Category Archives: language and studying Arabic

Expression of Possession

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Why so serious?

So we are half way through the first month of 2012 and the year just gone seems to lie in a long forgotten past. The start of the new year is quickly followed by my birthday – never fails- which is a reason – or excuse- to celebrate, reflect and look ahead. I’m still riding the fabulousness train and I discovered I’m not the only one who aims to rebrand themselves in order to get ahead: The bookseller Waterstone’s announced it is to become Waterstones as part of a rebranding campaign quote to reflect a ‘truer’ and confident picture of the business unquote . What’s in a name and what difference does the non-presence of the apostrophe really make you might say, yet grammar purists got themselves all worked up. Besides giving grammar freaks something to whine about – someone has to do it- what is the omission of the apostrophe really going to do for the bookmonger? Is the action another example of having no respect for language and the ‘dumbing-down’ of society? Or is its decision the first step of a master plan, that is to unleash Waterstone’s fabulousness once more?

Booksellers across the country – if not large parts of the world- are suffering as competing against the likes of Amazon and downloadable versions of books seems hard work. An entire industry is changing and all, oldies and newbees alike, need to keep track. The power of reinventing oneself when the going gets tough – and even when it isn’t, ask Madonna- can be seen as an explanation of the survival of the fittest. Not necessarily in the sense of adapting to one’s environment, but to let go of the current if it isn’t working for you. Everyone’s a critic so if you feel the need for reinvention, whether you’re Waterstone’s/ Waterstones or Dark Fairy, your name is your name and the world your moldable oyster to be shaped to your liking. And in this instance I would say: don’t mind the grammar geeks.

image: Geoff Cook

Tell Us a Non-Story

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I thought ‘Cucumber Time’ was over…

It is quite likely that the journalism profession is not held in very high esteem after the NOWT hacking scandal, which no one seems to be talking about anymore despite the revelation that James Murdorch was told about the stench I his organisation. Besides phone hacking scumbags there are those that feel they are operating on morally higher grounds and move heaven and earth to uncover the/ a truth and report on injustice in the world, which I believe is a very noble case. Then there are those who operate in a grey area and bother us with stories that are neither news worthy nor entertaining. As a self-proclaimed news junkie I often wonder what the function of news is and what news is in the first place. In my job as a media analyst I came across this article in the Evening Standard http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23983870-youre-putting-my-unborn-baby-at-risk-mother-to-be-tells-squatters.do and I wonder if the Evening Standard knows the answers to these questions.

Yes,giving birth to your first child is a great event in a person’s life  and yes, moving house can be a stressful affair. I do not believe that this couple is by any means unique in their experience even if the move to their ‘dream house’ seems to be fraud with complication. There are children in this world dying of hunger so it would be rather healthy to put things into perspective. Secondly, these squatters, portrayed as the scum of the earth, seem like one-dimensional characters from a bad cartoon and very little is explained about their actions. How did they get there? Was the property empty for a long time? If yes why? If these ‘scum bags’ have indeed occupied your house illegally, why on earth would you offer them money to leave your property? And do you think that less than 50 quid per scum bag is really going to do the trick?  The police can’t do anything. You know what Dark Fairy thinks about the effectiveness of the police, but let’s not go there all over again. Then a quote of one of the squatters is true icing on this non-story cake. So, these scumbags are foul-mouthed creative hippies in their twenties, who come from the West Country and are seizing the day by getting up early, playing loud music and getting in touch with their higher selves. Am I honestly to believe that this West-Country squatter is telling Mr. Owner to bugger off and then informs him about the programme for the day?!

