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World Association of International Studies

Post PLO Activity in Latin America
Created by John Eipper on 01/10/17 5:27 AM

Previous posts in this discussion:


PLO Activity in Latin America (Timothy Brown, USA, 01/10/17 5:27 am)

I agree with Istvan Simon's comments (9 January) about Palestine and that there are both rich and poor Palestinians. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is decades old and I met a few Palestinians during my 1965-67 assignment to the embassy in in Tel Aviv. But one thing I didn't realize until decades later while doing my doctoral research, was the active role the PLO, Palestine Liberation Front, played during the Cold War in Latin America.

During the Sandinista revolution that overthrew the Somoza regime in Nicaragua, PLO pilots flew numerous combat and resupply missions out of Costa Rica against the Somoza regime in direct support of Sandinista forces. The PLO regional headquarters was then established in Managua.

They, and other Central American guerrillas, received most of their foreign training in Cuba. (Before those who think that Cuba never did any such thing, this is extensively documented in several archives.) But some were also trained by the PLO and at least one of them, a former National Director of the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) I know personally, became one of the training cadre at a small base deep within the Libyan desert.

The Salvadoran FMLN also had links to Libya, the PLO and Iraq. A former FMLN (Faribundo Martí Liberation Front) leader once gave me a photograph taken at one of his face-to-face meetings with Saddam Hussein.

One reason why the Israelis, others in the region and Cold Warriors with long memories see the Palestinians as a challenge is because of its decades long campaigns not just against Israel but also because of the PLO's record of having once supported anti-West conflicts elsewhere.

JE comments:  Did the Palestinians receive their flight training in Cuba as well?  The link between the Middle East and the Central American Cold War conflicts could not be more convoluted.  Think of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, who as the "enemy of our [Iranian] enemy" was a de facto US ally.  Yet Saddam was supporting the Palestinians.  To complicate matters further, recall the Iran-Contra quagmire.  And Tim--wasn't there some sort of Paraguayan connection?

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  • The 1978 Bombing of Esteli, Nicaragua; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/13/17 3:20 AM)

    Gary Moore writes:

    As an aside to Timothy Brown (January 10) on unlikely seeming
    spillover from the Middle East into the long-ago Somoza conflict
    in Central America: I was in the "Martyred City" of Estelí when it
    was, so to speak, martyred.

    Amid the ruins, some residents had
    gathered disdainfully around the charred body of a Somoza soldier
    (it did seem to be true, as said, that nearly all of Nicaragua's civilians
    opposed the Somoza dictatorship). In the macabre atmosphere
    of PTSD and wildfire rumors that seemed to mantle ruined Estelí,
    they said to me insistently, "Look inside his helmet. It was made in
    the United States!" (It was a supposed proof of US perfidy on the wrong
    side.) So I picked up the helmet that lay beside the blackened form--and it said "Made in Israel."
    This might be juxtaposed neatly against Tim's observation that
    PLO and PLO-trained pilots were making runs against such troops.

    JE comments:  The 1978 (or was it '79?) bombing of Estelí by Somoza's air force lasted for 13 days, and may have been the most sustained and catastrophic bombing of a city in the American hemisphere--ever.  Am I mistaken?  Gary:  WAISers would like to hear more about your experience, and most importantly, how you survived it.

    There's a book to be written on Israel in Cold-War Latin America.

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    • Living Through the Esteli Bombing, 1979; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/17/17 8:28 AM)

      Gary Moore writes:

      Our moderator requested more info on my collision with Estelí, Nicaragua,
      when it became the "martyred city" in the endgame of the rebellion against
      Somoza--a mere few million years ago, in 1979.

      I was in Estelí twice during that chaos, and only got shot at once--learning
      that bullets don't sound like buzzing bees when they go by, but more like
      bottle rockets. The first time, the central plaza was already in ruins from aerial
      bombing (ancient push-pull planes in the Somoza air force). The marquis on
      a ruined theater continued its prophecy of globalization to come, announcing
      a bomb-canceled showing (presumably dubbed in Spanish) of Fiebre de
      Sábado por la Noche
      --Saturday Night Fever--starring "Jhon Travolta,"
      the bombs having sarcastically spared the misspelling, little guessing a
      far future age when he would be a Scientologist, a weight-lifter would be
      governor of California and, still later, globalization would await a riddle
      called Trump. The people ghosting through the ruins of Estelí were not
      short on PTSD-style stories on life's chaos, but they couldn't guess the
      exact future shape.

