August 29th, 2009


Historic beans

I think it's SoyJoy that's been running these commercials about how Chinese emperors, Japanese Buddhist monks, and so forth held soybeans (or as the commercial goes, "this historic bean") in high regard.

Isn't every bean historic? Coffee beans, cocoa beans, green beans--heck, even JavaBeans.

It reminds me of a guy who teaches ASL who said "ASL is a conceptual language." Um, what language isn't conceptual? (OK, maybe that of the Khoogras in the Little Fuzzy stories... but we're talking human languages here.)

ASL divvies up concepts differently from English, but so do other languages. ASL distinguishes "save" in the sense of accumulate (e.g. saving money) from "save" in the sense of rescue, but then, so does Spanish (ahorrar vs. salvar). Romance languages distinguish "free" (not costing anything) from "free" (not constrained), e.g. Spanish gratis and libre.

On the other hand, English distinguishes the physical "sky" from the theological "heaven", which are both cielo in Spanish. I've read and been told by a native Japanese speaker that Japanese would say that our "green" traffic lights are aoi, which is usually translated as blue.

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