Recent riots, continuing global economic uncertainty accompanied by job losses, rising prices, first-time-buyer crisis, the Middle East in turmoil, rising tuition fees, child poverty, human rights abuse, Rugby World Cup, US Open – too bad Rafa ;-(, Victoria Beckham’s latest outfit, which I do not wish to have and I have to feel sorry for the London middle classes, not because they have become the squeezed middle, but because they are affluent and pregnant and can’t move into their dream home in West Hampstead because of a bunch of squatting kids? Forget phone hacking. Immoral behaviour at least gave us highly entertaining stories. This is not a news story. This is bad journalism that fails to properly inform or entertain. Yet another blow to the profession.

top image: the Guardian

image below: goeiemoggel.blogspot.com

…Perhaps it’s catching up with us

Back Without a Vengeance

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Cross roads of life

This has been the longest cyber space silence in the young history of Dark Fairy Adventures. Particular reason? Dissertation madness, well-deserved Easter Holiday, exam mayhem… So, no particular reason, really.  It’s a bit like going back to gym or dance class after you haven’t been for a while; the longer it is you haven’t been the more difficult it gets to return.

Libya is still an issue, but does not really make headlines anymore. We had a period of freak weather around Easter -happy new life, by the way- and then DSK had to resign as head of the IMF due to rape charges – innocent until proven guilty they say, but if you ask me he is guilty as f*ck- and an opportunity for a woman to become head of IMF; hooray for the sisterhood.

In the mean time I am in the process of graduating. Dissertation has been written – well proud of that- exams have been sat and there is nothing I can do except for waiting for the results. Anna has moved out of the flat and her empty room is an odd entity in the residence. I am still in the process of looking for a flatmate- which is actually another non-reason for not touching in. The creepy thing is that it recently dawned on me that graduating in a degree in Arabic is not the end of the love-hate relationship. It’s the point of no return. It is like as if I have been carrying a fruit for four years, which has given me discomfort and frustration as well as a sort of enjoyment- call me a masochist- and now I am about to give birth to this fruit. If I abandon it, all the work of four years will be for nothing, so now I have to look after it and nurture it until the end of time…. Sh*t!

Now I am about to graduate I can finally bring the Big Fat Writing Plan into action, you’d think, as a felt restricted in time to execute the plan, while finalising a first class degree, insha allah, working 30 hours a week, having one’s beauty sleep and not much of a social life. Now I need readjusting to graduate life, find a new flatmate and deal with general bollocks like working 30 hours a week.

But the aim is and always has been the happily ever after; writing, being autonomous and making good money. And nurturing a thing called Arabic along the way. Welcome to the next phase. I’m sure I’ll be having a grand ol’ time.

top image: olutosinogunkolade.blogspot.com

The Language of War

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When reporting on a conflict one can aim for neutrality, but it is considered very difficult to remain completely unbiased as we all know that one person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist. In the case of Libya it has long been decided who the goodies and who the baddies are, but I have been wondering why the people opposing Qadafi are being referred to as ‘rebels’ in the UK media. Yes, they could be considered rebels as they are rebelling against Qadafi’s rule. But they are also opposing his rule. Why are they not called ‘the opposition forces’? Or ‘the guerrilla forces’, as they are an irregular armed force fighting a stronger force? Freedom fighters would have been an option as, I think most of use will agree, these forces are fighting tyranny and for freedom and democracy. Who has decided that these forces are to be called ‘rebels’ and why does the UK media seem to unanimously agree on this term?  We could make an attempt to fit this into the orientalist, ethnocentric, imperialist discourse. That these men – where are the women?- are men of the desert, proud, strong, wild and disorganised. To give them the term opposition forces would make them appear too organised, to clean-cut. There is far less romanticism linked to it. Guerrillas are found in the rainforests of South America or deep into sub Saharan Africa. And the term freedom fighter reveals perhaps too much bias. The IRA and ETA – although perhaps currently inactive- are listed as terrorist organisation, but I believe they’ve never been called guerrilla forces while they completely fit the definition. Maybe it is because despite these organisations using/ having used terror they operate on the ‘enlightened continent’ of Europe.