      Everywhere was the cautionary tale of war romance. Nicaragua, "the nation
      of poets" (apparently dating from emulation of Rubén Darío) had long been
      known locally as the nation of ruins, though this warning was lost on newcomers
      like me, who swallowed the tales that the anti-Somoza uprising was going to
      usher in democratic paradise. It was true that nearly every Nicaraguan outside
      the hierarchy seemed to hate Somoza and cheer the ragtag, romantic-looking
      rebellion by "the kids"--but what was not true was their vision that their violence,
      with all its violent consequences, was going to magically make Nicaragua a different
      kind of place. The corrosive, soul-wounding truth behind that mask (explored so
      inadvertently and disastrously by later Happy Warrior George W. Bush) is still the
      demon that will haunt, tempt, and contort foreign policy imperatives as of January 20.

      Across the plaza from the half-ruined theater was Estelí's somber cathedral,
      made more somber by impressive bullet holes in the mossy old cement, their
      cracks spidering out toward anti-Somoza slogans painted hastily on the walls
      by passing "kids." Estelí was bombed because it had become a defiant guerrilla
      stronghold, though in the confusing give-and-take it had come to be controlled
      for a while by the Somoza fort at the edge of town, though the guerrillas--the
      Sandinista National Liberation Front, in their inspiring red and black bandanas--would soon retake it, then to meet a larger Somoza push that cleared it again,
      when I met the bottle rockets. I stayed in a crumbling guest house with two
      local journalist friends, one of whom was later killed (the rumor mill said tortured
      to death), while the other, much less risk-taking, still later sneered strangely at
      his comrade's foolishness in getting captured, while, as ruin piled onto ruin,
      he became a scowling local bureaucrat in the eventual Sandinista government,
      as if cut from early Stalin. The guest house had its cubicles facing inward onto
      a dusty courtyard where a small mound was prowled by chickens and the
      occasional turkey. The mound was a child killed by the bombing, when it had
      been unsafe to go outside for burials.

      The owner of the guest house, named Gloria, served breakfast every morning
      in the dusty courtyard. The nonchalant way this carried on beside the mound
      perhaps serves as the best ending here.

      Jhon E comments: Gary, that's quite a juxtaposition, and quite a captivating story. I'll have to pester you further: Could you tell us more about life as a journalist during those violent days in Nicaragua? Were you freelancing, or on specific assignment?
      Estelí is written with an accent on the final "í," although the legend (repeated in Wikipedia) is that the locals now prefer to leave off the tilde, as they refuse to "be under anything." This may be a folk etymology, but I like it.

      (WAIS was off-line for several hours this morning, hence the delay.  My thanks to IT director Roman Zhovtulya for coming to the rescue.)

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  • Zionism and the Founding of the Israeli State (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/13/17 3:47 AM)
    Commenting on Timothy Brown's informative post of January 10th, John E wrote: "Saddam... [as the] enemy of our [Iranian] enemy, was de facto US ally. Yet Saddam was supporting the Palestinians."

    We have to realize that the Arab (and also the Muslim) world was lost with the creation of the (now racist) state of Israel.

    Already in 1840, Britain's Lord Palmerston suggested Jewish immigration into Palestine as a way to keep open the "Gate of the East" to England.

    When T. Herzl founded Zionism in 1897, there were very few Jews in Palestine, and it was not clear where the new Zion should be founded.

    But shortly thereafter, the Jewish migration to Palestine increased, especially from the Russian Empire. By 1900 there were 50,000 Jewish settlers versus a local Christian/Muslim population of Arabic culture of 600,000.

    We are now horrified by acts of terrorism, but the road to Israeli statehood was paved with acts of terrorism. Just remember Deir Yassim and Count Bernadotte, but any country has its terrorists/freedom fighters.

    The creation of the Israeli state was an ideological construct and not the request of an existing population in a given territory. Therefore it should be understand that the evicted population and its "brothers" may have problems with it.

