Xenolinguistics Part II – The Conscious Mayonnaise and Other Irregularities: Etymology of Common Words and the Aspect of Culture

Xenolinguistics Part II – The Conscious Mayonnaise and Other Irregularities: Etymology of Common Words and the Aspect of Culture

Imagine that a highly advanced alien race in a galaxy far far away, somehow decide to study English after catching rogue radio signals all over the planet with their super-ranged intergalactic receptors. Before making first contact, they devise an English to intergalactic language dictionary after many years of eavesdropping. The radio signals are their only source of information as they don’t have eyes on Earth, yet. Hell, they might not even have eyes at all.

[We are assuming the aliens can distinguish between languages in the story above and focus solely on English. In reality, they would be utterly puzzled by hearing the words ‘astronaut’, ‘cosmonaut’, and ‘taikonaut’ being used for the same Earthly space men!]

From left to right: Astronaut Helmet – Cosmonaut Helmet – Taikonaut Helmet

After these extraterrestrials think they have enough knowledge of the language to tackle the next message they pick up for the sake of translation, they come across some messages communicated by two unsuccessful fiction writers exchanging parts of their latest work for mutual advice. The first statement the aliens hear is:

a chunk of mayo slithered down the hamburger paris bit in a hurry and landed on her brandnew denim leaving a nasty stain[The correct punctuation isn’t applied as they wouldn’t know.]

A simple, single statement describing a daily mishap to someone’s jeans might be tough to crack for those who speak little or no English. Luckily, we have dictionaries! So, do these aliens! Remember, they made one! But, dictionaries may still provide more problems than solutions without context as:

  • The verb ‘Slither’ is usually credited for the movement of desert animals like snakes… so, the word ‘mayo’ sounds more like an animal than a condiment. Duly noted.
  • ‘Land’ is both a verb and a noun, but it would be confusing for a member of a tribe in a landlocked region or beings from another planet with no bodies of water; in short, for those who do not have the word ‘sea’ or ‘land’ in their native tongues. Assuming they eliminated the noun form and accepted the verb form to be right definition. Why use ‘to land’ though? They would think the more appropriate word should have been something similar to ‘drop’ as ‘land’ is attributed to controlled actions like ‘the landing of a bird’ or ‘the touchdown of an airplane’ (by a pilot)… how much control can a chunk of mayo have? Does it have a conscience?

As suspected, the word ‘mayo’ is not in their dictionary, yet, as it’s the first time they picked up this word! It’s logical as it’s a really slim chance the word circulates in space between NASA and the space stations. They add the new word into their dictionary as:

Mayo: A conscious life form on Earth that attack by short leaps and known to discolour its prey by a form of spitting or dampening.

Mayo does go for the heart in the long run!

All the world languages (not only English) are riddled with similes, idioms, and ironies. Mingle these with our diverse, unique cultures and set up grammatical systems with a lot of rule exceptions and voila; languages of planet Earth, which are bound to change as our way of lives change via new inventions and the advancement of technology!

Our vocabularies are full of made-up lexical items with little or no pattern, as we seem to name things randomly, by not following a general set of rules. Keep in mind, words make up sentences and sentences make the language itself. The above mayo message could also be deciphered as a list of place names as we can name words derived from toponyms (words derived from place names). Look:

Mayo: short for mayonnaise meaning from Mahon, Menorca – Spain 
Hamburger: from Hamburg – Germany 
Paris: from Paris – France
Denim: from Nimes – a town in France (de Nimes)

That’s not all, we also make up words derived from people’s names (eponyms):

Boycott (Captain Charles C. Boycott), Saxophone  (Adolphe Sax), Guillotine (Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin),  Sandwich (Earl of Sandwich), Nicotine (Jean Nicot) and even Bluetooth (Harold Bluetooth)

Toponyms and Eponyms are just two of the ways we name new words or concepts… there are many more but again no pattern in naming lexical items. Let’s mention one more to seal this part, which is ‘naming new locations, things or concepts by mistake or miscommunication’:

Nome (A town in Alaska): According to a theory, Nome received its name through an error: allegedly when a British cartographer copied an ambiguous annotation made by a British officer on a nautical chart, while on a voyage up the Bering Strait. The officer had written “? Name” next to the unnamed cape. The mapmaker misread the annotation as “C. Nome”, or Cape Nome, and used that name on his own chart; the city in turn took its name from the cape. (Source: Wikipedia)

Canary Islands (A group of Islands): The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin name Canariae Insulae, meaning “Islands of the Dogs”. According to the historian Pliny the Elder, the island Canaria contained “vast multitudes of dogs of very large size”. There were no canaries (birds) on the islands. It was a simple translation error as Canariae (Canis), the Latin word for ‘dogs’ sounded a lot like ‘Canaries’.

Yucatan Peninsula: There are countless theories about how Yucatan was named. Below are just two of those theories (In both versions, the Spaniards asked in Spanish and the Mayans they encountered there replied in Mayan, their native tongue.):

The first one, points out to Francisco López de Gómara in 1552 in Cabo Catoche when the Spaniards asked some men what the name of the town was and they said “tectetan”,which would roughly translate to “I don’t understand you”. They thought it was called that way, and, corrupting the word, they called that land Yucatan.

Another version indicates that the Spaniards gave the name of Yucatan to the region because the Mayans answered their questions with the expression “Uh yu ka t’ann”, which in Mayan means “listen how they speak”, and the Spaniards understood Yucatan.