I don’t know what the score is. Why certain words in the/ certain media are being used for certain factions and no one seems to question this. Despite a lot of talk not an awful lot is being done (yet?) by either the EU, the UN nor NATO. It’s complicated. The mess has been created almost a century ago and they kept on digging, messing it up and putting oil on the fire with shocking ignorance. And now they want to fix it, but don’t know how. Whatever they do, embargo, no-fly zone, sending weapons, sending troops, sending humanitarian aid, do nothing it will either be insufficient or another form of imperialism. And in the mean time the opposition forces, as I like to call them, are being crushed by Qadafi’s far more organised military and we go back to where we started. Opposition force goes back to being the repressed people, Qadafi remains the strong man and it’s business as usual, including trade deals and perhaps democracy is not that good for North-Africa after all.

war and language

In the Beginning There Was the Word

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Now that I have come out as a bit of a language geek I like to share my thoughts on two issues I have connected to the word; Jesus freaks and librarians.

I think I am a pretty good fairy and on the karma scale of things I like to think that I’m not doing too shabby. I am however no saint and not completely free of prejudice and judgement – I know very few people who are. I slag of people who make their money in a certain line of work, people with a certain nationality and I find people who voted for that political party very uncool. Now, I am a big fan of libraries. The amount of knowledge, information and entertainment that is available in one place, very systematically ordered, is an absolute miracle. A place where you can go and just chill or get completely freaked out about meeting the next deadline. And the fact that the public libraries are free in this country is a very big up. Power to the people and the word. The often rather uncool element of a library is the librarian. They seem to love books, filing systems and meticulousness but are not horrible fond of people. They appear moody, grumpy or a bit unsociable. As if dealing with people is the least favourite part of their job. At my uni library there is this very vivacious librarian with long nails and an immaculate weave. She definitely brings the funk into the profession. Is she the future of her line of work or the exception to my rule?

In that same library I came across another type of folk I can have a problem with: Jesus freaks. Not because they love Jesus, but because some of them insist I should love Jesus too. I am fully aware that there are people who are a big fan of their guy- God, Jesus- and won’t bother a soul about it. When asked they are happy to tell you about their conviction but fully respect your conviction is another. I am highly sensitive to the converting type within any faith, although I have never felt the pressure to convert to Buddhism or except polytheism as the way forward. I am happy if you have seen the light and accepted Jesus or who ever as your saviour. Assuming that it if it works for you it’ll work for everyone is almost rude.

In the beginning there was the word, amen to that. But have some faith in the word. Trust that people will find their way to it rather than you forcing it upon them and they run away screaming never to come back. Perhaps that moody, unsociable librarian has a point.

 

image: nerdfighter.ning.com

Don’t Believe the Hype

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I like language. The language of different languages. I can enjoy the beauty, funkiness and wittiness of language. I have never experienced being tortured by language – studying Arabic not included-  until now; I have attempted to read the Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. I am old enough to remember what a massive hype it was in the mid nineties. I also remember that I started reading it in a Dutch translation, but I never got very far. I was probably too self-absorbed due to age and my course (drama school) or I just wasn’t riding the new-age wave.

While crashing on Simone’s couch I spotted the work on her bookshelf and decided that the time was right to read it in the English original. The story is a work of fiction dealing with nine ‘insights’ humans have to experience in order to lead a better and more fulfilled life. Simone, who is a bit of a hippy although she does not like the word, really likes the book and so does her boyfriend. When reading the first few pages I was immediately taken aback by the way it’s written, but I thought not to be a snob and bravely ploughed on. In a week I got through halfway the book and then decided not to torture myself any longer nor waste any more of my valuable time. As a fairy I am quite interested in alternative views. These views -new age seems a rather dated term to me, very 20th century-  are often worded in poor language, which makes it difficult to take them seriously. I remember that many a reviewer had problems with the language of the story when the book just came out. And what all those sour pissers moaned about at the time is absolutely true. The story is very badly structured, misses flow and the sentence structure is very wooden. There is very little character development as the only purpose of introducing the dozens of characters as quickly as most of them disappear again – with the exception of the main character who probably makes a major shift at the end of the story- is to provide information on the ‘insights’. Everyone speaks English in the book although the story is set in Peru -an annoyance many non-native English speakers have with the assumption of many Americans that their language is naturally spoken all over the world. Besides a disrespect shown to language or rather the inability to use proper language in order to tell the story, the ideas portrayed in the book seem rather dated and very much written just-before-the turn-of the millennium when some felt a need for defining the spiritual requirements for the next thousand years. The nine ideas called insights the story evolves around come across as pseudo science especially when the explanation of the insights are linked to the main character’s psychology (I only managed to read up to the fifth or sixth ‘insight’ and although I can’t know for sure I don’t expect the tone of the story to change when it explains the remaining ideas). Another aspect I did not like is the way the (then) current state of humanity is seen; the glass is half empty rather than half full. The ‘insights’ deal with overcoming negative aspects rather than stressing the wonderful possibilities we humans (already) have. And although all this ‘wisdom’ comes from Peru the story has a very ethnocentric stance