    Anyway it is impossible to turn the clock back 120 years. The present existence of Israel is a fact to be acknowledged. However, Israel cannot keep another people as virtual slaves, continuing to steal land, houses and violating international conventions.

    For sure we cannot use the Old Testament as justification.  After all, the first conquest of Palestine was also paved by a horrifying ethnic cleansing and the massacre of men, women, children and even animals, and if someone believes that it was under the order of a God he may also believe that donkeys can fly.

    At present Italy (and Europe) is experiencing an uncontrolled invasion of immigrants. In the last three years there have been more than 500,000, and the numbers keep increasing. Within 100 years the native Italians will no longer exist, and the country will be a Muslim country.

    JE comments:  Many cite Israel (the Israeli state) as the root cause of today's Clash of Civilizations.  But what does such a statement mean?  Can we really believe that things in the Middle East would now be hunky-dory if the Israeli state had never been thought up?  Might it be fruitful to discuss this alternate history?

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    • Zionism and the Founding of the Israeli State (Istvan Simon, USA 01/14/17 10:07 AM)
      Eugenio Battaglia often makes comments about Israel which are not only wrong, but morally unacceptable. In his latest anti-Zionist posting (13 January), he affirms that there were few Jews in Israel when Zionism was founded by Theodor Herzl. Further, he levels the absurd accusation that Israel is a racist state. Israel is no more racist than Italy is, and certainly a lot less racist than Mussolini's Italy was, to say nothing about the ultimate racist nation of Nazi Germany.

      See: Theodor Herzl--Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodor_Herzl

      I'd like to challenge him on this assertion. Actually, there were quite a lot of Jews who never left the Middle East, among them fifth-generation Jerusalem-born ex-WAISer and world-renowned physicist Haim Harari, whose book I highly recommend to Eugenio and all WAISers. Furthermore, if the number of Jews in pre-1948 Israel was "small," than perhaps we should point out that the number of Arabs was also "small."

      In any case, small or not, there is only one religion that was continuously present in the region for over 4,000 years, and that religion is the Jewish religion. Christians were not present, because Jesus was born about 2,000 years ago, and Muslims are obviously the newcomers to the area, since their religion did not even exist until the 6th century.

      The second absurd allegation that Eugenio makes is that the location of a Zionist state was uncertain. This is completely absurd. Every Jewish New Year, Jews repeat all over the world the greeting, "next year in Jerusalem" in their families. This should be perhaps sufficient proof that the Jews of the diaspora had a deep cultural desire to return to their origins in Israel.

      That Eugenio manages to master so little sympathy for an industrious, resilient and supremely intelligent people, whose numbers in the world are so small, yet whose numbers amongst Nobel-prize winners are so high in percentage terms, who have been savagely persecuted for hundreds of years from the Spanish Inquisition, to the pogroms of Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, and so on, is a particular blot on his postings here.

      Eugenio levels accusations of terrorism against Jews in Israel. He remembers Count Bernadotte. Too bad he does not remember the murderous criminal grand mufti of Jerusalem...



      ...among whose "accomplishments" in his despicable life, was the expulsion and murder of Jews in Iraq, where they had peacefully lived for thousands of years. It is, of course a major blot on the world that this war criminal was not executed after World War II, but died in peace in Beirut.

      In his pontificating Eugenio seems to justify terrorism, or "freedom fighters" as he calls them, and that the "evicted population" may have problems with their "eviction." Too bad, that once again he does not remember that the "evicted" population includes the Jews of the diaspora, who after all were evicted from their land by the numerous "protectors" whose generosity that they had to endure during their history. That they include Jews that now live in Brazil (I know many of them personally) who were "evicted" by Nasser from Egypt. My friend Alain Bigio in fact wrote a book about it. Alain is a friend and colleague of mine since middle school, and all the way to our joint University education at the prestigious Escola Politecnica of the University of Sao Paulo, where we both graduated in Electrical Engineering in 1969.



      JE comments:  Did Herzl's Der Judenstaat take it for granted that Israel/Palestine should be the Jewish homeland, or were other locations discussed?  Didn't he also consider Uganda, at least briefly, to be an acceptable option? 