The West Indies (A group of Islands in the Caribbean): Christophe Columbus, who thought he had reached islands in the West of India, named them. Well, technically, he is right. The West Indies in the Caribbean is indeed located to the west of India…

Now, let’s add the effect of our cultural diversity into the mix and look at some interesting facts about other languages:

  • At one point, Arabic had over 1000 words for ‘camel’, which were abundant in the region. Although most of these words are not used today, there are still over 100 words in contemporary Arabic for ‘camels’.
  • There’s a theory that the Eskimos have over 50 words to describe snow and ice. These include; ‘qanik – snow falling’, ‘aputi – snow on the ground’, ‘pukak – crystalline snow on the ground’ and ‘ainu – snow to make water’. No wonder so many words, where everywhere is literally snow and ice.
  • Even aristocracy and wealth can alter words– the words beef and pork come from French, while the English equivalents are cow (ox) and pig. Now, the original English words are used, to describe the live animals while French originated words are used when these animals are served as food. The distinction dates back to the Norman invasion of Britain, where English peasants looked after the animals and the French nobility ate them.
  • Each language has unique words that don’t exist in other languages: Gigil (Filipino) is the sudden urge to want to squeeze someone out of extreme cuteness or irritation. Fernweh (German) is feeling homesick for somewhere you’ve never been before. Slampadato (Italian) is a word to describe people who are addicted to tanning saloons. Yoko Meshi (Japanese) is the stress you feel when speaking a foreign language and Yakamoz (Turkish), which is the sight of the reflection of moonlight on a body of water.

We speak language(s), where both milk and white wine sound like they’re the same colour or that black berries, a bruised eye and coffee are considered black, just as black as a piece of obsidian rock. Seriously, how are we ever going to manage to communicate with extraterrestrials when our languages follow no real pattern and we are nearly always confused?

Fifty Shades of Black and the actual colour!

Xenolinguistics – The Intercultural Barrier (Part 1.5)

Xenolinguistics – The Intercultural Barrier (Part 1.5)

In my last post, we explored the impossibility of successful communication with the first aliens we make contact (unless they are Hollywood aliens, which are all fluent in English). Before diving deep into the aspect of culture in the next post, which is vital in inter-species understanding, I’d like to give a short pause and share a freshly-written, absurd flash fiction piece I wrote to give a brief glimpse of what I think might happen in the event that humanity makes contact with an inter-galactic race. Let’s see what happens:


8 minutes 44 seconds in Earth time. The final stronghold fell much easier than its definition suggested. It was strategically a terrible location to fend off the final assault for the remaining few Orgics that had chosen to hole up here– weak concrete walls that could easily be bashed in, inviting, thin metal sheet reinforced glass doors, with no booby traps inside and all. 

Lost deep in his own, proper stronghold of thoughts, Captain Anders lingered through the main hallway, pushing aside the scattered glass remnants of the display cases on the floor with the side of his boots after each step. The Orgics had chosen to sacrifice their lives for whatever those fragile containers housed. What could be more important than life? Still preoccupied, Captain Anders hadn’t noticed he was standing right in front of a shattered glass door. He gently pushed the massive crack barely holding up in the centre with his gloved hand and watched the remaining glass fall and break into smaller pieces beneath his feet. So fragile! Then, it made sense a bit-  the last of the Orgics weren’t the military type as those were the ones first wiped out. What would they know about fortifications? Anders bent his head slightly and passed through the doorway.

Anders was greeted by Lieutenant Orrin once he entered the main room where a 10-feet marble sculpture of an orgic freshly riddled with bullet holes stood.

“We’ve secured the place,” Lieutenant Orrin said. 

Captain Anders saw the dead bodies of half a dozen Orgics piled up in a far corner. “Any survivors?”

“One, but it’s in a bad shape,” Lieutenant Orrin pointed at the giant statue. “Fought well trying to defend this. Didn’t leave its side.”

“I am guessing this one was too heavy to move.” Anders touched the feet of the giant statue and drove his hand up. It was hard and cold… just like death. “Why sacrifice life to save something so lifeless?”

The lieutenant shook his head, but Anders didn’t notice. His gaze was still fixed on the the colossal hardened form. “Take me to it.” He finally said, first prying his looks, then his touch away from the statue.

The small storage room had nothing but a wobbly metal chair in the centre. On it, was a loosely tied female orgic. Judging by the severity of her wounds, the loose ropes were there for her not to fall off the chair rather than prevent her escape. She had a couple of hours of life in her at most. Maybe less.

Anders lifted her chin up and saw the diminishing light in her empty gaze. Time was of essence and he had to pick the right questions to be able to make sense of the orgics’ purposeless actions. “Why?” He asked. “Why did you sacrifice your life for a heap of stone?”


