Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sam Beckwith on the new Prague TV City Beat blog just posted an utterly priceless info-graphic from USA Today. Go ahead, it won't disappoint.

I was going to send the Slovenia blog Glory of Carniola a line about this, but naturally he's all over it already. (No, this isn't the first time anybody's made the mistake, but people, come on.)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Belfast Telegraph: "'Money burner' released without charge "

After all, burning Northern Irish pounds isn't exactly a crime, is it?

I can't even remember who it was that suggested he was preparing for the euro.

Things that spring to mind when I browse Paris Hilton's phone book: Did Eminem really give this girl his number? How did that conversation go? And who's "Party guy"?

Monday, February 21, 2005

I'm back. Spent a week hanging out in Dublin with a two-day diversion up north to Belfast and the sleepy Northern Irish seaside town of Newcastle.

Sleepy, that is, until about midnight Friday, when every teenager in County Down hits the local pub/bar/club. "It sounds like a Czech village disco," a friend commented last night when I described the scene. Similarities: The DJ yelling stuff into a microphone between songs (although I'd sooner understand an aspiring northern Bohemian dance floor MC then a Northern Irish one). Differences: The crowd was younger (largerly pre-20, I kid you not), they were more drunk, and the girls were a lot more tarted up, if you can believe it, than they'd be here.

But that is neither here nor there. The real point of this post is the following oddball tidbit I just picked up from a recent article in The Irish Times (it's available online here, but a subscription is required; I have the paper version).

There is evidence, somewhere out there, that speakers of Scots Gaelic and Irish understood speakers of Berber as late as the mid-19th century. This astounding assertion supports a thesis proposed by a Connemara fellow named Bob Quinn that the Irish people contain as much North African stock as European.

On the surface, it sounds like one of killer facts that this blog increasingly thrives on. But you know, I'm skeptical.... I mean, come on, with enough effort on both sides, in many situations I'm sure I'd understand a speaker of Dravidian, depending on what we were trying to tell each other. That doesn't mean the languages are mutually intelligible.

The article, in any case, was a nice re-cap of Quinn's controversial (and unscholarly, as Quinn himself now admits) theory, and how in the eyes of critics, it's moved from the realm of outrageous quackery to that of grudging respect. Archeologist Barry Cunliff, who has the academic cred that Quinn lacks, claims in Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and Its Peoples, 8000 BC to AD 1500 that "this Irish language had evolved as a maritime language of western coastal areas of Europe, rather than as a result of continental 'Celtic' influences" (I'm quoting the Times article, not the book). Cunliff wrote the intro to the new edition of Quinn's book, which was originally published (and met with mockery) back in 1986.

The point, I guess, is that if I really wanted to understand what that Ulster DJ was yelling into the mike, I'd perhaps be better off studying Berber than an Indo-European language like Czech. Quinn's book is called The Atlantean Irish: Ireland's Oriental and Maritime Heritage. If you ever come into a copy, please let me borrow it.

And oh yes. Don't forget to waste a few minutes with this baffling site/blog. It appears to be dedicated to languages in development -- that is, spoken langauges that don't actually exist yet, such as Intergermansk. Go ahead, you shan't be disappointed.