It’s all in the culture

When it comes to learning about different cultures, in anthropology you don’t just study it but also evaluate it on its own terms. Nigeria and Ghana are similar in some aspects like being Anglophone and use patois but also different in other regards; Ghana was part of the bigger Ashanti Empire that encompassed its neighbour Cote D’Ivoire and that if I remember well, only a minority of Ghanaians in one survey associated goats and cats with witchcraft (I’m probably wrong in here as well). This is as opposed to a considerable number of Nigerians (especially Yoruba and Igbo) associating cats with witchcraft.

Not all Nigerians associate cats with witchcraft that much, some like the Fulani and Hausa actually have them around not only as pest control but also as pets per their Muslim faith. (This is surprisingly not true for Malian Bambara, despite being also Muslim themselves.) But it is important to evaluate cultures on their own terms, since you have to let go of your ethnocentric bias to better understand different cultural beliefs, attitudes and practices. Otherwise it would lead to a gross misunderstanding of what that culture believes in and if we’re talking about different countries, each would have their own culture and history.

Japan and Korea have similar histories of being influenced by China but diverge in some regards, whether if it’s the geography (Japanese archipelago vs Korean peninsula) or that their attitudes to cats are rather different as well. The Japanese may have several superstitions about cats (association with prostitutes, necromancy among others) but some of them also worship cat gods hence that’s why cat shrines exist in some parts of Japan whereas Korea doesn’t have such a tradition even if they associate cats with witchcraft and women.

Likewise Ghanaians and especially Ghanaian Ashantis differ from their Nigerian Igbo and Yoruba counterparts in which their word for cat doubles as the word for soul, despite a similar witchcraft association among a minority of them. Both of them are interesting in their own right, moreso if they’re evaluated on their own terms as they are even if they do change over time. (Koreans are getting less superstitious about cats as a whole, hence the rise in cat ownership among them.) When it comes to attitudes towards dogs, they also differ to varying degrees.

There’s the expected loyalty angle but also among the Yoruba dogs are associated with both prostitution or promiscuity and being an uncritical follower (among Westerners this goes to sheep), in the Democratic Republic of Congo dogs are both associated with witchcraft and prostitution. Among the Ghanaian Ashanti, there’s something like the Dog Totem for one clan where dogs are associated with adroitness. These are angles not commonly considered by TV Tropers, either they’re more ethnocentric than they’re realise or simply aren’t that exposed to other cultures much.

If the latter were true, then most of their examples tend to come from either Western cultures or Japan with just a minority about African ones. I even suspected there’s never a trope called Most Tropers are Westerners because that would be too honest, whereas anthropologists have to spend a lot of time with a non-Western culture to better understand their practices, attitudes and worldviews. Different cultures can and do have different attitudes towards animals, sometimes in rather surprising directions like one how one Cameroonian community uses cats (and cat meat) as weapons against witchcraft.

Different cultures can have differing ideas about animals, this sometimes manifests itself in the languages spoken like how in French, humeur de chien refers to a bad mood, temps de chien is bad weather and avoir du chien refers to a woman’s sex appeal. This also manifests itself whether in pet ownership practices and rates or how certain animals are viewed.

TV Tropes, knowledge and relativity

TV Tropes is a website that has changed the face of geekdom in the sense that it uses trope to mean stereotype and cliche as used in fiction, though often fiction popular with geeks (there are TV Tropers who do read less geeky stuff but they’re in the minority). The problem with how they name the tropes is that it may not always be applicable to another culture, according to TV Tropes depicting Italians as the Latin Lover is going against the stereotype but in Germany it’s the stereotype itself.

(Makes me think a good number of TV Tropes are either American or majority Anglophone, which would explain its bias but surprisingly nobody has named a trope after this.)

Let’s not forget that when it comes to calling a woman a fox (or vixen), it can be derogatory in other languages such as Spanish where it means either ‘bitch’ or ‘slut’ (the older definition of vixen used to occupy this territory too) especially the feminine form of the word. That’s not to say there aren’t any Hispanophone TV Tropers, they do exist but it seems a good number of the tropes/stereotypes they enlist and describe seem to only encompass what’s relevant to Anglophone speakers.