Laura looked up and came into direct contact with the android leader’s blinking crimson eyes. She knew she was dying fast, and there was nothing else left the android could threaten her with to get answers. Besides, how would she be able to describe an alien concept to an alien race in the very limited time she had left? How could she explain art to those that never experienced it? On one note, the android seemed familiar with the concept of ‘sacrifice’ as it was the word it’d used. But, sacrificing one for other lives was one thing and willing to die for inanimate creations of their own doing was another. Besides even if she were able to make a little bit of sense, would it not get lost in translation on the way from the AI underlings to the alien masters? The androids were highly adaptable. They were the foot soldiers created to learn and adapt… To do the dirty work of their masters. And that adaptability alone caused Earth to fall in under a week: Thousands of live Trojan horses, dealing the unexpected final blow to the unaware human race. But, the whole dagger and cloak thing wasn’t to take humanity by surprise, it was merely to learn and record a race that was to be annihilated for good. The events of the past week started playing in Laura’s mind… 

The androids were sent to Earth by their extraterrestrial overlords. Humanity has always been naïve in thinking we would make contact with the real deal alien entities, but just as automobiles replaced horse carriages and factory workers with machinery on Earth, it was only logical to think dangerous space exploration or planetary invasions would be made remotely with easily controllable androids from the comfort of their spaceships by galactic conquistadors. The droids were a form of liquid machinery disguised in flesh that could take any shape and blend in for planetary missions and sadly, copying the physical appearance of humans were not that challenging for the creations of a far superior intergalactic race. The whole invasion happened in under a week and didn’t even requiring probing. Without humanity even noticing, the droids learned everything about humanity to ease off the invasion.  Well, learned about almost everything… culture and art wouldn’t make any sense to them even if they stayed concealed on Earth for a millennia. They had never had art. Nor culture!


“Why?” Captain Anders roared in frustration of the fact that a lowly race had secrets they weren’t able to figure out.

“Art… Culture…,” Laura mumbled in pain. “It’s what makes us human.” With her last breath, she wanted to make them understand that humanity was something to be preserved rather than destroyed. She’d always thought art was universal… literally… They would understand. They had to. The ropes holding Laura tightened as her head dropped down. 

Upon arrival, the droids learned that art was a way of expression and imagination of the human creative skill, and paintings or sculptures were the byproduct of… art. But, what exactly was ‘Culture’?

Anders looked at Lieutenant Orrin for collaborative brainstorming. The definitions he got by connecting to the planet’s database were conflicting. But, that wasn’t surprising. The Orgics spoke languages based on conflict. A stronghold didn’t always mean a difficult place to take over, yet he clearly heard an Orgic mentioning this place as one. They had names for non-existent concepts like god, religion, soul, magic, ghost, monster… and he would never understand why they used the same word to describe existent but unrelated concepts or things. For instance, among other meanings, ‘Coach’ meant both a ‘large wheeled transport to carry a large amount of people from one place to another’ and a ‘trainer in sporting events’. There seemed to be no logical connection. 

Orrin started speaking; giving definitions of the term ‘culture’:

“The manifestations of human intellectual achievement-“

“That can’t be it,” Anders cut in. “Not worth dying for something you can recreate. Besides, humans are not the intellectual type.”

“The ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular-“

“Not a chance. Creating a stone representation of yourself isn’t really an idea… as for social behaviour, there’s no scientific explanation to why they keep producing things that would never give them benefits.”

“Perhaps, it gives them benefits,” Orrin said. “We weren’t able to fully analyse them, yet.”

Anders shook his head. “They have 3D printers to create such things quicker and more efficiently. If one gets lost or broken, replication shouldn’t be an issue. Yet, they are willing to die for their own creations that can be recreated easily.”

“Thinking in Orgic’s way and speaking in their language affects my line of thinking and reasoning, is it necessary as I fail to understand even what you’re saying.”

“You know that total immersion is the best way to learn,” Anders coughed to clear his throat, which he felt no actual need to do so.

“I think I got it,” Orrin said. “It must be this one… maintain tissue cells, bacteria, etc. in conditions suitable for growth.”

Anders paused for a minute before speaking. “Have we detected any living organisms on… art?”

“Yes,” Orrin nodded. “Not on the newer creations, but older art is sometimes covered by vegetation and there’s also moss growth in time. It’s basically their breeding grounds! They ensure survival through inter-species transformation.”

“That’s it,” Anders agreed. “I am sending the report now.” He remained motionless as his eyes fluttered at intervals while compiling the final report.

And, a moment later he sent it. The final report that reached the outer ring of the 3149-R planet, read:

“The Orgics have found a way of immortality through creating lifeless representations of themselves and other things. Naturally induced tissue cells and bacteria are carefully preserved on these creations, only for them to spring out as a different life form in the future. This makes it possible for them to completely alter their DNA for a more suitable life form. Further study is not needed. Requesting permission to go on to the next planet.”

Transformation of the human DNA? or just plain old moss?

—- The End —-

Xenolinguistics – Deciphering the Impossible? (Part I)

Xenolinguistics – Deciphering the Impossible? (Part I)

It’s always been mind boggling how humans in sci-fi movies could communicate with Hollywood aliens whether they’ve come to our planet in peace, or just for the kicks of a planetary invasion. I’m well aware that it’s just for the sake of viewers’ getting the hang of the plot, but the ease of communication and getting fluent in alien language in less than an hour of screen time, is still an illogicality that doesn’t make any sense, just like extraterrestrial beings speaking with a distinctive English accent. A massive, interstellar galactic federation consisting of hundreds of super advanced alien races with the universal language being standard American English is yet another cosmic mystery.

A still from a great sci-fi movie: “Guardians of the Galaxy – Vol.2”, where the design of different alien races suffer either from lack of imagination and creativity or the fact that some people just watch these for the humanoid cast.

