the 1600s when the Quakers began trying to break down class barriers, so refusing to address authority figures with the formal "you" and instead using the informal "thou" was quite a radical concept. Now it's almost never used with outsiders, so it's become a marker of intimacy and belonging - I've only ever heard it used within families or with other Quakers. Unfortunately it's now archaic because English happened to be a language that erased the informal entirely and started calling everyone formally.

The distinction still exists in other languages, of course, though in some places folks are veering (as we have in English) towards the formal and others towards the informal. The informal is almost always used in Danish now, but it still has a slightly closer feel to it because it sounds like the English. "Altid din" on the end of a letter is so much nicer when you read it literally as "thine" instead of "yours." I feel like Professor Bhaer (whom I had a crush on when I was eight) - "Say 'thou', also, and I shall say your language is almost as beautiful as mine."

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Graduation weekend

People have champagne they need to get rid of + new haircut = I keep swinging my head around to see how it feels

Also, there may be things more fun than trying to jump on a pogo stick in your one Good Summer Dress while drunk on champagne, but at the moment I can't think of any.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Snip snip

In middle school when Eli's mother asked him who was "that nice Mennonite girl you talk to sometimes" I knew I needed to either cut my hair or wear jeans more often. I think I'm coming to the same conclusion again, only this time if I cut off enough to donate it'll be shorter than it's been since preschool. It'll probably take me the rest of the week to work my nerve up to it, but I'm excited.

"I want to be a society vampire, you see," she announced coolly, and went on to inform him that bobbed hair was the necessary prelude. - "Bernice Bobs Her Hair", F. Scott Fitzgerald

Friday, May 05, 2006

Reason #249 I love Bryn Mawr

When you have a birthday party, at least one person who's lived in Italy is sure to show up and appreciate your pesto. Also, everyone makes Anne of Green Gables references when you serve the raspberry cordial (which was, if I may say so, deliciousness incarnate).

See also: I have terrific friends.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I'm wondering about brilliance. I just started reading a book written by the father of one of my friends. He's quite a famous author, and I know people who are in awe of him and his writing. So I wonder: surely Holly's no less brilliant than her dad? But what if your specialties are cooking spinach a different way every day of the week or coming up with a really great costume for the "queens and fairies" party? Then people don't think of you in the same way because the New York Times doesn't have a listing for best tooth fairy costume. And lots of people I know are extraordinary in some way, whether it's my mom's ability to subdue cranky toddlers or Ricky's on-the-spot explanation of how every line of "Quinn the Eskimo" applies to Christianity (the equation of "cup of meat" to communion wine was particularly good.) We don't think of them on the same level as famous people, although when famous people are sitting in your living room they're remarkably similar to non-famous people.

I'm going to try to notice people's areas of brilliance. I'm sure there are lots we just don't pick up on.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Then come lasses to the green

I wish more men identified as feminists. I wish people who aren't women were more comfortable standing together for women's causes. HOWEVER:

May Day (that highest holiday of Bryn Mawr College) has rather soured me to men's presence in female spaces. I don't want to hear a baritone singing "Pallas Athena" behind me at a stepsing. The whole point of writing the school songs in ancient Greek is that they's nerdy and unique and ours. And what's with the brigade of men wearing white dresses every year? Much as I'm usually in favor of crossdressing, this doesn't feel like freedom of expression or solidarity with women. It feels like cultural appropriation. You're not one of us even in a white dress, any more than I would be African if I started wearing kente or Scottish if I bought myself a tartan.

May Day is open to the public, and it's cool if people want to watch the festivities. But there are some things - like the May Hole - that should only be us. Not your boyfriend. Not your pal from Swarthmore, not even if he's wearing a white dress. In a perfect world that distinction wouldn't be neccesary, but after so many all-male spaces I want my all-female space a couple of times a year.