24 April 2010

The Circle of Life!

I recently downloaded the African chant from the beginning of The Circle of Life as my ringtone.  It's awesome.

People laugh when I sing along... and CJ asked me what the lyrics translate to.  I don't know.  Let's look it up.  I knew it's in Zulu. I read the chant was created by Lebo M., who is from South Africa.  The rest of the song is music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice:

Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba
Sithi uhm ingonyama
Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama

Siyo Nqoba
Ingonyama nengw' enamabala

Translates to:

Here comes a lion, Father
Oh yes, it's a lion

Here comes a lion, Father
Oh yes, it's a lion
A lion

We're going to conquer
A lion and a leopard come to this open place

I think the Zulu lyrics sound a lot more impressive.

I noticed this Baba meaning father, and it rings a bell. Isn't baba the word for father in a few other languages? Sure is!

Language develops from function and necessity. Seeing as how baba is one of the easiest syllables for babies to pronounce, along with "mama," "papa" and "dada," it has become the word for father in a lot of languages like Albanian, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Greek, Hindi, Bangla, Persian, Swahili, Turkish.

The Middle Eastern word "baba" (as in Ali Baba) is rather a term of endearment, and is ultimately derived from Persian بابا (bābā), “‘father’”) (from Old Persian pāpa; as opposed to the Arabic words ابو (’ábu) and أب (’ab), as well as the Turkish word ata; see also Papak) , and is linguistically related to the common European word papa and the word pope, having the same Indo-European origin.

It's a great ringtone.

23 April 2010

LingLing and Sean

I have a lovely co-worker named Collying.  (It's ok to reveal her identity because if you Google just the first name Collying, she's the fifth result.)  It's pronounced coʊ - lin' (like "coco"), not cɑ - leen "Colleen".  She's really pretty and she's from Honduras but customers at the store all the time mistakingly think she's Asian somehow.

She doesn't really look very Asian at all.  I think her nametag throws the customers for a loop.  I overheard a customer once ask her, "Is Coll your first name and Ying your last name?" What an ass.  --but visually, you know, at first glance... I understand spotting the ying.

Because she's Hispanic, of course her mother has the same name as her.  (See post below.)  Aside from that, though, there seems to be no other record of anyone ever named Collying.  Ling says her mom--or her grandmother, I guess--read a character in a book named Collying and liked it, but I have found no such character in any such book.  According to the official White Pages, there is only one Collying listed in the whole country.  I'm assuming that is her mother, because she's listed in Louisiana.  (There are 415 Chelas.)

Having lived in Ireland for a while, and having been exposed to some of their outrageous and lovely names, I noticed a lot of their traditional names end in -ing so I made the connection and assumed Collying was a traditional variation of the Irish name Colleen.  OR SO I THOUGHT.  I came home, searched and searched and searched.  Turns out, the only Irish name I can think of with -ing is Aisling, pronounced "ash-ling"--but I think it such a pretty name, it must have stuck in my mind.

The fact that collying--as in "to colly", pronounced /ˈkɒlin/ is an actual verb [meaning to blacken with coal dust; begrime], it was tough to search around that.  In Irish and Irish English I actually found no record whatsoever of the name Collying ever existing.  There is no evidence--in fact there is evidence to the contrary--that Collying is in any way a derivation of Colleen.  The Irish spelling of Colleen is Cailin (meaning "girl"), but if anything, that became Americanized to Kaylin or Cailin.

So really, I was all wrong.  -ing is not really a common Irish name ending, and Collying is in no way related to Colleen.  I think they just made it up.


Sean likes to argue.  A lot.  About everything.  On a recent trip to Chicago, the question came up: "Is Sean more of an Irish name or Scottish?  You should blog about it."  Ugg.  Thanks, Maggs.  Ok.
WAIT.  Did you know Sean is the Irish form of the name John?!  I had no idea.  The anglicization of Sean is Shane; and Shaina and Shanna are the female forms.

According to the last census done in Ireland by the Central Statistics Office, An Phriomh-Oifig Staidrimh, Sean is currently the most popular male name in Ireland (followed by Jack, Conor, Adam and James.  The female names: Sarah, Emma, Katie, Aoife [How do you pronounce this?!] and Sophie).

Turns out Sean is in no way a Scottish name.  There are no records of it as a derivation of any traditional Scottish name.  Only recently in Scottland has Sean become popular in part as a result of the fame of Sean Connery (whose first name is actually Thomas). Sean was the 24th most popular boys' name to be registered in Scottland in 1999 with Shaun 51st.

In summary:  Collying is not Irish and Sean is not Scottish.  The end.