Xenolinguistics is a hypothetical subject which is basically the study and research of the languages of never-encountered-before extraterrestrial beings. Surprisingly, despite the missing extraterrestrials, xenolinguistics has been becoming more and more popular among linguists over the past decade. Surely, without ever encountering an alien race, allocating time and resources seems like a fruitless effort, but it might also be wise to brainstorm beforehand and be prepared to solve several issues likely to come up regarding the first contact with our very first aliens. For instance, the idea of using toddlers, who are just learning to speak, to communicate with aliens upon first contact, rather than expert linguists is the byproduct of such brainstorming. These toddlers would be the perfect candidates for picking up language in a natural way, as they’re just figuring out how to receive and give information in a world less known and somewhat still alien to them.

Perhaps imaginary friends in childhood are in fact aliens in disguise. Image Credit: Thrive

There is a fat chance that we will not even be able to communicate with aliens (unless they are gray and from Hollywood) through conventional methods like the use of sound, gestures, mimics, writing, mathematics or visuals. What if the first ones we meet are an advanced galactic race of invisible blob-like organisms that communicate through smell, giving bursts of different smells at various intervals to chat about a vast amount of subjects from interstellar travel to cosmic small talk. Will we even be aware of their presence, let alone communicate?

Before venturing into the depths of the universe to have a chat, isn’t it a better idea to solve the inter-species language barriers in our own tiny world as we aren’t the only intelligent life forms inhabiting this planet? (And, yes, I believe animals have intelligence, it’s just different from ours.)

Let’s have a quick peek at the communication patterns and our efforts in communication with the different species of our own planet… the ones (meaning all) we yet to decipher fully:

  • The meows! Kittens only meow to let their mothers know if they are cold or hungry. Once a kitten becomes a cat, they stop meowing to each other, and only meow to humans to get attention, let us know they are hungry or just to say welcome home. The irony is that they are the ones attempting to communicate with us…
  • The round dance and the waggle dance of honeybees is used to convey the exact distance, the direction and the quality of the pollen source discovered, to other honeybees. Yes, we’ve figured this one out, but understanding the method and even the meaning of communication between the members of a different species is very different from two species initiating communication with each other. You may think we are far more intelligent than honeybees therefore, there’s no need for us to communicate with them, but it’s another irony as far more intelligent extraterrestrials that might visit us in the future might think the same way, and just refrain from communicating with us.
To bee or not to bee!
  • Speaking of intelligence, dolphins excel at intelligence-based tests, are capable of complex problem solving, can individually learn and pass on their new knowledge to their young. They are also highly social and certainly do have a language consisting of a series of clicking sounds and whistles. So, have we attempted to communicate with them? Nope. At least, not in ways we are determined to communicate with equally intelligent extraterrestrials.

Just admit it, we will never be true horse whisperers in a literal sense with this attitude.

Perhaps, the first aliens we encounter would be pale humanoids? And somehow believe that sharing similar physical features is the key to bring down the intergalactic language barrier. It would really be easier to wave our arms, nod or just point at things! Or we could always try writing, drawing or typing in binary codes on a computer screen. If you think that can work, I suggest we have a look at our own world history and face the fact that we are far from deciphering most ancient forms of communication… ancient human writing, but let’s start with the ones we could decipher to lift up the spirit:

Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics is one… but it still was an indecipherable tough cookie until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone which was a slab bearing three scripts carved in two languages (serving as translation): Ancient Egyptian and Ancient Greek… So, it was more thanks to the efforts of translators rather than linguists (xenolinguists) that we were able to crack ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Ancient Babylonian was deciphered more or less the same way; using ancient Persian as a reference in bilingual texts…

So, on most occasions a reference source, a key, was needed to decipher an unknown writing system… and even after that it took years to decipher some of these ancient scripts created by and cracked by the members of the same race! As Yuri Knorozov, the linguist who cracked Mayan hieroglyphs once said:

“What is created by one human mind can be unraveled by another!”

Yuri Knorozov

So true! But, how about what is created by an unknown alien race? Can it ever be unraveled by us?

It’s a tough question as there are still ancient writing systems and languages in our own human history that is far from cracking like;

The Harappan script of the Indus Valley Civilization is suspected to use the Boustrophedon style, written from right to left in first line and from left to right in second line meaning the alternate lines were reversed, sometimes with reversed letters.

Reverse Boustrophedon, where the text in alternate lines was rotated 180 degrees rather than mirrored, just like Rongorongo, the writing of ancient Rapa Nui, which we could only decipher the direction of the text but are still mostly clueless about the content.

Image Credit: How Reverse Boustrophedon looks like in Modern English by Kwamikagami

All these culs-de-sac were encountered in the attempts to decipher human originated scripts… now think about extraterrestrial language or writing systems! And, then add the effect of culture on top of that as culture, influences language greatly and it can never be ignored.

In the next post (Part II), we’ll look into how cultural elements influenced Earth languages up to now…

In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part I – The Apple

In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part I – The Apple

Feeling a bit snacky late last night, I found myself in the kitchen. Once lingering inside still unsure about whether to go for some crackers or a chunky cookie, my eyes fell on the singled out apple on the counter that tempted me with its perfectly smooth, polished crimson skin promising to quench my thirst while filling in the tiny void in my stomach about to be reborn as hunger. After the first bite, I felt so good as if I was in heaven… or… wait… now the confusion started settling in… wasn’t it the apple… the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in paradise?… didn’t a bite out of an apple put in motion the events that led to Adam and Eve to be cast off the garden of Eden? 

