18 July 2010


I  keep thinking of ways to celebrate the Fourth of July.  I feel like as long as we're still in July, it's still appropriate to celebrate.

Related to my previous post about Ummerka, I would be remiss if I didn't also include the definition of a merkin--as Dubya so graciously called us. 

mer·kin /ˈmɜrkən/
false hair for the female pudenda

I also happened across* the origin of

first recorded in 1683, a name applied disparagingly by Dutch settlers in New Amsterdam (New York) to English colonists in neighboring Connecticut.
It may be from Dutch Janke, literally "Little John," diminuitive of common personal name Jan; or it may be from Jan Kes familiar form of "John Cornelius," or perhaps an alt. of Jan Kees, dial. variant of Jan Kaas, lit. "John Cheese," the generic nickname the Flemings used for Dutchmen.
It originally seems to have been applied insultingly to Dutch, especially freebooters, before they turned around and slapped it on the English.

*OED, © 2010 Douglas Harper

16 July 2010

This time for Africa? WAKA WAKA.

This is for Messy Marv.

I know the World Cup's over, and this probably applies to most Ummerkins:

so I have to do this post quickly, before this song is forgotten completely.

I watched most of the World Cup games live on my Droid Incredible because I was at work during most of them.  I used VCast Videos and had the option of watching them in English or Spanish. As we all know, the Spanish speaking commentators are far more poetic and exciting that the stupid American ones, so I watched them all in Spanish. Before and after the games, this Waka Waka Shakira song played incessantly. --in Spanish. I later learned there is an English version, too.

What is this WAKA WAKA? Soungs pretty goofy. I sure freakin hope it means something to the South African people at least, and that it's not just Shakira's attempt at sounding African and making some fake shit up. That'd be dumb, and probably offensive, seeing as how there are countless African languages that sound lovely whose words she could have stolen from her song to be equally nonsensical to the listeners worldwide.

Let's find out.

A quick Wiki search tells me Waka does mean something in a few languages, such as:

  • Waka (canoe), canoes of the Maori of New Zealand
  • Waka (poetry), a genre of Japanese poetry
  • Waka music, a musical genre from Yorubaland of Nigeria
  • El Perú (Maya site), also known as Waka', Maya ruins in Guatemala
  • Huaca or wak'a, in Quechua, a class of sacred objects
  • -waka, a Swahili term meaning "be lighted"

Whatever.  That doesn´t matter.
The refrain in her song (the part that is presumably African) says,

Tsamina mina
Cuz this is Africa

Tsamina mina eh eh
Waka Waka eh eh

Tsamina mina zangalewa
Anawa aa
This time for Africa

Turns out the lyrics are in a Cameroonian dialect called Fang, sampled from a Cameroonian song first recorded in 1986, called "Zangaléwa," that was hugely popular in Shakira's native Colombia, (not to mention all over Africa).

Roughly translated:

Come, let´s do it!
Who sent you?
It´s mine!

A great rallying cry, if I do say so myself.

Yeah, this song has been sampled a lot.  Here´s one clip.

Gunabee says:

"Zangaléwa" was recorded by a makossa group from Cameroon called Golden Sounds who were beloved throughout the continent for their silly dances and costumes. The song was such a hit for Golden Sounds that they eventually changed their name to Zangaléwa, too. The men in the group often dressed in military uniforms, wearing pith helmets and stuffing their clothes with pillows to appear like they had a swollen butts from riding the train and fat stomachs from eating too much. The song, music historians say, is a criticism of black military officers who were in league with whites to oppress their own people. Or at least, some of it was. Some of it, as far was we can surmise, is gibberish.
Shakira was brilliant for choosing to sample this song because it's both a tribute to African music, with the World Cup being held in South Africa, and a nod to the folks back home who've partied to this song since way back in 1987 when the song rose to prominence thanks to West African DJ's in Cartagena. 

There was, of course, a bit of controversy about this song being the official World Cup song.  (To be honest, the last World Cup song I even remember was really Ricky Martin's The Cup of Life in 1998.)  The New York Times reports many South African people wanted it to be an African musician to do the song--but in my opinion, soccer is the world´s sport*--and it´s heart is really with Latin America.  Who better to represent Latin America--and the world!?--than Shakira?  I have no problem with her being the official chanteuse.  Besides, she did feature the South African musical group Freshlyground so no one can say a word about not including Africans, come on now.**

Some people also took issue with the lyrics themselves--the English ones (particularly the first verse).  Now this I do agree with, but on a bigger scale.  I know she always writes her songs [that end up being recorded in both languages] in Spanish first, and then she tries to come up with a translation into English for them.  I´ve got to say, I love Shakira´s lyrics in Spanish.  They are true and beautiful poetry.  BUT that just doesn´t translate very well, and I will be the first to say she sounds downright silly in A LOT of her English lyrics.  English is just not poetic enough of a langauge to be a supple host for her allusive lyrics.