18 April 2010

Cat language, pt. 2

This one's for Mrs. Chris, per request. As seen earlier, cats pervade the English language.

Have you ever thought about putting something cat-a-corner to something else? Or is it catty-corner? Or wait, kitty-corner? Why are all these cats in the corner here?!?!

This phrase actually has nothing to do with cats. It's derived from cater-corner which comes from the french quatre which means four--derived from the Latin, quattuor--meaning cornered. The expression first appeared in English as the name for the four in dice, soon Anglicised to cater. The standard placement of the four dots at the corners of a square almost certainly introduced the idea of diagonals.

From this came a verb cater, to place something diagonally opposite another or to move diagonally, which can be found in the sixteenth century. Some English dialects had it as an adverb in compounds such as caterways or caterwise. By the early years of the nineteenth century it was beginning to be recorded in the USA in the compound form of cater-cornered. It had by then lost any link with the French word; people invented spellings in attempts to make sense of it, often thinking it had something to do with cats, which is why we have forms like kitty-corner.

But they were wrong.

Cat language, pt. 1

Women have been compared to cats for a long time.  In ancient Egypt, people used to refer to their partners as cats.  A woman associated with a cat is usually a good thing, with one unfortunate exception, as we will see here.


The term sex kitten was popularized in the 1950s, referring to Brigitte Bardot and Ann Margaret.  A sex kitten typically refers to a younger woman who is sexually provocative or aggressive.

There are countless examples of sexy catwomen; we can't forget Catwoman. Wanting to give his Batman comic books sex appeal and someone who could appeal to female readers as a female Batman, Kane and writer Bill Finger created a "friendly foe who committed crimes but was also a romantic interest in Batman's rather sterile life."

As for using cat imagery with their Catwoman, Batman's creator, Bob Kane states he and Bill Finger saw cats "were kind of the antithesis of bats."

"I felt that women were feline creatures and men were more like dogs. While dogs are faithful and friendly, cats are cool, detached, and unreliable. I felt much warmer with dogs around me--cats are as hard to understand as women are. Men feel more sure of themselves with a male friend than a woman. You always need to keep women at arm's length. We don't want anyone taking over our souls, and women have a habit of doing that. So there's a love-resentment thing with women. I guess women will feel that I'm being chauvinistic to speak this way, but I do feel that I've had better relationships with male friends than women. With women, once the romance is over, somehow they never remain my friends."


The term cougar was first seen on this website.  Cougar typically refers to a woman at least in her 40s who is sexually attracted to much younger men.  According to that website, a cougar in training who is in her 30s is called a puma and in her 20s is called a cougar cub.  (I didn't realize that in real-life feline terms, cougars and pumas are the same thing: puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount and panther are all the same animal.  The name varies depending on the region.)  It seems that puma is accepted across-the-board as a term for cougars in training; however, according to some other sources, cub is often the term for the young man who is dating the cougar.*  This video explains the modern-day cougar pretty well.


We even have the group of pop singers and dancers, the Pussycat Dolls.  This is obviously a reference to the crude slang pussy, referring to a woman's vagina.  I'm pretty sure this came from calling a woman a sex kitten or pussy cat--which eventually degenerated into the slang we have today.

But what about the cat lady?!
The poor cat lady got the only bad cat-related reputation of the bunch.  See this video.  A cat lady is often a spinster who loves her cat.  Crazy cat lady is a pejorative term referring to a woman who hoardes cats and often cannot take care of them all properly.  According to that documentary, "these may be people who have a very hard time expressing themselves to other people. They may find the human need for affection is met most easily through a relationship with a pet." This devotion can sometimes signal mental or emotional issues such as depression.  According to the book, Outing the Cat Lady: Embracing your Feline Addiction with Style, you might be a cat lady if:
Chapter 1: You have ever actually exchanged money for a cat.
Chapter 2: Your several cats are all named "Kitty."
Chapter 3: Most of your wardrobe consists of cat-themed fleece.
Chapter 5: Even though you live alone, you require a king-size bed just for you and your cats.



*The animal equivalents for gay men seem less flattering, in my opinion.  A cub is still the young man dating someone older, in the gay community, the older man is the bear or the chicken-hawk.  Other variations include chicken queen and chicken plucker.  ugg.

15 April 2010

Where does my name come from!?

My name is Chela.  I've been asked a hundred bazillion times where my name comes from.  The answer's always the same. "It's a Spanish name, short for Graciela, which is the Spanish name for Grace.  It's actually my mom's name and my grandmother's too."  Sometimes I toss in some lagniappe, "it's actually a pretty common name in Spanish."  --and then if it happens to come up "you know what's funny?  In Mexico, Chela is a slang term for beer.  I don't know why."