      Has anyone in WAISworld read Herzl's book?  I have not.

      Istvan Simon's impassioned post begs the question:  Is there any way to criticize Israeli policies without exposing oneself to accusations of anti-Semitism?

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      • Criticizing Israel vs Anti-Semitism (Istvan Simon, USA 01/16/17 4:36 AM)
        Our esteemed editor added a comment to my post of January 14, in which he asked if there is any way to criticize Israel without being accused of anti-Semitism.

        I have to protest this comment by our esteemed editor, as a non-sequitur to my message. Nowhere in my message I accused anyone of anti-Semitism. (Though the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem obviously was anti-Semitic.) So John's comment is definitely inappropriate to my post.

        But in any case, let me answer his question.

        There is no problem of criticizing Israel. I myself have done so, publicly in this Forum, and many many Israelis criticize the Israeli government. Many Israelis in fact help document mistreatment of Palestinians by their government, or settlers. So the problem is not that Israel cannot be criticized without being accused of anti-Semitism--it clearly can be criticized.

        But I would also like to address this issue a bit more thoroughly. Anti-Semitism is widespread in the world. To deny that many who criticize Israel, particularly if their criticism is harsh, are motivated by anti-Semitism is to deny Jews what everyone else enjoys, which by its very definition is clearly anti-Semitism.

        Let me illustrate this with a personal story. My best friend in school in Brazil was a boy, let me call him E in this post. In fact we are still still best friends today.

        E and I were best friends as we grew up together. I spent much of my time at his home, and vice-versa, he spent much of his time at my home. E's mother loved me, and always welcomed me in their home, but did not know that I was Jewish. Once, I was attending a birthday party at E's home together with many other boys from our class in middle school. One boy, let me call him J, also a best friend to both E and I, was also attending the party. J was Jewish.

        After much merriment, J left and went home. E's mother then said the following: "I have to say that I don't like Jews. I am against persecuting them, but still I do not like them."  As I said she was unaware that I was Jewish, nor did I disabuse her by telling her that I was. My best friend's mother was a hidden anti-Semite.

        JE comments:  Mea culpa.  Istvan Simon was addressing the topic of anti-Zionism (not anti-Semitism) his post of 14 January.  Granted, the two are often conflated.  How many anti-Semitic screeds are cloaked in the quasi-acceptable language of anti-Zionism?

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        • Anti-Semitism in Spain Today (Henry Levin, USA 01/16/17 7:20 AM)
          There is a lot of anti-Semitism in Spain. See the enclosed.

          A survey of college students reports that most do not want Jewish classmates, this in a country where only 1 percent of the population is of Jewish origin. Some of this may be due to conflating all Jews as supporters of Israeli policy, a big error, given the divisions of Jews on the topic of Israeli policies. But, much appears to be due to general attitudes among people who have never been exposed to Jews, but carry a cultural and religious stereotype in their heads.

          We have been going to Spain almost every year for 40 years and have a home there. We have not identified anti-Semitism among our friends and colleagues, many of whom we have known for four decades. But, the overall opinion polls of Pew and others show the Spanish with the highest rate of anti-Semitism in Europe, a country where few have even met a Jew. Interesting. I have light eyes and a very straight nose and am relatively tall, so do not fit the stereotypical picture of the hook-nosed, short, and beady-eyed cartoon Jew that is satirized in many Spanish publications. Thus I sometimes hear invective about Jews from unwitting sources. Of course, on revealing my religious origins, they are typically embarrassed and apologize for their remarks and tell me that their English is not very good or that their Spanish comes from dichos rather than their true opinions. My wife, a Catholic, gets much more incensed and deals with it accordingly.


          JE comments:  In a related post from August 2016, Henry Levin wrote that his Spanish wife Pilar was taught in her parochial school that Jesus was not a Jew.  This bizarre spin on history deserves a replay:


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          • Anti-Semitism in Spain Today (Carmen Negrin, France 01/16/17 2:15 PM)
            Anti-Semitism in Spain is a story as old as its church's!

            There are many popular "dichos" which are very derogative to Jewish people, just as they are to "moros" or "gitanos," all under the same category. And they do stick to people's minds even when they are not really racist.