How could this marvelous fruit be the cause of the first sin, especially when it’s never been stated explicitly to be the culprit in the holy books or the ancient writings? I decided to dig in some more… both to the subject and the half-bitten apple in my hand… It was time to consult the holy texts, starting with the Genesis.

And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

Genesis 1:29

Seeds? Guess what! Apples have seeds! Fruit with seeds are safe! The answer seemed to be clear… the forbidden fruit couldn’t be the apple… Perhaps the moment when Eve was tempted into taking a bite off the forbidden fruit by the talking snake needs to be explored a bit more.

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”

Quote from King James Bible
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Still no direct mention of the apple here, but a fruit that can kill you by contact should hardly be even considered an apple. Perhaps, it’s some kind of poisonous fruit with no seeds within, but we’ll explore other options in another post. Wondering why the belief that apples were the cause of the original sin was so widespread, I dug in some more, and I could see the confusion and why it was to blame. Here’s a very condensed version of why:

  • Malus is the Latin name for both apple and evil… It is very well known today that the first impression is crucial and image is everything, so you wouldn’t expect your child whom you named “Devil” or “Hellby” to be accepted with open arms amongst others and live in peace even in today’s evolved society. This was misfortunate on behalf of the apple as in fact, “malus” was the generic name for any kind of foreign fruit except berries, and nations across the world named all the strange fruits in their language in relation to that fact… e.g: tomatoes: love apples or golden apples, potatoes: earth apples, oranges: Chinese apples, datura: thorn apples…
  • Although the homeland of the apple is scientifically proven to be Kazakhstan (hence the former name of its former capital city Alma-ata meaning father of apples), it is mostly agreed that the apple traveled through to the west from Syria and ancient Persia via the Silk road in reverse. Zoroastrianism, which was the religion of the pre-Islamic Persians, had a belief system based on dualistic cosmology of good and evil… a belief system that favoured the balance of opposites. Apples, having both sugar and sour taste perfectly represented this harmony through balance. Sounds just like the alleged fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, doesn’t it? Perhaps, this chunk of the belief had travelled with the apple to the new lands.
  • After the widespread of apples in Western lands,  ancient artists often used it as a model in their works of divine art depicting deities and events of significance. The ancient Greek goddess Aphrodite, the Norse deity of fertility Idunn, and many other gods and goddesses were often painted holding, hurling or just looking at apples, which was basically why it was considered as the fruit originating from the heavens. Moreover, mythology frequently suggests apples to be closely linked with deities in stories like the apple of discord which started the war of Troy and the twelve labours of Hercules in which he had to retrieve golden apples from the garden of Hesperides as one of the tasks. So, seeing apples in divine art and reading or listening about them in mythology is more than enough to place them in paradise.
Golden Apple of Discord by Jacob Jordaens (and just look how the angel at the back looks terrified by the sight of the apple!)
  • Apples were often linked with immortality in mythology like the golden apples of Hesperides (or apples of immortality) that Hercules was tasked to retrieve and that Idunn in Norse mythology was the keeper of magic apples of immortality. Immortality is the one thing that separates man from god. Unlike gods, mankind can’t live forever. Well, ok, but Eve didn’t achieve immortality after eating the apple, so how does this work?… Remember it was the fruit of the tree of knowledge that was forbidden to touch or eat, and with apples symbolizing immortality, can it be something in the lines of what Dalai Lama once said: “Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
  • Let’s leave mythology behind and fast forward to the time when Christianity was flourishing among the Celts and Romans in eternal conflict. Originating from Dionysus paganism, the Roman Catholics loathed the Druid faith influenced Celts. Just as grapes and wine were favoured by the Roman Catholics; apples and cider were the favourites of the Celts. The conflict started rising even more when Celts started calling the Catholic grape “corrupt”, while the Romans spread the belief that apples were “hellish”. The battle of throwing dirt on each other was clearly won by the Roman Catholics, as stories about how evil the apple was, linking it to the tree of knowledge of good and evil in Eden and from that moment on, it spread like wildfire. These stories became beliefs in short time. For instance, to prove that the apple was the devil’s fruit, one could slice the apple vertically to witness Eve’s vagina embedded in the core, or when sliced horizontally the apple core revealed a pentagram; the symbol for the devil, engraved in its centre.
From Left to Right: Eve’s Vagina and the devil’s pentagram

Ancient stories about apples being the forbidden fruit and symbolizing evil, immortality, and knowledge have seeped into our souls as it continued inspiring more modern beliefs, art, literature and culture not very different from the ancient versions. From Snow White munching on a poisonous apple… all the way to Apple Inc. adopting a half-bitten apple as its logo symbolizing a bite (or a byte) taken out of knowledge… At least, the apple isn’t as sinful as it used to be… So, go now, get an apple and bite into it. You’ve earned it!

For “In the Trail of the Forbidden Fruit: Part II”, I am planning on featuring the tomato!

Further reading and references for this article:

  • “In the Devil’s Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food” by Stewart Lee Allen.
  • “Apple: A Global History” by Erika Janik
  • “Paradise Lost” by John Milton

The Energy of Objects: The Inanimate Magic of our Era

The Energy of Objects: The Inanimate Magic of our Era

The idea to write this article first popped up during a chat with a friend on how certain objects not only can change our mood, but also the moods of the people around us. And from there the idea developed into the meaning we give to certain objects. For those who have dropped by for a flash fiction piece or a short story, click on the link at the end of this article to read one of my published stories ‘The Mouldy Loaf’, which happens to be loosely based on what I am going to write in this article…  (You will need to scroll down a little until you see the story.)

