Mikitish: Contending with Christian words

November 10, 2010
America is a Christian nation. I do not mean this in a political sense, but rather a sociological one. In comparison with Western Europe, we simply have a lot more Christians. According to a 2007 survey, 78.4 percent of Americans call themselves “Christians,” and 59 percent consider religion very important. This is more than in »

Mikitish: What makes our words so bad?

October 27, 2010
As the Delta Kappa Epsilon controversy overtook the campus and the pages of the News last week, I (at the expense, perhaps, of sounding crass) found myself more interested in the debates over the language employed in the News response than in the original issue. This is not to say that the linguistic interest is »

Mikitish: Translation and the time of ice

October 21, 2010
There is a beautiful Old Irish poem, often used as an example text for the language, in which the speaker is a messenger bringing tidings of winter. Though the whole work is wonderful (and short), only the penultimate line will concern us here. Says the news-bearer, simply, “aigrid ré.” One translation of this line, in »

Mikitish: How to say please

October 13, 2010
“Would you please hand me that pencil?” A typical enough sentence — polite, but not strangely so. Now consider this one: “Would you, I bid, hand me that pencil?” Certainly, this is rather less typical. However, my actual point is obscured by the slightly archaic “bid.” To put the same idea a different way: “I »

Mikitish: Imprecise language

September 30, 2010
Sometimes, I feel like, especially here at Yale, people can sometimes speak in a somewhat indecisive way. “I feel like …” Ugh! What a horrible expression! I remember that, when I was in high school, there was a certain clique that had a habit of referring to every meritorious work, person, or deed as “amazing.” »

Mikitish: Missing classes

September 22, 2010
What are schedules made of? Econ, psych and everything nice. That’s what schedules are made of. Or, so it seems. From “Organic Chemistry” to “Game Theory,” a glace at this semester’s most heavily-enrolled courses reveals many annual favorites, with the ever-popular “Introductory Microeconomics” and “Introduction to Psychology” topping the list (“Shopping Spree Fall 2010,” Sept. »

Mikitish: Burried Alive

September 6, 2010
Before traveling to China on a Light Fellowship this summer, I often touted China’s rather liberal minority language policy as a fine example of protecting native languages and promoting bilingualism in modern and modernizing societies. In China, minority languages (in this case, non-Han languages), whether small or large, are used a vehicle for education at »

Mikitish: Why we write right

April 16, 2010
“What we say goes” is, as far as I’m concerned, a beautiful title for a book about linguistics. And as the book is a set of interviews with Noam Chomsky, it might have actually been a book about such. Unfortunately, it is typically Chomskyian mound of political sophistry instead, as I found out a few »

Mikitish: On Atticus and Ainu

January 27, 2010
Last week, Atticus Bookstore and Café came under assault by activists and politicians for its “Here we speak English” policy. The problem, it seems, is that the cradle-tongue of many workers at the café has been called unwelcoming and banned within earshot of customers. The language in question here is Spanish, so whether or not »