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Word Contortions and its Implications

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  • Shlomi Fish
    Many people who are not natural speakers of Hebrew, would say that the first Hebrew word that comes to their mind is Shalom, and that it means peace. However,
    Message 1 of 10 , Jan 27, 2002
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      Many people who are not natural speakers of Hebrew, would say that the
      first Hebrew word that comes to their mind is Shalom, and that it means
      peace. However, Shalom does not mean peace.

      The word peace translates into "Shalvah" in Hebrew, or to the latin noun
      tranquility. It has such meanings as peace of mind, "a peaceful person",
      etc. The word Shalom is derived from the ancient Semitic base of s.l.m. or
      sh.l.m. It has crontations of whole or whole-ness. Shalom means well-being
      - i.e: a state in which nothing bad happens.

      The chief meaning of the word Shalom, whether in the Old Testament or
      otherwise - is exactly that. For instance: "Medinath Yisra'el Ta'aseh
      Hakol Kedey Labti'akh Eth _Shlomam_ Shel Nos'ey Hamatos Hatuph". Which
      means : "The state of Israel will do everything to ensure the well being
      of the passangers of the kidnapped plane." It is well known that the War
      of Lebanon was named "Milhemet Shlom-Hagalil" - "the war of the shalom of
      the Galileee". While the War of Lebanon was pointless, bloody, and brough
      a great amount of bad emotions and injustice to the region of the
      Israeli-Lebanese border, it is in fact possible to have wars whose
      ultimate cause is "Shalom". For instance, WWII ensured the "Shalom" of the
      free world.

      Now, to describe the relationship between two countries, the Hebrew choice
      is Shalom, while the English choice is peace. You don't expect two
      countries who have a fully normalized relationship to disarm themselves,
      and behave "peacefully", do you?

      I believe the word peace does not cognitively fall into place when it
      comes to describing the relationship between two countries. And in any
      case, it may induce various cognitive side-effects for Hebrew speakers.

      ----

      Another common word contortions which has become common recently is for
      the word "virtual". Recently it has been erronesouly used to describe
      everyhting that is digital. Let me explain why it is used erronesouly.

      The M-W defintion of virtual is:

      1 : being such in essence or effect though not formally recognized or
      admitted <a virtual dictator>

      Note that it has nothing to do with computers or the digital revolution.
      There are places where using it is applicable to real-life. Now, computer
      workers use the word virtual a lot: virtual memory, virtual file-system
      interface, a virtual method, etc. However, neither them would agree that
      the Internet can be called "the virtual world" or that digital content is
      "virtual content."

      The Internet has a physical existence. There are routers, lines, servers,
      etc. making sure that it would be possible to transmit the data from one
      place to another. Much more importantly there are people who make sure
      that is what happens. Media transported over the Internet can be
      duplicated and used virtually[1] without cost. However, it is as real as
      anything else, and took a lot of time by the one who created it to create.

      An E-mail correspondant is not a virtual friend of yours. He's a real one,
      whom you just never met face to face. By associating the word virtual with
      anything digital, one claims that's there's nothing real or phyiscal about
      it, which is very much incorrect. I believe then it is easy to claim that
      source code or hyperlinks are not speech, and other such confusions.

      I should say that I used to think virtual meant everything digital until I
      was corrected by Omer Mussaev who told me there was nothing virtual about
      it.

      ---

      My final example would be for the word Humanist. Traditionally it was word
      invented during the Renaissance to describe those people who idealized the
      human mind and body. Later on it was used to refer to those studies that
      study the human creation (i.e: "humanist studies")

      Lately however, it is used to refer to people who hold a pragmatic
      viewpoint that every political or philosophical agenda is legitimate. When
      I asked my supervisors in a worplace whether they were Objectivists, they
      told me that was not the case and that they were in fact "humanists".

      Humanism is by no means accepting every viewpoint.

      Regards,

      Shlomi Fish


      [1] - this time the "virtual" base is used properly.



      ----------------------------------------------------------------------
      Shlomi Fish shlomif@...
      Home Page: http://t2.technion.ac.il/~shlomif/
      Home E-mail: shlomif@...