I guess with all world views you adapt it to your own needs and if you can’t use it you just discard it. If I wasn’t against book burning and hadn’t borrowed this paperback b*llocks I would have burned this piece of tripe as it is an insult to my love for language, my intellect and my spirituality. Word to that.

image: rinkratz

Unfulfilled and dissatisfying prophecy

Abra-Abra-Cadabra: A Year in Arabic

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The academic year has come to an end. The final exams are today, which I am not attending and there is lunch with a little ceremony and although there is free food involved I am not attending that either. The last few weeks of beach, booze and party hard has completely distracted me from the purpose I came here for in the first place. I guess I have learnt some this year, but definitely not as much as I wanted or expected to. Arabic is an absolute f*cking b*tch to learn. Don’t start boys and girls and if it’s already too late; I feel your pain.

I state this ’cause when it comes to learning Arabic things can get rather messy and frustrating. Not only because I am convinced that Fusha (classical and modern standard Arabic) has been designed to discourage non-native (Arabic) speakers from learning it, but also on the streets, especially in Egypt, if you address people in Fusha they laugh in your face as it sounds heightened, like you’re being addressed in Shakespearean English. The point is that Shakespearean English is dead – in the sense that it is not spoken any more- and Fusha is the official written language, the language of media, education, politics and business across the Arab world and let’s not forget that it is the language of the religion of islam with about a billion followers, so therefore pretty much alive. If you’re learning Spanish, Swahili or Chinese you get to practice what you learn with the people on the streets. Not so with Arabic, especially when you’re in Egypt. There is the Fusha I learn at the centre, which I can practice by writing, reading the papers and listening to the news or cartoons (in Fusha), but which is f*cking useless when talking to people as they speak Masree or ‘ameya, which can be considered a dialect of Fusha. Since I chose to be here for my degree, which is Modern Standard Arabic and our ‘ameya classes in the first term were well boring and for a long time I couldn’t be bothered to address the stupid f*ckwits on the street in their language – I mean, I can do my shopping, take a taxi, tell a seller his price is too high, what else do I need. Now, I realise that it would actually be quite cool to speak ‘ameya so you can have a bit of banter with people, like Jameela has. If you look at students at the centre, who are pretty serious about their studies you can tell there is a clear division of people who focus on ‘ameya, ’cause they want to talk to people and people who focus on Fusha because of their degree and/or for religious and pan-Arab linguistic reasons. Coming to Egypt to brush up on your Arabic is actually learning two different languages. Or making a choice which of the two to focus on. Is a(n academic) year enough to learn two languages, especially Arabic and Arabic? Does that mean absolute dedication and having very little fun? Or is the aim to find the fun in the language learning? Or is the idea that you do your hard core Fusha stuff at the centre- and at home, taba3an-  and learn your hard core baladi slang from your Masree mates?

If I had to do it all over again I probably would have done it differently, but I don’t know how exactly. I suffered a lot in the first half of the year. From academic pressure, work pressure and boredom. In the last term I saw my Egyptian friends a lot more, met the Helms and thought; sod it. I’ve been boring for way too long let’s get loose. As a flatmate of a classmate once said -horribly clever, knowledgeable and entertaining, he so tops my list of cutest geeks : ‘In school or at uni they don’t teach you Arabic the right way with their stupid exercises and quizzes – weekly mini tests- and homework assignments. That might be the case but I (still) don’t know (yet) what my method is to master this b*llocks. End of an academic year; time to party some more. Time to refocus.

pain in arabic