(When it comes to the word for she-wolf in Spanish, it means an attractive woman which’s what Shakira was going for in one of her songs since she’s a native Spanish speaker herself.)

Let’s not forget that in some African cultures (most notably Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo) dogs are associated with hypersexuality, so thus sensuality though it’s not covered by TV Tropes even though Nigeria’s Anglophone and probably has people frequenting the website as well. I recall one Nigerian post where somebody with the spirit of the dog is said to be promiscuous, which again does point out to a possible cultural difference between Nigeria and America or other Western countries.

(That doesn’t mean Nigerians hate dogs, many Nigerians like dogs more than they like cats but there’s a degree of difference between them and Westerners.)

It also manifests itself in the meaning of the word, in fact in some languages like German, Yiddish and Spanish the word for dog doubles as the word for jerk. TV Tropes doesn’t seem aware of this, which makes me think TV Tropers aren’t that well-read or at least most of them are. Well-read in the sense of knowing how one culture sees the other (in this case Germans stereotyping Italians as sensual and romantic) and zoosemy (animal metaphor and simile).

In French, the idiom avoir du chien means the woman has sex appeal so it’s there in some languages and cultures to an extent. Let’s not also forget that in the German language there’s a connection between foxes and having a cross temper in the word ‘fuchsteufelswild’, so it means hopping mad in English. That’s one connection Anglophone Tropers seem to miss, which makes me think many Tropers tend to come from the Anglophone world.

Not that well-read Tropers don’t exist but rather most of them aren’t exposed to a lot of other things which explains why they see things the way they do. There are some Tropers aware of different languages, though not to a big extent when it comes to zoosemy in other languages and cultures. Especially non-Western, non-Japanese ones like Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo for instance. They do to some extent, but it’s not as extensive as say either Anglophone geek culture and pop culture or the Japanese counterpart.

Which’s saying and telling when it comes to the things they obsess over, but that also involves missing out what else something can be viewed and regarded in other cultures. TV Tropes doesn’t have a big breadth and depth of what else is seen and regarded as in other languages and cultures, which involves being open to different things instead of the confirmation bias it often does. (I am guilty of this to some extent.) It does to some extent, just not as extensive as the stuff its users (read Anglophone nerds) are more familiar with.

A link between dogs and sexuality does exist in some languages and cultures, but it’s a detail missed out by Tropers possibly because it doesn’t fit their observations and confirmation bias. So is the English idiom ‘dog-tired’, which has a basis in scientific fact. Unfortunately, despite English being the first language of many Tropers it’s another missed out detail even though it does occur in spoken and written language. It’s not that TV Tropers are stupid, but not a lot of them are that well-read in other things.

As I realised, one could be smart with one thing but ignorant with another. I know the differences between each African culture and country but I’m in the dark about dog breeds, TV Tropers might be the same or similar. They know nerd subculture and pop culture well but are in the dark about foreign, nonwhite non-Japanese cultures to a large extent when it comes to other things.

I’m probably wrong here but it does make sense why there’s not a lot of TV Tropes pages about Philippine comic strips other than Pugad Baboy and Kenkoy. Why there’s no TV Tropes page for say Bogi Benda, which’s a popular Kenyan comic strip. TV Tropers aren’t necessarily stupid but they are ignorant in other things, which’s why I do see the userbase as less well-read in other things.

Endangered languages

There are many languages that get endangered for many reasons, some like Irish get endangered because they’re not the language taught by the colonisers and have been marginalised for years until recently and even then you have some native speakers distrusting those who’re learning it just recently. (That’s the case with somebody learning Scottish Gaelic.) I do think when it comes to endangered languages, there’s going to be a wealth of things not found in other languages that risk being lost.

The Irish language could be lost if more people didn’t learn and use it on a regular basis, the same can be said of other languages such as Skolt Sami and Sakha. Dyirbal, for instance, has the word for dog be grammatically feminine (as shared with Russian and Oromo), so it too risks being lost to time if more people didn’t more using it in everyday life or learning it in some way. As for Breton, we could lose the only Celtic language still spoken in continental Europe if it continues to be neglected in favour of French but the same can be said of others like Picard and Occitan.

I still think that while we may not be able to preserve all languages, a lot can be taken to make many more of them still around for generations to come.