      "Let's suppose you have a table with 2^n cups..."
      "Wait a second - is n a natural number?"
    • Nadav Har'El
      ... A good point. A very important important thing for translators to remember (not very related to hackers, but what the heck ;)) What you noticed is a quite
      Message 2 of 10 , Jan 27, 2002
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        On Sun, Jan 27, 2002, Shlomi Fish wrote about "[hackers-il] Word Contortions and its Implications":
        >
        > Many people who are not natural speakers of Hebrew, would say that the
        > first Hebrew word that comes to their mind is Shalom, and that it means
        > peace. However, Shalom does not mean peace.

        A good point. A very important important thing for translators to remember
        (not very related to hackers, but what the heck ;))

        What you noticed is a quite common occurance in human-language translation.
        Two words in different languages ("shalom" and "peace") share a common
        meaning (namely, "the state of not being at war") but each of these words
        also carry other meanings, which are NOT common to those two words.

        Another example: consider the word "right" and "yamin". They share one
        definition, but not the others; For example, "right" also means "correct" in
        English, but "yamin" doesn't carry this connotation (I'm not trying to
        imply anything politically ;)).

        Note that the choice of the word "peace" isn't only in English - it probably
        comes from the latin "pax" (meaning peace, tranquility: see for example
        the epitaph "requiscat in pace", meaning "rest in peace").
        In the Roman world, "peace" meant exactly that, tranquility, a roman province
        that doesn't start an uprising against the empire. They even had the term
        "Pax Romana", the peace that existed when Romans ruled the entire Mediterranean
        rim and countries could not fight one another.

        By the way, the latin pax is related to pacisci, "to agree" (compare also
        the English "pact", "compact"). So pax (and peace) also had the connotation
        of an agreement between countries to have a peaceful (i.e., quite) border.

        > The word peace translates into "Shalvah" in Hebrew, or to the latin noun
        > tranquility. It has such meanings as peace of mind, "a peaceful person",

        Actually, "a peaceful person" is usually taken in the sense of "some who
        doesn't like to fight with others", not in the sense of peace-of-mind,
        or being at peace with himself.

        > of Lebanon was named "Milhemet Shlom-Hagalil" - "the war of the shalom of

        Yes, I never noticed this irony. The words Milhama and Shalom right next
        to the other...

        > ultimate cause is "Shalom". For instance, WWII ensured the "Shalom" of the
        > free world.

        This is also true for "peace". Romans had wars all the time to ensure the
        "peace" in their empire (e.g., against those pesky Jews in Judea which
        wanted to rule themselves and not be a Roman province). Many modern wars
        have been about restoring "peace" in the world, and not about capturing land
        or things like that.

        > An E-mail correspondant is not a virtual friend of yours. He's a real one,
        > whom you just never met face to face. By associating the word virtual with

        Reminds me of someone that I used to correspond and chat with, but which (at
        the time) I hadn't actually met. On her home page, she had a list of friends,
        with real-world friends labeled "3D friends", and Internet-acquaintances
        labeled "2D friends". I tried to explain to her why this term was a bit
        degrading, that I was actually 3D like any person :)

        > My final example would be for the word Humanist. Traditionally it was word
        >...
        > Lately however, it is used to refer to people who hold a pragmatic
        > viewpoint that every political or philosophical agenda is legitimate. When
        > I asked my supervisors in a worplace whether they were Objectivists, they
        > told me that was not the case and that they were in fact "humanists".

        This is probably a simple error. Humanism is *not* a viewpoint that all
        agenda are legitimate. I never heard anyone think it was...
        Look at www.m-w.com for the accepted meanings of humanism.

        The word this person was looking for was probably "relativism", not
        "humanism". Relativism means (from m-w.com):

        1b. a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups
        holding them

        (which in essense means that other groups' ethics (e.g., that it is ok
        to kill women who "shamed" the family) might be legitimate, and you can't
        just claim they aren't because your philosophy says they aren't).

        Not every error is worth a discussion to understand why people make it.
        In my tironut, our "rasap" told us that "there is anarchy in the army"
        (of course, he meant "hierarchy, not "anarchy") - he simply didn't know the
        correct word, so he made a really amusing mistake.


