Sunday, March 22, 2015

A problem vocabulary -- and a partial solution

Many stages in my life have added to my vocabulary.  I was born into an Australian working class home so I speak the vivid Australian slanguage with joy -- but I don't usually write it.

And I am basically a literary type so I know the difference between a dactylic and an anapaestic rhythm.  And neither "eleemosynary" nor "emoluments" are mystery words to me

And I have studied 3 languages so have many words from them in my brain. For instance, I can use Volk and Reich with accuracy and sometimes use words of Latin origin in their Latin meaning.  And a lot of people don't like the ungracious English name "Eggplant" for a rather desirable fruit so call it by the French name instead:  "Aubergine".  But I don't like much about the French but do rather like Italians.  The vastly "incorrect" Silvio Berlusconi is something of a hero of mine.  So I call the vegetable "Melanzane", which is both the Italian word and a version of its botanical name (Solanum melongena).

My odd food words mostly oppress Anne, the lady in my life.  But she has got used to them and even makes her own Liptauer these days -- and has even tried to make cevapi. But she and I share similar geographical and social  origins so I can talk to her in broad Australian -- which is pleasing to us both. When I call someone a "galah" or a "drongo" she knows what I mean.

And my early very intensive studies of the Bible have left me with an extensive knowledge and appreciation of the wonderful words and phrases of the King James Bible, plus a knowledge of theology and textual criticism.  So I know what Masoretic and paraclete means.

And at university I did some studies in linguistics and came out of that with an appreciation of both Old English and Middle English.  So I occasionally use constructions from those sources.  One of my favourite proverbs in fact uses Middle English:  "If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there'd be no room for tinkers" ("an" means "if" in Middle English).  And I am prone to reciting Chaucer in the original Middle English.

And my doctorate in the social sciences has left me with a useful statistics vocabulary -- so I am inclined to talk about "orthogonal" factors and "leptokurtic" curves, for instance.

So with that wonderful treasure of words available to me, I am inclined to use it, where appropriate. The big problem with that, however, is that if I used my vocabulary as I am inclined to do, I would render a lot of what I write barely intelligible a lot of the time.  Most people have backgrounds quite different from mine.

So what I have long done is to write something out fairly spontaneously and then go back through it replacing the uncommon  words with simple words of mainly Anglo-Saxon origin.  And I am pleased to say that such simplification often clarifies my thought and rarely obscures it.

But I am getting old and no longer have the time and energy I once did so lately I have tended on some occasions to let my original words stand rather than revise them.  And that will probably get gradually worse as time goes by.

So this is just an apology if what I write is not immediately clear.  I am however consoled by the thought that everybody has Wikipedia and various online dictionaries at their fingertips these days so can clarify any obscure words with considerable celerity (Latin: "celer" = "quick").

Just for fun, here are a few odd words I have been using lately -- either in writing or in speech:  narthex, vietato, endorheic, spinto, exegesis, rhotic.

Another small matter:  Most of what I put up on my various blogs is articles from others that say something I like.  Most days however I also write my own comments on some subject.  It is unpredictable on which blog I will burst into prose, however, so lately I have been putting up on A WESTERN HEART the stuff that I have currently been writing -- regardless of which blog was its originally intended home. So if you want to see what I personally have been writing lately, you only have to go to one place.


Another exoneration for aspartame

The bad effects were found to be all in the mind of the food-freaks concerned.  I had a considerable correspondence once with the anti-aspartame brigade and they were definitely a kooky lot

Aspartame, the controversial sweetener linked to a range of health problems, does not cause harm.

A study commissioned by Britain’s food watchdog found eating the sweetener had no impact on the body or behaviour of people who claimed to be sensitive to it.

The artificial sweetener, used in fizzy drinks and diet products, has been at the centre of critical reports dating back decades linking it to everything from cancer to premature birth.

Despite this, it has been ruled a safe food ingredient by food watchdogs in Britain, the EU, the USA and around the world.

These assurances have failed to convince many people, who continue to report adverse reactions, such as headaches and nausea after consuming foods containing the sweetener.