            Franco had his own anti-Semitic laws, which most seem to forget. I am not even sure these laws have been officially abolished. One of his arguments against Republicans was that they were either Masons or Jews or both, besides being Marxist of course!

            Spaniards always refer to their generosity towards the Jewish people during World War II, and in the Yad Vashem museum they even refer to around 6000 Jewish people saved by Franco. What they don't say is how many were rejected nor that most entered illegally and were only accepted because of their money, not because of a traditional sense of hospitality, nor invited by the government. Diplomats like Briz who brought some Jewish people into Spain (usually as a transit country) did so against the government's laws and will. Some of these diplomats have now become Righteous Among the Nations..

            At present, the right-wing Rajoy government and the Chief Rabbi get along very well.  Needless to say that he is a very conservative Rabbi. This is good for Franco's memory and for Netanyahu. Very convenient.

            In spite of its dark past, and with no guilt feeling, I presume that Ukraine is probably even more anti-Semitic than Spain!

            JE comments:  Anti-Semitism is raising its ugly head in PiS-dominated Poland as well--despite the fact that nearly half of the Righteous are Poles.

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          • Anti-Semitism in Spain Today (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 01/17/17 8:41 AM)
            A brief comment regarding Henry Levin´s post on anti-Semitism in Spain (16 January).

            First, I must say I agree with the perception that in Spain there are still anti-Semitic or negative ideas among sectors of population, the product of ancient prejudices, ignorance, religious beliefs, envy, the political association of communist conspiracies with Jews, etc., and more recently, the product of Israel policies. Also, I believe that there is not a single country in Europe where there are not such negative feelings, to greater or lesser extents. However and fortunately, these perceptions have changed in recent times.

            Second, the studies and surveys mentioned in the Wikipedia article quoted by Henry, which by the way is historically very interesting, seem to be a little out of date, particularly the one by the American Pew Research Center.

            Regarding this subject, on 08/27/16, I posted my comments on Anti-Semitism and Anti-Muslim Sentiment in Spain, in which I quoted the same institution but a more recent survey, from 2015.


            That survey showed that in Spain, only 18% of population had an unfavorable perception of Jews, and that Poland, Italy and Greece had the least favorable perception of Jews among the countries in the study.

            Finally, one should remember that unfortunately it is very common in the European nations I know, and likely any part of Europe, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Holland, England or Norway, to hear invectives about any nationality, race, foreigners, immigrants, etc, and picturesque local or regional "nationalities," for instance Gallegos, Catalanes, Andaluces, Vascos, etc. in Spain. It is not exceptional to curse Moors, Gitanos (Gypsies/Roma), Jews or any other racial or religious community.

            This offensive behavior, irreverent and disrespectful as you might describe it with "political correctness," should not be considered a general attitude of the population or part of a national culture.

            JE comments: Interestingly, anti-Semitism in Spain is increasingly coming from the Left, in the sense that Jewish people are blamed for the heavy-handedness of Israeli actions. Jordi Molins in Barcelona (next) explores this phenomenon in detail.

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            • Measuring "Favorable" and "Unfavorable" National Attitudes (Henry Levin, USA 01/17/17 2:46 PM)
              I agree with the overall thrust of José Ignacio (Nacho) Soler's post of 17 January. But I need to remind us that blanket questions on favorability and unfavorability of particular groups is not comparable to specific questions that get below the generality. If students in higher education are asked about their views regarding having classmates from other groups, this tells much more about specifics than a general dimension such as overall favorability. You will find these differences in the surveys.

              Nacho is quite correct that we hear dichos (expressions) and chistes (jokes) about the "other" in Spain on a daily basis. But, it is the specifics of the conversation which can be "harmless" or deeply charged with hatred. Also, few Spanish have contact with Jews because the proportion is so small in the population, a small fraction of 1 percent. So, the question is on what are they basing their views? In contrast, contact with Andaluces, Gallegos, Moroccans, both directly and through the Spanish media, are daily occurrences. I think that anti-Semitism is not based upon direct contact or experiences with Jews, but some kind of cultural image which exists, paradoxically, in the absence of Jews.