Belongings, possessions, objects or whatever we name them, are just like mental luggage constantly carried around…

B Cansevgisi

Even if you have a minimalist lifestyle, living in an empty house with little or no belongings, you might feel a vague connection to some household objects or certain clothes. At least, your grotesque coffee mug or the single wobbly wooden chair, with one shorter leg huddled up in the corner, must have had a certain attraction to be your first selection to make it to your home amongst countless, more supreme other similar items. 

In the early steps of infancy, we start getting attached to certain objects whether it’s a book of fairy tales we can’t read, a favourite toy we carry everywhere or a clothing item like a tiny pair of pants with tiny pockets to store whatever strange bug or pebble we may find while playing outside. As young minds, we make deep connections with such objects and become joyous when we are in the vicinity of those mood boosters or get depressed if we lose them. At those ages this is understandable, especially in regards to our favourite toys or dolls as our untrained minds think they’re as much alive as we are. But, why we still feel the same way until we die, is a mystery.

Is it longing for some magic in our boring mundane lives?

An ode to the death of our inner child?

Or

Do objects store some kind of energy that can be traded back and forth?

Let’s grow up a tad and take a peek into our teenage phase:

Before our slightly developed minds are lured into greed by friends, family, movies, computer games or the media, we never even think of owning rare metal objects made from gold, silver or diamond. So, if rarity was the issue, why not collect some of the ordinary stones we pass on the way home, which are far more unique in shape, colour or size than the mass produced, shiny metal trinkets. As for alluring clothing items; I find it a bit weird to consider a piece of fabric worn around the neck as a fashionable tie or a trendy scarf when the loose end is dangling down and see (and fear) it as a hangman’s noose when it shoots up.  Can we say that we give their meaning to objects? Maybe that’s why a worthless old junk for someone might be a priceless antique for another. Perhaps, the difference between the words to describe similar objects is the key. Ok, a piece of ‘junk’ and an ‘antique’ would probably not be the best example, so let me give you another: Second-hand shops in most UK cities label their merchandise as ‘pre-loved’ rather than ‘second-hand’ or ‘used’. It does make one feel good, doesn’t it?

Ok, let’s leave the shop and delve into our youth once more…

Starting from our teenage years, we give meaning to belongings of loved ones, too, like granny’s favourite slippers, uncle’s discoloured walking cane, girlfriend’s star-shaped earrings or similar objects given to us as presents like an old music box inherited from a parent or a necklace given us by ‘our partner in romance’ at our birthday or any other day. These objects we value so much, makes us feel good… until a fight brews up with the relative or a breakup with the beloved occurs. Then, these objects start generating grief and once precious stuff becomes the trigger of awful memories. But, why don’t we remember the good memories with the regarding person even if we are apart now?… without thinking of getting back together. Why do these objects take all the blame? Can’t we just look at them under a different light and at least try to embrace only the good memories and block out the bad ones? Or when a person dies, why are their belongings considered cursed or believed to emit negative energy?  Oh! And I am definitely NOT suggesting you to snatch a dead leper’s toothbrush for your own personal hygiene and think positively. That’s different.

In the end, objects reflect back the energy you see fit for them…so, next time before you throw away an object that is making you relive bad times, try to extract some good memories out of them and rethink. If you didn’t bin it a long time ago, perhaps it needs a reconsideration, another chance! A chance to be good.

For the promised story, just click here and scroll down until you see the title ‘The Mouldy Loaf’

The most under-rated art: Writing (Part 2)

The most under-rated art: Writing (Part 2)

In my previous post, I not only briefly outlined the power of writing, but also raised the question why professional writing is considered so under-rated in every aspect of modern life (I usually get a frown followed by confused looks when I tell people I earn my living as a ghost writer). The misperception towards writers is even worse in the business world.

Thanks to the fruits of the internet and online marketing, brand-new companies are diving into the market every second, but unwillingly maim their newborn brand by having no budget or severe budget cuts in terms of hiring professional writers in promoting their businesses. Of course, it’s much easier to get help from the company CEO’S willing nephew studying at an unrelated department in college or it’s certainly much cheaper to find the resources from the company’s existing work force; an over-ambitious employee who would try anything for a promotion.

However,…

…spending a penny in the right place helps building social branding, having a unique voice and style, being different in a giant pool of competitors…

What’s more?

Implementing SEO into any piece of online text guarantees visibility in search engines and in a way provides free marketing which otherwise can only be bought by excessive expenditure. In the end, companies who hire professional writers save money by spending it in the right way!

Getting professional help in writing related services also helps companies in…

Not becoming a laughing stock in the eyes of their potential or current clients…

chinasub
…and their planes are suspected to be in the sky after taking off!

Professional writers are also expert researchers! Not that this news article published a while ago needs any researching, but still… just imagine what happened to the credibility of the newspaper after a careless reporter writes off such an alluring headline!

Getting their message out loud and clearly…

Even the tiniest flaws like typos, a missing or misplaced punctuation in writing can easily convey your message in a totally undesired way. Just like the case of the missing comma in the sample sentence below:

“Let’s eat Grandma!” versus “Let’s eat, Grandma!”