As a result, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) commissioned experts from Hull York Medical School to examine people who reported just such problems to establish if their fears were backed up by medical evidence.

The trial involved 48 people who self-reported as being sensitive to aspartame and another 48 control participants who have never had any problem.

All received two specially prepared cereal bars, one of which contained aspartame, on two separate sessions at least one week apart.

The human guinea pigs were put through a series of biological and psychological tests, which included taking blood and urine samples.

Participants rated a range of 14 symptoms over four hours after eating the bars, including headache, mood swings, hot or flushed sensation, nausea, tiredness, dizziness, nasal congestion, visual problems, tingling, bloating, hunger and thirst.

Participants were also asked to rate levels of happiness and arousal, which are the two main dimensions of their mood.

Today, the FSA said: ‘The study concluded that the participants who were self-diagnosed as sensitive to aspartame showed no difference in their response after consuming a cereal bar, whether it contained aspartame or not.’

The experts who carried out the research suggested those people who were self-reported aspartame sensitive (SRAS) tended to be more emotional.



Ruinous 'Compassion'

It is fascinating to see brilliant people belatedly discover the obvious – and to see an even larger number of brilliant people never discover the obvious.

A recent story in a San Francisco newspaper says that some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed after the city’s minimum wage was raised. Other small businesses there are not sure they are going to survive, since many depend on a thin profit margin and a high volume of sales.

At an angry meeting between local small business owners and city officials, the local organization that had campaigned for the higher minimum wage was absent. They were probably some place congratulating themselves on having passed a humane “living wage” law. The group most affected was also absent – inexperienced and unskilled young people, who need a job to get some experience, even more than they need the money.

It is not a breakthrough on the frontiers of knowledge that minimum wage laws reduce employment opportunities for the young and the unskilled of any age. It has been happening around the world, for generation after generation, and in the most diverse countries.

It is not just the young who are affected when minimum wage rates are set according to the fashionable notions of third parties, with little or no regard for whether everyone is productive enough to be worth paying the minimum wage they set.

You can check this out for yourself. Go to your local public library and pick up a copy of the distinguished British magazine “The Economist.”

Whether it is the current issue or a back issue doesn’t matter. Spain, Greece and South Africa will be easy to locate in the table near the back, which lists data for various countries. Just look down the unemployment column for countries with unemployment rates around 25 percent. Spain, Greece and South Africa are always there, whether or not there is a recession. Why? Because they have very generous minimum wage laws.

While you are there, you can look up the unemployment rate for Switzerland, which has no minimum wage law at all. Over the years, I have never seen the unemployment rate in Switzerland reach as high as 4 percent. Back in 2003, “The Economist” magazine reported: “Switzerland’s unemployment neared a five-year high of 3.9% in February.”

In the United States, back in what liberals think of as the bad old days before there was a federal minimum wage law, the annual unemployment rate during Calvin Coolidge’s last four years as president ranged from a high of 4.2 percent to a low of 1.8 percent.

Low-income minorities are often hardest hit by the unemployment that follows in the wake of minimum wage laws. The last year when the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate was 1930, the last year before there was a federal minimum wage law.

The following year, the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 was passed, requiring minimum wages in the construction industry. This was in response to complaints that construction companies with non-union black construction workers were able to underbid construction companies with unionized white workers (whose unions would not admit blacks).

Looking back over my own life, I realize now how lucky I was when I left home in 1948, at the age of 17, to become self-supporting. The unemployment rate for 16- and 17-year-old blacks at that time was under 10 percent. Inflation had made the minimum wage law, passed ten years earlier, irrelevant.

But it was only a matter of time before liberal compassion led to repeated increases in the minimum wage, to keep up with inflation. The annual unemployment rate for black teenagers has never been less than 20 percent in the past 50 years, and has ranged as high as over 50 percent.

You can check these numbers in a table of official government statistics on page 42 of Professor Walter Williams' book “Race and Economics.”

Incidentally, the black-white gap in unemployment rates for 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds was virtually non-existent back in 1948. But the black teenage unemployment rate has been more than double that for white teenagers for every year since 1971.