        --
        Nadav Har'El | Sunday, Jan 27 2002, 14 Shevat 5762
        nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
        Phone: +972-53-245868, ICQ 13349191 |Unix is user friendly - it's just picky
        http://nadav.harel.org.il |about it's friends.
      • Dan Kenigsberg
        ... Ani eyneni `omed la-khalutin l-yminkha b-noge`a l-nquda zo... ... Notice that that war continued during the year 1984. I remember left-wingers citing
        Message 3 of 10 , Jan 27, 2002
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          > Another example: consider the word "right" and "yamin". They share one
          > definition, but not the others; For example, "right" also means "correct" in
          > English, but "yamin" doesn't carry this connotation

          Ani eyneni `omed la-khalutin l-yminkha b-noge`a l-nquda zo...


          > > of Lebanon was named "Milhemet Shlom-Hagalil" - "the war of the shalom of
          >
          > Yes, I never noticed this irony. The words Milhama and Shalom right next
          > to the other...
          >

          Notice that that war continued during the year 1984. I remember left-wingers
          citing Orwell and his Newspeak in this context.

          Dan.
        • Shlomi Fish
          ... That s not the same thing. Le-yminkha means on your side and has nothing to do with correct. Regards, Shlomi Fish ... Shlomi Fish
          Message 4 of 10 , Jan 27, 2002
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            On Sun, 27 Jan 2002, Dan Kenigsberg wrote:

            > > Another example: consider the word "right" and "yamin". They share one
            > > definition, but not the others; For example, "right" also means "correct" in
            > > English, but "yamin" doesn't carry this connotation
            >
            > Ani eyneni `omed la-khalutin l-yminkha b-noge`a l-nquda zo...
            >

            That's not the same thing. "Le-yminkha" means "on your side" and has
            nothing to do with correct.

            Regards,

            Shlomi Fish

            ----------------------------------------------------------------------
            Shlomi Fish shlomif@...
            Home Page: http://t2.technion.ac.il/~shlomif/
            Home E-mail: shlomif@...

            "Let's suppose you have a table with 2^n cups..."
            "Wait a second - is n a natural number?"
          • Adi Stav
            ... I disagree... Shalom has many meanings and many connotations, and one has to tell by the context. One of those meanings is tranquility , but another is
            Message 5 of 10 , Jan 27, 2002
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              On Sun, Jan 27, 2002 at 03:00:21PM +0200, Shlomi Fish wrote:
              > Many people who are not natural speakers of Hebrew, would say that the
              > first Hebrew word that comes to their mind is Shalom, and that it means
              > peace. However, Shalom does not mean peace.

              I disagree... "Shalom" has many meanings and many connotations, and
              one has to tell by the context. One of those meanings is
              "tranquility", but another is "peace". Some ambiguity is a part of
              any natural language.

              > Another common word contortions which has become common recently is for
              > the word "virtual". Recently it has been erronesouly used to describe
              > everyhting that is digital. Let me explain why it is used erronesouly.

              I think you mean "online". That's a very specific word that means
              everything people think "virtual" means but which, in fact, it
              doesn't.

              > My final example would be for the word Humanist. Traditionally it was word
              > invented during the Renaissance to describe those people who idealized the
              > human mind and body. Later on it was used to refer to those studies that
              > study the human creation (i.e: "humanist studies")
              >
              > Lately however, it is used to refer to people who hold a pragmatic
              > viewpoint that every political or philosophical agenda is legitimate. When
              > I asked my supervisors in a worplace whether they were Objectivists, they
              > told me that was not the case and that they were in fact "humanists".
              >
              > Humanism is by no means accepting every viewpoint.

              I think you mean "relativism". Relativist, humanist, liberalist
              (except in the US), libertan, universalist, are all different
              opinions distinct from one another, but since they are often held
              by the same people or groups anyhow, they are sometimes blurred
              around the edges. No biggie. I've never actually seen "humanist"
              being used for "relativist" but I suppose that it's possible.