Let´s take a look.  I´ll put three versions of the first verse here:

Her actual Spanish lyrics in Waka Waka:

Llegó el momento, 
caen las murallas
Va a comenzar 
la unica justa 
de las batallas

No duele el golpe, 
no existe el miedo
Quitate el polvo, 
ponte de pie 
y vuelves al ruedo

Y la presión, se siente
Espera en ti tu gente
Ahora vamos por todo
Y te acompaña la suerte

My translation of them (obviously not fit for song rhythm):

The moment has come
The walls fall
The only fair battle
Is going to begin

Wounds don´t hurt
Fear doesn´t exist
Shake off the dirt
Back on your feet
It´s your turn again

And the pressure can be felt
Your people hope in you
We´re in it for everything [we´ve got]
And luck is on your side

Her translation for the English version of Waka Waka:

You're a good soldier
Choosing your battles
Pick yourself up
And dust yourself off
And back in the saddle

You're on the frontline
Everyone's watching
You know it's serious
We're getting closer
This isnt over

The pressure is on
You feel it
But you've got it all
Believe it

Yeah, so that may be a tad culturally insensitive.  African nations are always at war and stuff, and referring to these people as being good soldiers and being on the frontline with everyone watching... yeah, I guess it could have been worded better.

*It´s all about unity anyway, right?  The soccer players featured in her video are Argentinan (Lionel Messi), Brazilian (Daniel Alves), Mexican (Rafael Marquez), Spanish (Gerard Piqué) and Cameroonian (Carlos Kameni).  I think that distribution pretty much reflects the world´s interest in soccer´s distribution, too.

**Ricky Martin was--ahem--equally culturally inclusive in his anthem.  He, too, recorded the song in English and Spanish (yeah I like the Spanish lyrics better here, too.  He talks about having passion, heart, fighting for your star with honor, together, tu y yo!  The world is on it´s feet.  Here we go!) and since the World Cup was in France that year, he even had part of the refrain be in French!
Allez!  Allez!  Allez!

14 July 2010

Productivity for Prosumers

As the launch of the beautiful Droid X approaches, we get emails from corporate every day with little tidbits and facts about the device that we ("wireless solutions experts") can use to further promote it. 

Today we got an email "Droid X, Fact 8: Enterprise Ready" that went on to descibe the corporate features that make the device adventageous.  One of the heading was "Productivity for Prosumers."  I had never heard this term before, and assumed Verizon had made it up, as they are oft known to do.

My thought process was: Pro-sumer, as opposed to Con-sumer.  That's funny.  Pro is the opposite of con.  Clever.  A positive spin on our corporate customers.

Then I did a bit of Googling and found this is actually an established term, however my initial assumption of its origins were proved incorrect.
Accoring to World Wide Words, this term actually first appeared in 1980!  There seem to be two acceptable definitions of the term.

  1. It was coined in 1980 by the futurist Alvin Toffler — in his book The Third Wave — as a blend of producer and consumer. He used it to describe a possible future type of consumer who would become involved in the design and manufacture of products, so they could be made to individual specification. He argued that we would then no longer be a passive market upon which industry dumped consumer goods but a part of the creative process.
  2. In the alternate definition, the word is a blend of professional and consumer. Prosumers of this sort are famed for their enthusiasm for new products and their tolerance of flaws and, from the marketing point of view, have much in common with early adopters. This usage is common among those selling video equipment, digital cameras, and electronics.  Professional consumer.

I guess, then, that VZW was using the second definition, and I guessed that the first definition wasn't so common.  But then I came across the book Wikinomics by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, and they use prosumer extensively, for example, page 125, where it discusses the social video game Second Life as being created by its customers. when customers are also the producers, you have the phenomenon: Prosumer.

Yes, indeed.

03 July 2010

I really love bubble tea.