This is just one of many policies that allow liberals to go around feeling good about themselves, while leaving havoc in their wake.



Minimum wage folly in Britain too

We’ve the sad news that the minimum wage is being raised yet again: "The national minimum wage will increase by 20p an hour to £6.70 from October, the government has announced. The changes will benefit more than 1.4 million workers."

And will disbenefit some unknown number of workers who will lose their jobs. True, a modest rise will leave only a modest number losing their jobs but as they therefore lose 100% of their income that’s still quite a large effect. However, we also have another report today:

"The number of young people from ethnic minority backgrounds who have been unemployed for more than a year has risen by almost 50% since the coalition came to power, according to figures released by the Labour party. There are now 41,000 16- to 24-year-olds from black, asian and minority ethnic [BAME] communities who are long-term unemployed – a 49% rise from 2010, according to an analysis of official figures by the House of Commons Library."

The effects of a minimum wage will be hardest felt where that minimum wage actually binds. Among the young and untrained and among those who are unfavoured for any other reason (like, here, perhaps ethnicity for all that we would desire that there is no such discrimination). Which make this news about the new minimum wage even worse:

The hourly rate for younger workers will also rise, and for apprentices it will go up by 20% – or 57p – to £3.30 an hour.
Yes, of course the correct minimum wage is a rate of zero. But we’re unlikely to win that argument but at least we can argue for a rate that doesn’t do so much damn damage to the least favoured portions of our society. The minimum wage discriminates against those black, asian and minority ethnic youths. Indeed, such discrimination was a stated reason for the introduction of the minimum wage in the United States back in the times of Jim Crow. It’s actually a racist government policy. We should therefore end it.

Every time the NMW increases, another rung is cut from the bottom of the societal ladder leaving more people out in the cold.



Twenty Blacks Victimized in Shootings

You’ve probably heard about the 20 black victims in numerous shootings between Sunday afternoon and Monday morning. The violence helped propagate the “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative and further riled Barack Obama, Eric Holder and their co-conspirators in the Leftmedia, all of whom raised alarm over the recent deaths of blacks involving white police officers.

Well, the first part is true anyway – though you’d be forgiven for having no idea what we’re talking about. The shootings, all of which took place during a 24-hour period, bloodied the streets of Chicago but were largely absent from the headlines.

Obama hasn’t said a word about these deaths, probably because it was black-on-black crime, which doesn’t translate into political constituency race-bait like a good cop killing a street thug does.

Here’s what we know about Chicago murder rates from the latest year of data: The black murder rate was approximately 34 per 100,000, the Hispanic rate was 11 per 100,000, and the white rate 3 per 100,000. Translation: This isn’t a “gun problem”; it’s a young black male problem. And it’s a cultural epidemic the mainstream media largely ignores.

Of course, if this recent black-on-black bloodletting had instead been white-on-black crime, Al Sharpton and Co. would be there faster than you can say “Racist!”



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Wireless.Phil said...


Our FDA and USDA labels some foods, colorings, etc and drug items, as GRAS.

"GENERALLY regarded as safe".
They just redid a lot of drug labels.
I may still have the notice in email, but did not read it because my prescription drug use is almost zero, usually vaccines and antibiotics when needed.

Over the counter drugs almost the same. I might get heartburn once or twice a year. Headaches, seldon, ifmy back acts up, there are cold, not frozen,ccold packs.

Wireless.Phil said...

Not even our own FDA can write the meaning of their GRAS ratings??

How U.S. FDA's GRAS Notification Program Works
December 2005/January 2006

Reprinted with permission of the publishers from Food Safety Magazine December 2005/January 2006

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates approximately 80% of the U.S. food supply and is involved with many facets of food safety. Within FDA, the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition's (CFSAN) Office of Food Additive Safety is responsible for reviewing safety information for food ingredients and food packaging. This article provides an overview of a particular type of food ingredient regulatory classification: 'generally recognized as safe,' commonly referred to as GRAS. It describes the history of the GRAS program, how the Office of Food Additive Safety administers the program, and includes statistics about the program.