June 16th, 2011


Of scripts,language, and punctuation marks....

While reading a book this morning,(Georgette Heyer's "Faro's Daughter",if you are interested!) I fell to musing on the various scripts in which our languages are set down. I've learnt English from early childhood, and it took me, therefore, a while to realize that its script is most quirky.....compared to the orderliness of the scripts of most Indian languages.

Indian language scripts are, by and large, phonetic, and what you read is what you pronounce. But English (and I suppose French has a lot to do with this!) is very unphonetic, with different letters "singing" different "songs" (Yes, I am harking back to a wonderful grammar book that I had in school as a child,

"The Songs the Letters Sing"

....does anyone ever use it now, I wonder!)

I used to think that the dEvanAgari script was the most phonetic, until I came to the Kannada script, which has, additionally, letters for "ko" (as in "colander") and "kO" (as in "coal"). If we could just add the "a" sound that occurs in "man", and the "zh" sound of "tamizh", it would pretty much represent whatever I want to say,phonetically. I am informed by Auntie Wiki that our Indian languages are usually


because vowels are "attached" to the consonants in the script.

Also, this whole concept of "capital letters", I find, is inexplicable. Why should sentences and names (in German, ALL nouns!) begin with a capital letter? Indian languages don't have two different forms of the same letter...surely it seems to just add to the confusion and make (for a young child) more to learn. If someone can tell me the "why" behind capital letters, do let me know, especially why the uppercase letter can sometimes look so different from the lowercase one.


is what the Wiki says about "letter-case".

Punctuation, nowadays, seems to be about the same in all modern-day printed scripts, but I still do not know the reason behind the "inverted exclamation mark" and the "inverted question mark"(I'm sure they have names, but I am too lazy to google for them) of the Spanish script, that precede the sentence, with the regular marks after the sentence.

I'd like to read some really OLD manuscripts (in Old English for example) and see how punctuation has developed over time...old manuscripts and stone inscription in the old scripts of Indian languages seem not to have punctuation marks (except the "double khadipaay" at the beginning and end of Sanskrit shlOkAs). I do know the names of some of the punctuation marks in Hindi...alp virAm for a semi-colon, and khadi pAy for a full-stop (which is a single vertical bar at the end of a sentence)..but I know very few names in the script of my mother-tongue, Tamizh (muttru puLLi for full-stop, for example.)

Punctuation still makes a lot of sense to me, in being able to read a passage with the same stress and accents that the writer intended; but the logic of capital letters eludes me, except for the need to give importance to a certain word. (Eg, if I say that something is a Good Thing, that gives a nice flavour of humour and irony to my statement without my having to add another word.)

Nor can I understand what I call "illogical gender-assignment". French, or Hindi, have only two genders, and no neuter gender at all. This, however, is still better than German! When setting out to register for my first German course, I said I would not study the language unless it had a neuter gender. Having been assured that it did, I paid up...and then discovered that non-living things were not neuter, or living things masculine or feminine! The young girl (Maedchen) is neuter gender, and the Hemd (clothes) that she is wearing are masculine...so all that happened was, when faced with every noun (or Noun) I had three categories (and article endings!) to choose from, not two. Cannot understand how this could have developed!

I also wonder whether capital letters exist in "western" scripts other than Roman (Cyrillic, for example), and whether they are phonetic or not. Bad thing to be so ignorant of so many other scripts.....! Just shows....how little I know.

Mulberries...and Cobweb!

I never knew just what


were, though I had read in school that they were the food of choice for silkworms, and of course, I'd recited

"Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush"

(though we sang it as "so early in the morning" and not "cold and frosty morning" as given in that Wiki entry above.)

My first introduction to mulberries was in the house of my friends Ravishankar and Usha, in Muscat, when she showed me some luscious berries on a large (almost-tree) bush, and I ate them, delighting in their taste.

So when I went to the Hindu Temple in St.Louis on Sunday, I realized that mulberries in their hundreds had fallen from the bush, and while waiting for the others (not being devout, I finish my pradakshiNam much faster!) I picked up several berries:

mulbers 130611

and after washing them, ate them happily. I had to wash them because the ground was also littered with dead Cicadas, and with the passage of many cars, was a kind of Cicada-Mulberry jam mishmash.

On the mulberry bush, I also noticed this lovely diaphanous web:

wb mlbry bush temple 130611

I wonder what kind of spider spun what looks to me like a social spider's web....don't know enough about American spiders!

End of random post :)

Fire and Ice

As we returned from the Taming of the Shrew, we were crossing the usual Fire Station (E30, that I have written about


and I saw that the fire engine was missing. I wondered where the fire was, that it had gone to put out, and KM was bantering, saying that even when they went out for a snack, the firefighters had to take their fire engine with them...as we crossed the fire station, I saw the fire engine coming back.

But as we turned in from Delmar into Goodfellow Ave, I saw the flashing blue-and red-lights of several more engines, on Enright....and it turned out that the freezer that someone down the road from us, had bought and installed, had burst into flames....here's the scene of the blaze;

fre enrght 130611

I thought of the irony of a freezer bursting into flames..and also recollected that I'd seen a whole lot of ice dumped on the grass, behind one of the marquees where food and drink was being sold at the Shakespeare festival (indeed, being utterly jobless, I had photographed it as well!)

ice skspr pk 130611

The basement of the house was damaged, but luckily, no major harm seemed to have happened to the house (must take a look at it on my walk tomorrow). But it made me muse on the twin concepts of fire and ice.....