Imagine the comma-less motto perfectly placed in a poster ad for your newly (de)formed food company!

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Image credit: Make a meme

Your emerging company would not only be labelled as having cannibalistic tendencies, but it would also bring some unintended mishaps regarding people over a certain age… People get offended for much less…

And typos?

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Why sell for less just because of a misplaced letter! Image credit: Pleated Jeans

Giving a unique style / voice to their services or products…

Targeting audience in the right way and making more sales is not an easy task… at least not for those lacking writing skills. Words have immense power and with that power comes great responsibility. And if that power is used in the right way, masses will follow. Any potential customer has the basic ability to correlate product photos with its unnecessary descriptive and factual text regarding its physical appearance that can be seen from the photos themselves. What most production descriptions lack, is that they often fail to convey how that product would make the customer feel. Feelings can hardly be levied otherwise.

Another useful tip about identifying the target audience and writing accordingly is not being compelled to use technical jargon for products intended for kids. It is not the greatest idea although such ads target parents as well… but even so, the parent then has to paraphrase whatever you’re selling to their kid, most probably lacking adequate product or service info.

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Product Description: Scoliosis Surgery “Scar Buddy” Awareness 10″ Bear | Handmade Incision Sewn, Spinal Fusion, Titanium, Neurosurgery, Scoliosis Warrior. Image credit and product link: Etsy

I am well aware that the above product and its description is not intended for kids, but still it serves my purpose…

Becoming global and making history…

Did you know that in the original French version of the story, Cindrealla’s slippers were made of fur, not glass? “Vair – fur” and “verre – glass” sound almost alike. A basic misinterpretation of the word still has a huge impact today, but rewriting history does not always turn out to be so positive! (Glass slippers are much more fitting than fur shoes for this story:))

furshoes        glassshoes

The most under-rated art: Writing (Part I)

The most under-rated art: Writing (Part I)

Establishing a shared method of communication is one of the key components of advancement into founding a civilization.

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Speaking, talking, singing, conveying our ideas to others, teaching and learning in a faster way, verbalizing feelings, rallying crowds or manipulating masses… it’s no surprise that the ability to have meaningful, oral communication with others, has put humanity on the top of the planetary food chain and made it possible for us to found an advanced civilization, where much stronger animal species like dinosaurs, bears, lions, and such never could.

Oral communication is always considered the most viable inter-human communication since we were cavemen; talk well to inspire an army into a triumph, beg for votes on a political campaign for a chance to rule the world, or simply express inner feelings to foreplay mating in a ‘civilized’ way.

Sounds the best?

But, for the likes of me (and hopefully for the likes of you when you finish reading this), it can only come after writing. It’s just much more than speeches can ever offer:

  • Oral communication is lost in the present whilst writing can travel forward and backward in time. Or else we wouldn’t be meddling to decipher ancient hieroglyphs or send letters and emails to others for a future read. Writing is the best way of preserving memories, retelling history and transferring knowledge into future generations.
  • Writing grants immortality to its creator as spoken words are scattered in the wind and soon forgotten if not recorded.
  • The unnecessary components of oral communication such as small talk, echo questions and filler words can be mostly avoided unless a dialogue is being mimicked in a work of fiction.
  • Writing requires education of some level at least and that’s all the difference between a toddler mumbling about their needs to their parents and a scholar influencing millions.
  • It’s possible to translate a piece of writing into the reader’s native tongue as no immediate responses are needed.
  • Never forget that ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ and that a sword can cut a blabbermouth. Writing always wins.

 

So, despite all this proof, why do most people underestimate the power of writing in the modern world?

Why is being a writer not considered as a proper job?

Why are the benefits of hiring a professional writer is seen as an asset by only a few selected businesses?

You don’t build the house you live in unless you’re an architect and a bricklayer. Do you?

Would you like to know more?

Then, stay tuned in for the next part of this article coming up soon…

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Communicating with visitors from outer space: The uncanny resemblance of the Unfamiliar Familiarity…

Communicating with visitors from outer space: The uncanny resemblance of the Unfamiliar Familiarity…

We are born… totally unaware of the world around us; an alien world…
We learn crying first… that’s our first attempt in communication… or attention seeking until we find more effective ways…
Then, we learn to stand on our knees, crawl and finally walk…
In the end, we learn to speak as we complete the totally helpless phase of our infancy. The comms link is finally online…

It takes us years to get familiar with our home world and its humanoid inhabitants. Yet, we are never fully familiar towards other life forms on our planet…

Nobody has communicated with a chicken…
Nobody knows how a potted sunflower truly feels when neglected too long…
Nobody has ever set their eyes upon the creatures living in the deepest parts of our oceans…
Nobody has tried to make a pact with deadly viruses for them not to make us sick… oh wait! Most of us aren’t even aware that viruses aren’t living organisms… but we try to kill these lifeless but contagious pieces of code anyway.

We still know only bits and pieces about the other life forms we coexist with, on our shared planet…

Yet, we seek intelligent life forms in deep space and still believe we can come to terms with these aliens through diplomacy once we find them and form an inter-galactic federation to rule the galaxy peacefully altogether… or crush the destructive, evil ones…

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Before elaborating more on the ways to communicate with aliens, let’s take a short trip into some popular alien encounter plots in the sci-fi world:

A spaceship either makes its way to one of the largest cities in the world, or just crash lands in the suburbs where a small town lies nearby. The aliens’ agenda is always the same wherever they land though: to destroy us or strip our planet off its valuable resources. Then the war for our planet commences…

We beat them 9 out of 10 times. Perhaps because they look like us somehow… an uncanny resemblance of the unfamiliar familiarity: they’re either off-color humanoids, complete with all the limbs etc. Or some variation of earthly creatures like giant bugs or non-aquatic octopuses.

