Saturday, October 13, 2018

Choose to Create

I really like this graphic from Keetons Office Supplies, and the use of pencils is a good reminder that writing is a creative act.

When life gets complicated, choose to create.




Sanskrit Word in English: Avatar

The English word "avatar" has been so widely used and familiar that it does seem like an English word now, but it comes from Sanskrit! The Sanskrit word AVATAR (avatara) means a "descent" in the sense that a god comes down from heaven and takes on an earthly form. An avatar is a specific form of incarnation, the manifestation of a divine being in the form of an earthly human or animal. You can learn more in this Wikipedia article: Avatar.

The most famous avatars in the Hindu tradition are the "Ten Avatars" of the god Vishnu: The Fish, The Tortoise, The Boar, The Man-Lion, The Dwarf, Parashurama, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, and Kalki (although the list differs in some details from one Hindu tradition to another). You can read more about the incarnations in this Wikipedia article: Dashavatara.

In English, the word "avatar" has become especially associated with the way human beings are represented in the environments created by digital computers. The Oxford English Dictionary cites an examples of this usage from 1986, although the most famous early example is the use by Neal Stephenson in his marvelous science fiction novel Snow Crash, published in 1992, which happens to be one of my all-time favorite science fiction novels!

Meanwhile, this lovely painting shows the "Dasavatara," the Ten Incarnations of Vishnu:


And of course I had to include something from the film Avatar:


Wanna Live Forever? Become A Noun

This charming video from NPR features a fun song about the people whose names became nouns: sandwiches, leotards, shrapnel, and more!



ADAM COLE: (Singing) I always dreamed my name would go down in history. But that sweet path to fame still remains a mystery. Like inventors, kings and sages, I don't want to be forgot. And so I'll search these pages for people who were not.

(Singing) Well, from August down to Zeppelin, the world is full of eponyms. People die but names live on. Lamborghini made a car. Mason made a Mason jar. And Henry Shrapnel was the bomb. There's Volta, Watt and Newton, energetically disputing whose contribution most deserves top prize. For each scientific unit there's a genius attached to it. And when they get together they harmonize.

CHORUS: (Singing) When I'm six feet underground, when I up and die, I hope my name becomes a noun. I hope I'm objectified.

COLE: (Singing) Leotard has reached new heights. He has to wear his clothing tight or he'll get tangled up in his trapeze. General Burnside isn't skilled. He often gets his soldiers killed but his sideburns can't be beat. The Earl of Sandwich ups the ante with a snack that's nothing fancy; he'll never have to leave his poker game. Silhouette's a penny pincher. He won't pay for painted pictures so the cheapest kind of portraits bears his name.

CHORUS: (Singing) When I'm six feet underground, when I up and die, I hope my name becomes a noun. I hope I'm objectified.

KRULWICH: (Singing) Wait a second. Wait just a second.

CHORUS: (Singing) Robert Krulwich.

KRULWICH: (Singing) Yeah, it's me. Has it ever occurred to you that becoming a noun, it's just - it can be a little embarrassing?

COLE: (Singing) What do you mean?

KRULWICH: (Singing) Well, let's say your name is Cardigan and you're a man of many parts. But once you become a noun, then all you are is a sweater with buttons, forever.

CHORUS: (Singing) Oh.

KRULWICH: (Singing) Or you're a guy named Guillotine and your wife likes you. Your kids like you. But once you become a noun...
(SOUNDBITE OF A SCREAM AND SLASHING EFFECT)

KRULWICH: (Singing) ...nobody likes you.
(Singing) Are you familiar with a man named Dunce?

COLE: (Singing) My name is Jon Duns and I was well-respected once for my brilliant meditations on theology. But my rivals took offense and they said Dunce means someone dense, and those perverse reverse on entomology.

KRULWICH: (Singing) Now you know what I'm talking about.

CHORUS: (Singing) Now when I'm six feet underground, when I've up and died, I hope my name is not a noun and I'm never objectified. You know that, that would hurt my pride. I hope I'm never, ever objectified.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Resource: Alphabet Monogram

In this animated gif, you can find all the letters of the English alphabet, and numbers too!




The Earliest Ancient Texts

The use of abbreviations was, in fact, extremely common back in the days when people had to go to the trouble of carving letters into stone, and abbreviations were also very common during the Middle Ages, for example, when writing materials were hard to come by. You can read more about the history of scribal abbreviations in writing at Wikipedia.