              Of course, over time words change, lose old meanings and acquire
              new ones. Some people take this as a license to use any word any
              way they wish (which I call "linguistic relativism", even though I
              risk MAV jumping and exclaiming that the term is already taken by
              some obscure linguistic cult). I completely agree with you here --
              it creates such ambiguities that virtually cause each person to use
              their own private language. Worse yet, it helps them win online
              arguments unjustly (which is why I am so suspicious of the practice),
              thus making those even more detrimental to the mental well being of
              their participants than they already are.

              Nevertheless, as much as I hate the thought, we might some day see:

              virtual, adj.:
              (2) online

              Or even:

              terrorism, n.:
              (4) An unjust act of war or violence
            • Nimster
              [Snip] ... in ... I m going a tad off-topic here, but a History teacher once told me that Smolani (left-winger) was actually a deregatory term invented by the
              Message 6 of 10 , Jan 27, 2002
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                [Snip]
                >
                > Another example: consider the word "right" and "yamin". They share one
                > definition, but not the others; For example, "right" also means "correct"
                in
                > English, but "yamin" doesn't carry this connotation (I'm not trying to
                > imply anything politically ;)).
                >

                I'm going a tad off-topic here, but a History teacher once told me that
                Smolani (left-winger) was actually a deregatory term invented by the
                Yemani'im to refer to the *Smali'im*, as half-smali'im and half-yemanim -
                therefor Smolanim - as they grew closer to the right-wing opinion.
                Nice anecdote. I don't know if it's completely true, but it, too, was
                adopted as a legit term. Once I verify this is true, I will stop using it,
                just as I stopped using "My Lord" when refering to God (except at
                ceremonies, when other people's feelings are involved), or "Irony" and
                "Cynicism", two words which are commonly used incorrectly.

                -Nimster
              • Tzafrir Cohen
                ... AFAIK the origin of left wing and right wing was in the french parliment during the french revolution. The left wing were those that sat (physically)
                Message 7 of 10 , Jan 27, 2002
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                  On Mon, 28 Jan 2002, Nimster wrote:

                  > [Snip]
                  > >
                  > > Another example: consider the word "right" and "yamin". They share one
                  > > definition, but not the others; For example, "right" also means "correct"
                  > in
                  > > English, but "yamin" doesn't carry this connotation (I'm not trying to
                  > > imply anything politically ;)).
                  > >
                  >
                  > I'm going a tad off-topic here, but a History teacher once told me that
                  > Smolani (left-winger) was actually a deregatory term invented by the
                  > Yemani'im to refer to the *Smali'im*, as half-smali'im and half-yemanim -
                  > therefor Smolanim - as they grew closer to the right-wing opinion.

                  AFAIK the origin of "left wing" and "right wing" was in the french
                  parliment during the french revolution.

                  The "left wing" were those that sat (physically) in the left side of the
                  assembly hall (or whatever it was) and happened to be the more radical
                  group. In the right wing of the assembly hall set the more conservative
                  delegates.

                  And thus the name "left wing" stuck to those reolutionary forces, and
                  "right wing" -- to the more conservative.

                  Can anybody confirm/deny?

                  > Nice anecdote. I don't know if it's completely true, but it, too, was
                  > adopted as a legit term. Once I verify this is true, I will stop using it,
                  > just as I stopped using "My Lord" when refering to God (except at
                  > ceremonies, when other people's feelings are involved), or "Irony" and
                  > "Cynicism", two words which are commonly used incorrectly.

                  They have adopted a new meaning. Who care about the original one?

                  --
                  Tzafrir Cohen
                  mailto:tzafrir@...
                  http://www.technion.ac.il/~tzafrir
                • Nadav Har'El
                  ... By the way, there are other languages too in which peace and death are related. In German, a cemetery is called friedhof , meaning mansion of peace
                  Message 8 of 10 , Jan 28, 2002
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                    On Sun, Jan 27, 2002, Nadav Har'El wrote about "Re: [hackers-il] Word Contortions and its Implications":
                    > Note that the choice of the word "peace" isn't only in English - it probably
                    > comes from the latin "pax" (meaning peace, tranquility: see for example
                    > the epitaph "requiscat in pace", meaning "rest in peace").

                    By the way, there are other languages too in which "peace" and death are
                    related. In German, a cemetery is called "friedhof", meaning "mansion of peace"
                    (I'm sorry if I'm spelling or translating this incorrectly - I don't really
                    know German, and my dictionary collection is at home ;)).

