Sunday, February 14, 2016


Big data, Black Twitter, and the linguistics of real speakers, not just academic grammar. A fascinating look at questions of legitimacy, linguistic stigmatization, and the beauty and art of language as it is really used. Once again, I am utterly absorbed at the ingenuity of human thinking, in the way we speak, write, communicate. Super extra bonus content: maps! Wonderful, informative maps!

I make one point about this National Geographic article before putting down the link: Egyptian use of cosmetics predates Ptolemaic GREEK ruler Cleopatra, who lived only a little over two thousand years ago, by millennia. Hanging everything Egyptian on the occupying ruling house of Greeks tires me out. (Good lord, can't we at least invoke the immortal beauty of Nefertiti?) BUT anyway - here we have a look at the antibacterial and immuno-building qualities of  ancient Egyptian eye makeup. Extra bonus feature: one more nail in the coffin of the old "EW LEAD MAKEUP - POISON! - HOW GROSS AND STUPID WERE PEOPLE IN THE PAST!?" trope.

In other fascinating ancient-chemical-knowledge news, The History Blog brings us a look at the possible ancient solution to a very modern problem - can First Nations clay help us to manage antibiotic-resistant bacteria?

This is not "new-news" as it were, but I'm struck by the thought of how often writers use so-called brainwashing, and how wholeheartedly it is accepted ... and yet, like the misconceptions we have about dirty, stupid history and so many other things that limit us both as humans and as authors, it's complete horsefeathers. On "The Brainwashed Defense" - from Patty Hearst to Moussaoui.

And finally, I have to admit an almost comically knee-jerk response to this piece. The House of Lords is moving to replace vellum with archival-quality paper for the recording of Acts of Parliament and other government documentation. Given that all my life I have heard the so-called "Dark Ages" referred to (by Brits as much as anybody else) as a period of time during which literacy was constrained to a few lonely monks scratching on animal skins ... and being a foolish American ... my first response was astonishment they were still USING vellum in the first place. My second reaction was mixed; a preservationist question arises, wondering how long other forms of documentation can be expected to last, and a traditionalist strain can see how this is a cultural loss of a kind. But the practical side of me goes back to the "Really? Still using animal skins?" surprise - and, at the end of the day, mine is not to judge. So I end with no firm opinion about this; there are too many ways right now for me to expend my opinion-forming energies. What do you think?

Finally, an interlude. Join Lilac Shoshani at table seven (and one or two other places) for a worthwhile few minutes. Just don't distract her from her writing, please ....


Jeff said...

As a medievalist, I responded with a certain astonishment too: given how durable vellum has proven, how is it not itself already "archival quality"?!

DLM said...

My understanding was not that they felt it is not, but that it's so ancient its now beyond being even "old-fashioned" and it's time to give it up. There's also some consideration for cruelty to animals - but since the vellum in use up to now has been coming from animals slaughtered for food for some time, they are not dying for the vellum supply per se.

Lilac Shoshani said...

My wonderful friend, I'm so touched by your mention. Wow... Thank you so much! <3

I love how thorough you are, a true intellectual. Linguistics fascinates me, and so does ancient Egypt. As a feminist and a makeup addict, I love it that both men and women wore makeup in ancient Egypt.

What a great and educational post!

Thanks again. Your mention delights me!

DLM said...

My mentions are of the highest quality, most interesting things on Teh Intarwebs of course, Lilac! The linguistics article is not short (a selling point for me, rather than not), but ooohhhh even if only for the maps it is striking.

As for my being a true intellectual: ask Mojourner Truth about that some time. He'll tell the Truth ... I just recognize smarts and beauty, and share 'em. Makes me look good, but it doesn't *make* me good!