This physical familiarity must be the reason we believe we can communicate so easily with them.

So, let’s make it easier for the mankind and imagine the first aliens we encounter are not only humanoid in form, but also a nearly exact copy of our image. But even then… what makes us think we can understand each other? How easily can we communicate with other people? Can we even completely understand our fellow earthlings?

human-alien
… in a world where,

… men can’t truly understand women…
… archaeologists can’t decipher most ancient writing forms… (such as the Rongorongo of Easter Island)…
… each Earth culture has its own beliefs and values…(even gestures)…

Still not convinced?

Try explaining snowflakes to a young Masai warrior…

or

what an ocean is to someone who has lived in a landlocked country all their life…

Redefining Death: A Contemporary Guide

Redefining Death: A Contemporary Guide

As persistent seekers of healthy, prolonged lives and even immortality in the modern ages, we, mortals have always feared “death” as it means a definitive full-stop to what we have valued the most: Life…

But, what is death?

1_Grim-Reaper

According to most dictionaries, “death” is the end of life…

For me, it’s “ceasing to exist in the former plane of existence”… but, I am not all into the heaven-hell thing as I believe those two opposite concepts were designed to direct the majority of the human race into doing good deeds, so that all good-doers are led to believe they will have their afterlife retirement lying in endless flower fields above the clouds, drinking mulled wine from its rivers and having sex for eternity (and that is without the help of Viagra for the elderly men). The evil-doers, on the other hand, will burn in agony for eternity

Eternity? A concept valid for both heaven and hell? Wait! Living for eternity is achieving “immortality” Wasn’t that our final goal? Our seemingly impossible dream? To be immortal? Is reaching our final goal through “death”? Or, was the whole concept of immortality just an unintended word play, the creation of a concept due to bad punctuation and spacing (as in “Immortal” vs. “I’m mortal”)? 

Anyway, going to heaven sounds fun, right?

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Then, why do we feel so down and depressed when we bid farewell to our loved ones on their voyage to a better place? Are we worried they might end up in hell? Are we just selfish for not being happy for them? Or do we secretly know that heaven does not exist? Who knows…

On another note,

As I said before, “death” is ceasing to exist and it happens to our loved ones all the time and in numerous other ways as well, like:

  • when we break up with a partner and never want to see each other again… or
  • when a loved one moves across the globe for a job opportunity, etc…
  • when someone we trust wrongs us in an unacceptable way…

The people in above cases “cease to exist” just like how I perceive “death”… and in all cases time heals us, gradually soothing the pain. The question here, is how we deal with the sudden loss… do we cry our eyes out until they dry out? do we surrender to booze or other similar ways to dull the pain? or do we seek their familiarity in the experiences of our daily lives and remember how they made us feel? No matter how we might grieve, time is always there for assistance…

As a final thought, I must say “death” according to me is like a paradox similar to the Schrodinger’s Cat… we can never know for sure if our deceased, loved ones are happy or not on a different plane of existence… until we are certain of their fate, they may very well be both happy and not…

The Overuse of Lexical Items in Describing Emotions

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Language has never stopped evolving as more new words are added to the lexical pool every passing day. We are now using more words than ever, to express ourselves fully to one another. But, is it all necessary? Or are we simply dulling our senses and devolving ourselves, restricted by the limits of language itself?

In face-to-face encounters, language loses most of its function as actions take over the role of wordly structures. We never describe our actions in wordly forms when what we are doing at any given moment is so obvious. Imagine you’re in a cafe with someone, do you ever need the urge to make sentences like: “I’m now holding the cup of coffee with my left hand, preparing to take a sip.”?

Of course not, as each person is equipped with a behavioral decoder of their own. But, then again, why do we use words to describe our emotions to the other person accross the same table; saying we are happy, upset, depressed or scared… Have we disconnected and devolved so much that we can’t decode emotions without the aid of words anymore?

The joy of hugging someone and transferring our emotions in a silent harmony is what we should have been doing all along. “Wordless” does not mean it’s “worthless”, it’s just more. It’s actually feeling for each other.

We are taught to “apologize”, “praise”, “confront”, “encourage” and “congratulate” each other even before we start school… but even the words picked for such actions are random letters in tiresome, long sequences, …. difficult even to pronounce let alone understand each other’s feelings.

In writing good fiction, there’s one fundamental rule: “Show, don’t tell.” How come “showing” is more appreciated than “telling in words” at a medium where the reader and the writer is almost never in the same place?
Showing, not telling adds great value to writing, so,  perhaps, we should implement this rule to our daily lives for a change to enhance our personal relationships.

Finally,

Who is the culprit for demoting our emotions, then?

Is it the gibberish rules of society we are dictated since birth?

Is it the technological advancements causing the daily rush we find ourselves in, to get pointless things done in little time?

Is it because we are becoming more and more selfish and ignorant?

Whatever the cause, it is never late to share our feelings in an entangling bundle of limbs, enclosing two hearts within…