              JE comments:  Hank Levin knows his statistical methods, and the "favorable/unfavorable" metric probably tells us less than we think.  For example, most US students wouldn't even understand the question about classmates, as they take it for granted that they'll be exposed to a wide variety of religions and ethnicities in school.  Moreover, they know their latent prejudices should be kept mum when the survey guy shows up.

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          • Anti-Semitism and the Spanish Left (Jordi Molins, Spain 01/17/17 9:22 AM)
            I agree with Henry Levin (16 January) there is a lot of anti-Semitism in Spain. Despite the traditional anti-Semitism of the Spanish Right (Franco's "Judeo-Mason conspiracy," for example), currently anti-Semitism comes mostly from the Left.

            Left-wing politics is becoming a religion, with the State playing the role of God, and left-wing politicians being its prophets. There is a clear morality code, whereby if you are rich, you are a bad person that deserves punishment, and if you are poor, you are good, automatically. With the increasing percentage of Muslims in Spain, the shared anti-Semitism of these two religions is being exacerbated. It seems likely both religions will eventually merge (at least, from some factions of both sides), resulting in "Islamocommunism."

            In Spain, Jews, and people supporting Jews, have to keep their mouths shut, for fear of physical retaliation. Thus, freedom of speech in relation to criticism to either left-wing religion or Islam is basically non-existent. An exception is Pilar Rahola, who has written several books about Islamism. Pilar Rahola receives death threats all the time, from both Islamists and Leftists. Pilar Rahola is not a "fascist" at all; in fact, in the US she would be closer to Bernie Sanders, probably. Despite all these threats, and her impeccable ethics, left-wing and Muslim "moderates" hate her intensely.

            The time in which all these threats will become real, and people will start dying for their opinions (despite being non-violent, and fully compliant with Human Rights ... or possibly because of that), is getting closer in Spain.

            JE comments:  Spain is seeing the creation of interesting alliances.  In the US, a merger of Islamists and the Left would be unthinkable, most likely because of the extreme social conservatism of most Muslims.

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            • Political Alliances of Leftists and Islamists: Venezuela (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 01/19/17 7:43 AM)
              When commenting on Jordi Molins's post of January 17th, John Eipper wrote, "Spain is seeing the creation of interesting alliances...a merger of Islamists and the Left."

              This is not an original phenomenon.

              Venezuela's government is clearly considered leftist (Extreme Socialism? 21st-century socialism? Cuban satellite? You name it). As in some other Latin American countries, Venezuela has large Muslim and Christian communities from the Arab world and Iran, mostly from Lebanon and Syria. They are economically prosperous, adapted to Latin idiosyncrasies, and very respectable. Over the last 18 years, they have also had a noteworthy political role in Venezuela.

              It is a well-known fact that Hugo Chávez´s regime supported and sympathized with terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and offered many of their members political asylum, Venezuelan passports, shelter, funds and even terrorist training camps in Venezuela.  They did pretty much the same with the Colombian FARC or Basque ETA asylum-seekers.

              There is a famous book (Palestine) by a Spanish journalist, who infiltrated a Hezbollah group for five or six years, around 2004.  He published the book under the pseudonym Antonio Salas, and described in detail the strong connections, support, funding, terrorist camps, etc.  However, a victim of his own extreme empathy syndrome, he apologized for the Islamist struggle against "Western imperialist governments."

              The economic and political alliances Chávez developed with Libya's Gaddafi, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, or the Iranian regime, particularly with Ahmadinejad, are well known.  The argument to support such alliances was of course the common imperialist enemies.

              Finally, nowadays, the political influence in Venezuela of the Arab-related communities (Muslim or Christian) is very strong. People such as Tareck El Aissami, Vice President, Tarek W. Saab, Abdel El Zabayar, E. Saman, Haiman El Troudi, Haitam Sabek El Hani, Kamal Naim, Radwan Sabagh, Raid Saab Halabi, among many others, are all high officials in the Maduro regime, particularly in Congress, legal, and security institutions. In fact, there has been recent international criticism about the risk of Venezuela becoming an even more solid stronghold for Islamic terrorism.