Peculiarities of Iberian Spanish

To put it this way, the differences between Iberian Spanish and Mexican Spanish is similar to the differences between British and American English where they differ in vocabulary, pronunciation and possibly spelling. European Spanish uses boligrafo to mean pen while Mexican Spanish’s stuck with pluma, European Spanish has distinccion in which the soft c and z are pronounced as th as opposed to an s in French and Portuguese or a ch sound in Italian. It’s like how Australian, Estuary English and New Zealand English dialects aren’t rhotic (pronouncing the r) but West Country, Irish, Scottish, Canadian and American dialects are.

(In fact Elizabethan English may’ve sounded closer to Irish and West Country dialects.)

Iberian Spanish might not be the only Spanish dialect where soft c and z are pronounced th but it’s the most prominent example of such. Interestingly, only a handful of places in Spain lack distinccion which became a main feature of Latin American and especially Mexican dialects. (Though it could be argued that the languages in Mexico and the rest of Latin America lacked the th sound so it’s often conflated with the s sound there.) Then again that’s a feature shared with Greek where there’s a th sound and it’s represented by the letter for theta.

There’s a vlog somewhere that compares European Spanish to Greek in terms of phonology and pronunciation, though these may be examples of linguistic convergent evolution in which the Spanish ‘j’ sound started out as a stylised s or something before becoming a ‘kh’ sound. Iberian Spanish is interesting in which it’s analogous to British English whereas Mexican Spanish’s more like American English in which it’s widely spoken and popularised. Both of them have their own peculiarities wherein European Spanish opts for ‘boligrafo’ when it comes to ‘pen’ whereas Mexican Spanish goes for ‘pluma’.

Colours

When it comes to colours, they’re things the cones in the eyes can see coming from visible light where red has a longer wavelength, green a medium one and blue-violet a short one. Yellow’s intermediate between red and green. Cyan’s intermediate between blue and green but magenta, while intermediate between blue and red, is the absence of green from white light and unlike yellow and cyan it doesn’t have its own wavelength. (It could be argued that beiges and browns are extraspectral colours but they’re often dull yellows and reds.) White is actually all the colours but black’s the absence and most black items (even Vantablack) show the near-absence of colour.

That’s just how trichromats see the world, tetrachromats (those with one more cone receptive to a different wavelength of light, often ultraviolet for fishes and birds) can see more colours but only a handful of them illustrate what they actually see (see also Concetta Antico for more information). The way we see colours also affects the way we describe them, so if a Russian or an Italian speaker can see light blue and dark blue (azzurro/goluboy and blu/siniy) as separate colours, they’ll describe them as such whereas English, French and German don’t have that. (Irish can see two shades of green like glas and uaine as separate colours so uaine’s always a brighter green, but glas refers to both dull green of plants and grey of sheep and horses.)

Tetrachromats can see further colours that if they ever have a language of their own, they’d have words to describe those extra colours. The way we perceive and describe colour’s important in how we feel and regard things as, where in China red’s the colour of happiness and is used in weddings where white’s the colour of mourning (in addition to black and khaki or beige). For me, I always see white as an angry colour because it’s like what happens in a rainy day with all the clouds and watery noises. Blue is a happy colour because it’s the colour of the sky when it’s bright and dry (I like sunny days more than rainy days).

(Blue’s also the colour of early mornings and evenings.)

How we perceive colour also affects the way we describe them, whether culturally or scientifically when it comes to impossible colours where you see a darker, Stygian blue after seeing a bright yellow.

Daughter of a she-wolf

Rahne Sinclair’s a comic book character who’s practically a werewolf and also conflicted about her religious upbringing that she’s depicted as being tormented by it and being tormented by other people as to lead a miserable life, almost as if those writers don’t have a high opinion of Christianity.

She did confront somebody about his hypocrisy, where she said that his wife (her mother) is a prostitute but in the context of the Latin language where the word for she-wolf doubled as the word for prostitute (in Spanish this is referred to as equivalent to vixen) it makes too much sense that the werewolf would be the daughter of a prostitute.

From what I recall, Rahne Sinclair’s not that promiscuous (though I could be wrong about it) and very conflicted with her religious upbringing with regards to her powers.