                    In Hebrew there's also a saying about a dead person "alav hashalom". I'm
                    not sure where this saying comes from, though - it might be a late translation
                    from a different language.

                    --
                    Nadav Har'El | Monday, Jan 28 2002, 15 Shevat 5762
                    nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
                    Phone: +972-53-245868, ICQ 13349191 |Creativity consists of coming up with
                    http://nadav.harel.org.il |many ideas, not just that one great idea.
                  • Nadav Har'El
                    ... Actually, it appears that hof is a yard (chatser), and frieden is indeed peace (apparently, with mostly the same meanings as the English word). I
                    Message 9 of 10 , Jan 28, 2002
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                      On Mon, Jan 28, 2002, Nadav Har'El wrote about "Re: [hackers-il] Word Contortions and its Implications":
                      > By the way, there are other languages too in which "peace" and death are
                      > related. In German, a cemetery is called "friedhof", meaning "mansion of peace"
                      > (I'm sorry if I'm spelling or translating this incorrectly - I don't really
                      > know German, and my dictionary collection is at home ;)).

                      Actually, it appears that "hof" is a yard (chatser), and "frieden" is
                      indeed peace (apparently, with mostly the same meanings as the English
                      word).
                      I better stick to translating languages I actually know ;)

                      --
                      Nadav Har'El | Monday, Jan 28 2002, 16 Shevat 5762
                      nyh@... |-----------------------------------------
                      Phone: +972-53-245868, ICQ 13349191 |The knowledge that you are an idiot, is
                      http://nadav.harel.org.il |what distinguishes you from one.
                    • Oleg Goldshmidt
                      ... Disclaimers - IANAP(olitical)S(cientist), and I fully realize it s totally, inexcusably off topic (except the contortions of the term hacker and the
                      Message 10 of 10 , Jan 29, 2002
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                        Tzafrir Cohen <tzafrir@...> writes:

                        > AFAIK the origin of "left wing" and "right wing" was in the french
                        > parliment during the french revolution.

                        Disclaimers - IANAP(olitical)S(cientist), and I fully realize it's
                        totally, inexcusably off topic (except the contortions of the term
                        "hacker" and the implications of that):

                        The etimology that I learned (too many) years ago went like this: in
                        parlaments of the 19th century Continental Europe the members would
                        sit in a semi-circle with conservatives to the right hand of the
                        presiding officer, often the king, and the socialists on the left. The
                        more radical the group, the further to the left they sat. Whether or
                        not this actually originated during the French revolution I don't
                        know. There were no socialists to speak of then (and no king), so
                        maybe 1848 or something of the kind is a likelier starting point. I am
                        not sure, but wan't that the case that the more radical members of the
                        post-revolutionary French parlament sat higher up in the amphitheatre?

                        Note that while originally political divisions into left and right
                        were clear in terms of social and economic policies, it is not always
                        the case at present. In Israel, the difference is most often according
                        to the Middle Eastern politics / peace process, rather than according
                        to different views on social issues. In the post-perestroika Soviet
                        Union / Russia it is the (former) communists and socialists who are
                        called right-wingers, and the more one is into free-for-all capitalism
                        the further left one is. I guess it is still the traditional division
                        in terms of liberalism / conservatism, but inverted. I'd guess that in
                        most Western countries the division currently goes according to
                        positions on government intervention, taxation, welfare, etc.

                        > And thus the name "left wing" stuck to those reolutionary forces, and
                        > "right wing" -- to the more conservative.

                        Not true in Israel. If anything, it is the Labour who are the
                        establishment here. Not true in most of Western Europe - the left
                        are typically more entrenched in governments there, and have been for
                        a long time. Not true in the US - who is the more revolutionary,
                        Democrats or Republicans? So in most of the West it's "who was more
                        radical in the 19th century" ;-). And again, in Russia it's the other
                        way around.

                        > Can anybody confirm/deny?

                        My NIS 0.02

                        --
                        Oleg Goldshmidt | ogoldshmidt@...
                        If it aint't broken it hasn't got enough features yet.
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