Babbling

          Okay, grab your thinking caps, kiddies, because it’s time for our language lesson. Today our lesson comes from the picturesque, pastoral and puny little Himalayan ex-Kingdom of Nepal. In Nepali, as in a number of other Asian languages, no one ever wants a thing. If a speaker of one of these languages feels a liking for a thing – say chocolate, or, perhaps, as is the case with the mountain-dwellers in Nepal, rancid butter – when they say so, they don’t say “I like rancid butter.”  Instead they say, “rancid butter falls to my heart.” When they are hungry for rancid butter or any other thing, it is not the speaker who is the source of said hunger, it is hunger that attaches itself to the speaker. They say “Hunger has attached itself to me.” Or they might say that “love” has attached itself to them, or, if the situation calls for it, hatred, chilliness, confusion, awe, nausea, tickles, sorrow or even indifference. They aren’t things you have, they are things that have you.

          That linguistic peculiarity might seem like nothing more than a footnote, but if you think about it for a minute, you might notice that a person who says “I hate you” is a lot different from one who Continue reading

Football diplomacy

          Who ever thought that news from Azerbaijan would be of interest? Well grab your thinking caps, kids, and start thinking about not just Baku, but Dushanbe, Tashkent, Astana and Bishkek, because that’s where the action is about to be, if you ask me, which, once again, no one has. Sigh. Anyway, Baku got as friendly a visit as it is possible to get from our grumpy friend Dick Cheney the other day. One can only guess that it left the Azeris feeling a bit like toothpaste, about to be shot out of the tube. Dick is squeezing the tube in his typical gorilla grip while Russia’s Putin – oops! I meant Medvedev – is trying to roll the tube up methodically from the bottom by signing yet another deal with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to pipe gas to Russia; a pipeline which would make the Nabucco pipeline, favored not only by Baku, but by Dick and the rest of the Western Imperialists, obsolete. Given all this high-level attention Continue reading