I never bothered to look it up.  Until recently, I met this guy--I don't remember his name... I don't remember where he's from either.  But he's Hispanic!  And his skin tone is really light for being from--wherever he said he was from--and he told me his nickname is el Chele, which means blonde or fair.  And that reminded me someone along the way told me Chela really referred to light beer.  But in Mexico, anyway, it's used for beer across the board, from what I've gathered.  But then again, Mexican slang is nuts.

So I found out.  Go with me, here.
Cerveza means “beer” in Spanish, originally came from the medieval French word cervoise.  Derived from Latin, this was used in honor of Ceres, the Roman goddess of the harvest.  Before 1482, the inhabitants of the Iberian Peninsula had used the completely-unrelated ancient Iberian word ceria or celia, meaning "fermented wheat."  All I can do is infer that THIS is where Chela meaning beer came from.  And if it's wheat we're talking about, it makes sense for it to be light in color as opposed to dark.

I also remember from time to time that Prem would always tell me "Chela means disciple [in Hindi]."  I forget that one all the time but I think it's really great.  I did a little bit of research and found that to be a chela implies a peculiar degree of loyalty to one's chosen teacher and to the principles underlying his teachings. It also, and more particularly, implies a realization of the sacredness of the bond between the chela and his spiritual teacher.

They use the word chelaship almost interchangeably with discipleship, which sounds funny to me.  Almost as funny as JT regularly exclaiming CHELABULOUS!  Oh JT...

But wait!  The French call it biere not cervoise!
It is interesting to note that just about the time that the Spanish were adopting the term cerveza (aroung 1482), the French started to drop cervoise in favor of the term biere– from the Germanic term Bier (from the Latin biber, “to drink”), which was the term that was more popular in northern Europe, where the climate was more favorable to the production of the grains that were used to make the beverage.

05 April 2010

The Britney Spears of Death Note

We've all been unfortunate enough to hear that catchy* Britney Spears song, If You Seek Amy.  The song, of course, contains a double entendre--"if you seek amy" sounds like "f-u-c-k me."


My friends and I have recently started a Death Note marathon.  About half-way through the series, the opening song changes.  We're talking about the second opening song here.

I originally watched the show with my cousin in Mexico, and the subtitles were in Spanish done by a fan group.  For the opening songs, every other episode, the subtitles would be either the romanji of the Japanese lyrics, or the translation into Spanish.  [You have to watch the video below for this post to make sense, beginning at 0:42 for the part I'm talking about here.]  When it was in the romanji, the subtitles read "hey, hey a ningen sucker, a ningen ningen fucker."

The version my friends and I are watching now is the official version, subtitled officially into English.  Khya is a big all-things-Japanese/anything-Asian,-really buff and when we watch this show, he has his Japanese dictionary on the coffee table, and throughout each episode he'll insist on pausing or rewinding to a certain phrase so he can look it up in his dictionary, exactly.

Needless to say, we've already come to many interesting linguistic conclusions and observations because of this.  My comprehension of Japanese language function has increased slightly, too.  --but only in theory.

When we came to this song, I was, of course, singing along.  (--can't deny it's a great song.)  The subtitles were only translated into English (no romanji), and he said, "Chela, they're not saying 'sucker' and 'fucker' in Japanese.  That kind of u sound doesn't exist.  They can't be.  Let's listen again."  And so we did, over and over again, and he concluded that they were not actually saying sucker and fucker.  "They're doing the Britney Spears.  This is the If You Seek Amy of Death Note."

Indeed, we looked up the romanji.  They're saying 
Hey Hey Ningen sanka ai nige ningen fuan ka?  

Our English subtitles said 
HEY HEY! Human paean, does love escaping make humans nervous? 

which is what threw us off.  The words here, "sanka" and "fuan ka" work with the theme of the song in translation. However, it is obvious that the artist chose these words specifically for the double entendre with the English words sucker and fucker.

I also later noticed, instead of saying WHAT UP, people?! they say WHAT'S UP fuanzai ippai.

Very clever, indeed.
It's a great show.  I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to think.


*That stupid If You Seek Amy song was written by the same two guys who wrote the even worse Three song she does.  If we want to discuss good pop song writing, we should discuss Lady Gaga.  Gaga originally wrote "Telephone" for Britney Spears, however, Spears' label rejected it and Gaga recorded the song as a collaboration with Beyoncé Knowles for The Fame Monster.  Additionally, the guest vocalist was originally going to be Spears, but for an "unknown" reason, Gaga made Knowles the featured vocalist instead.  My guess is that because Britney's probably opposed to wearing rotary telephones on her head.