I first discovered bubble tea years ago with Freau at this delicious Vietnamese place here in New Orleans, called Frosty's.  She said it was like a fruit smoothie with tapioca balls in the bottom.  I tasted one and was intruiged by the chewy tapioca--and actually really liked it.  Then when I went off to college, Badass Coffee on the Strip turned into Wickles Wicked Bean and then to Strip Teas.  I can't remember which, but one of these claimed to have bubble tea, but they were "out of pearls" almost every time I asked for it.  I assumed the bubbles and the pearls were both actually the tapioca balls.

THEN! I went to Chicago's Chinatown with the AAQT and we stopped into a place whose name we can't remember.  We stopped into a place that sold boba tea.  I wondered if it was the same as the bubble tea I had experienced, and if so, if it was a deliberate misspelling or simply an alternate spelling.

I skimmed over the history of bubble tea.  Looks like it originated in Taiwan in the 1980s and has become immensely popular in Taiwan and Hong Kong since then.  HOWEVER, it was originally just tea with different fruit flavors mixed in and shaken up.  The shaking made the bubbles, and it became known as bubble tea.  Not until the mid-80s were tapioca pearls added to the tea.  The tapioca pearls looked like bubbles, so this reinforced the already popular name.  But really, bubble tea can be bubble tea even if it doesn't have the pearls.

There are lots of different names for this drink all over the world.  Some interesting ones?

  • タピオカドリンク (Japanese): transliterated tapiokadorinku translated "tapioca drink"
  • Suco de Pobá (Portuguese): transliterated "boba juice" from interpretation of boba
  • QQ: means chewy.  Huh?  (I found a great blagpost about this.)  Q (pronounced kiu) is a common Taiwanese morpheme that no one seems to know how to write in Chinese characters.  This Taiwanese "Q" meaning "chewy" can be intensified by doubling, hence "QQ糖" ("chewy-chewy candy" or "really chewy candy").  Thus Q is clearly well established in Taiwanese as meaning "chewy," and it has been picked up on the Mainland with the same meaning (especially in advertisements).  Since I've never been able to determine a cognate for this "Q" in other Sinitic languages than Taiwanese and no one has ever been able to tell me how to write this Q morpheme with a Chinese character, I have sometimes wondered whether it might not have come from English "chewy" itself.

(Here are some noodles that are presumably al dente, or "chewy.")

But what about this word BOBA?!

I've read a couple of different things.
1.  As I suspected! BOBA - From the Chinese word 泡沫, which is in turn derived phonetically from the English word bubble.

2. However, I also read this!  Boba, a Cantonese slang, literally means the "dominatrix of breasts", connoting the image of a busty woman. "Bo" (波) is a slang for the breast which refers to the milk.

How true are these?!?!  I used Khya's secret infallible tool, YellowBridge.

1.  This word,  泡沫, is actually pàomò--which doesn't really sound like "bubble" very much.  The first part, 泡 (pào) means to bubble, to foam, to blister, or to get off with [a sexual partner].  !  The second part, 沫 (mò) means foam, suds or froth.
This all sounds like a good name for what we've described as bubble tea, however, I'm still not convinced it's where we get BOBA from.

2.  Bō, 波 means wave, ripple, surge, storm.  Ok, I can see the stretch by which this could mean breasts.

Let's break it down further.  (Chinese is fun!)  Remember mò above? Put mò and bō and side by side.  沫 and 波.  The little front part that looks like a sideways Y with two eyelashes is common to both of them!  That part, 氵 means water!  It's the second part that's different in these two characters.  In mò, 末 means end, insignificant... which sounds right for making suds or foam.  Water + insignificant = froth.  Check.  In bō, the second part of the character, 皮 means skin, hide, fur or feather (basically any exterior of the body).  I'm not sure that water + skin = wave, but water + exterior could= wave or storm.

More importantly, if in the Chinese subconscious 波 denotes wave or surge but connotes skin, I definitely see how it could come to be slang for breasts.

So in this 2nd argument BOBA referring to breasts and milk and bubble tea, what does the BA mean?  This is just my guess but I found two possibilities.

  • 把 (bǎ) means to hold or to grasp, particularly with the second half of this character, 巴 meaning to greatly desire (this is a pictographic character, picture of a snake! whatttt)
  • 拔 (bá) means to pull up, draw out by suction.  This is probably the right one.

Ding ding ding do we have a winner?!  I think so.
Bō (meaning storm but implying boobs/milk) + bá (drawn up by suction) must= bubble tea!