Otakumania

When it comes to the Japanese word for geek, it’s usually translated into otaku which makes sense most of the time though I feel the Japanese word mania might refer to nerds whose obsessions are much more normal and socially acceptable. Somebody might be a sports mania, or a moe otaku by this definition and wording.

Or perhaps mania refers to those who obsess over something tangible, something like one could be a bicycle mania, whereas with otaku it usually means geek (obsessive over some things, socially inept) but where geeky interests are still looked down upon in Japan due to stigma over the otaku murderer scandal. I know somebody who referred to themselves as a music mania, so their obsession’s socially acceptable.

For some reason, I get the impression that the cartoonist Atsuko Shima’s closer to mania in the sense that her obsession’s socially acceptable (into foreign music, though she could be technically a geek over that) as with Hirohiko Araki to some extent (he’s not fond of bishoujo).

Even if the latter’s works are popular with otaku, but the creator of Berserk’s definitely well within otaku territory (if it weren’t for a comic defending something suspicious) as with creators of bishoujo media. If otaku and mania are nerds, mania are nerds with socially acceptable obsessions like say sports.

Otaku’s the go-for word for nerd, albeit nerds with socially unacceptable interests like bishoujo. Otaku’s usually used to translate nerd with and vice versa, mania does have a close equivalent in fan and aficionado (though the latter’s obsessions are more socially accepted).

On East Africa

Barring Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia (to some extent, as they’re all Afro-Asiatic majority as with North Africa), what unites Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda with Democratic Republic of Congo (to some extent, again)’s the use of Swahili though the usage varies.

There’s a meme saying that Swahili’s born in Tanzania, fell ill in Kenya, died in Uganda and then buried in Congo which makes sense to some extent, when it comes to the degree of usage that I feel’s the strongest in Kenya and Tanzania. (The language most likely used in Congo’s going to be French, which’s dominant there.)

To me, the biggest difference’s obviously going to be Swahili as it’s mostly spoken there whereas French predominates in the West and Central Africa, Arabic predominates the North, English’s widespread throughout West, East and Southern Africa.

(I could be wrong in here, but French does predominate in Central Africa from Cameroon to Congo.)

That and a presumably different accent and dialect, as Central and Western African dialects owe to patois then East African ones owe to Swahili more.

Is it really Afro-Asiatic?

That’s not to say Hebrew’s any less Afro-Asiatic (as in related to Hausa, Tamasheq, Tamazight, Arabic, Aramaic, Amharic, Tigrinya and a few others I miss), but I suspect that perhaps exempting dialects as spoken by Middle Eastern Jews (including those that remained in Israel and possibly those coming from the Arabian peninsula) it’s been suspected that most Hebrew dialects are influenced by Indo-European languages.

It doesn’t help that most European Jews spoke European languages, including Yiddish (which’s influenced by Hebrew) for a long time until recently that it’s unsurprising that the Hebrew spoken by Ashkenazi Jews (most European Jews to be honest and curt) would be influenced by Yiddish and its ilk. It doesn’t help that Ashkenazi Jews do exert a stronger infuence over Israeli culture and Hebrew that whatever Mizrahi/Eastern influence’s found would be marginalised.

(Even though ironically, some Mizrahi Jews have stayed in Israel for a much longer time and logically their Hebrew would be closer to the Biblical version.)

It sort of makes sense

Whilst cultural appropriation is certainly touchy in some cases where somebody doesn’t give credit to the cultures that inspired them, let alone with any genuine interest in such cultures other than the stereotypical perceptions but somebody else on Tumblr (of all things) knew their own culture’s so endangered that it would actually be a good thing to learn and do some of it in order for it to survive.

With regards to Celtic languages, it all starts to make sense given their endangered status that it’s necessary to keep them around though who knows if everybody else are willing to take the challenge though some people are to an extent. Actually and oddly enough with some Germans, they’re not just enthusiastic about Celtic cultures but also willing to learn Celtic languages (especially Scottish Gaelic) as to be remarked in the news media.

Should the Irish language be learnt by Germans and Italians en masse to rediscover their Celtic heritage, at the very least there would be enough speakers and learners of Irish to keep it from going away any further (which nearly happened in Ireland). But that does prove that person’s point in a way that if their language’s so endangered somebody else has to learn it to keep it from disappearing, which applies to Celtic languages well.