              I agree with J. Molins's comment that because of Israeli government policies against Palestinians, young people in Spain, particularly students, young leftist academics, artists and intellectuals, political left-wing or anti-capitalist groups (such as Podemos, Esquerra Republicana, la CUP, BILDU, etc.), and a large sector of society in general--"Progres" they are sometimes called--are sympathizers with the Arab Palestinian cause.  They are also critical of Jews for this reason, to the extent of cursing them in private.  I do not believe this extends to violent physical reactions, such as Jordi expressed in his exaggerated statement, "In Spain, Jews, and people supporting Jews, have to keep their mouths shut, for fear of physical retaliation."  On many occasions, I have expressed before Spanish audiences my sympathies and admiration to the Jews.  I am proud to have Jewish relatives, and have never received any physical retaliation.

              JE comments:  I'd like to know more about Tareck El Aissami, Venezuela's VP since just January 4th.  Somehow his appointment by Maduro slipped under my radar.  El Aissami is youthful, has impeccable Chavista credentials, and is seen by many to be the future leader of the movement.  I Googled him, and one of the first images to appear was a photo of El Aissami alongside Mr Putin.

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          • An Experience with Anti-Goyism? (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/18/17 3:42 AM)
            Fresh out of my PhD program, I was hired by Case Western Reserve University as an Assistant Professor. The faculty and administrators had many Jewish people and everyone seem to get along great, even though some were directly involved in raising money for the Israeli government and other Israeli causes.

            Coming from a family with a few closely related Jews and having some very close Jewish friends, I had no problem fitting in, and even sent my son to what I thought was the best school (it happened to be Jewish) and learned from him some Jewish prayers and other customs. I thought the whole experience was very educational. However, after one or two years, the school sent me a letter stating that since my son was not a Jew, he could no longer attend the school. Was that anti-goy behavior?

            I felt rejected but did not think about it as a case of anti-goyism. As a child in Brazil I heard the expression "pepper in someone else's eyes does not hurt." In a much more serious arena, we all should agree that for many reasons and in many places Jewish people have suffered very nasty behavior from non-Jews. But so have other people. Should anti-Semitism be viewed as any worse than what has been perpetrated against other peoples?

            I have great admiration for the disproportional Jewish intellectual accomplishments and contributions to mankind. Further, I greatly appreciate Jewish culture: peer pressure for good behavior, emphasis on education and knowledge, and the focus on family. On the other hand, the Jewish community, just like any other, is comprised of groups which often disagree violently. Further, some individuals and groups have been and some times behave as terrorists, criminals, and generally nastily toward other people.

            Thus in the immortal words of Mr. King: Can we please just get along?

            JE comments: That would be Rodney (King), not Martin Luther, Jr.

            "Goy" can have a derogatory ring to it, but the etymology is benign.  It's from the Hebrew for "people," or "nation."  Contrast this with the universally offensive "shiksa" for Gentile woman, which means "impure," or an "abomination."

            Politically correct talk about race emphasizes the shibboleth that only a dominant or hegemonic group can be guilty of racism.  The classic example would be that African Americans can never be racist against Whites.  So what about anti-Goyism, given that Jewish people have been marginalized and persecuted, but have also dominated many sectors of society, such as finance, science, and entertainment? 

            "Shibboleth" is also of Hebrew origin.  The original meaning (I just looked it up) surprised me.  Does anyone in WAISworld know?  As always with a WAIS quiz, no Googling allowed.

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            • My Diverse Family; on Tzedakah (Henry Levin, USA 01/18/17 8:26 AM)

              Tor Guimaraes's post of January 18th was interesting for me in my challenging world. My wife is a Spanish Catholic (non-practicing), my daughters-in-law are Brazilian, Dutch, and (ex) Japanese. My sons-in-law are English and Persian Jewish. Two of our children went through ritual conversions with Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and view themselves as Jewish. So, this is a complex subject. So, we are a very mixed family, but feel comfortable together in religious discussions. None of us are hard line on these matters. In fact, all we seem to care about regarding religion is social commitment and Tzedakah (good works and charity). It is the latter that occupies our religious views.

              JE comments:  Tzedakah is from the Hebrew word for "justice" or "righteousness," which is a slightly different meaning from "charity" in the sense of generosity.  Does this imply a real difference in today's practice?

              Hank Levin's family is one of the most global I know, although many in WAISworld have spouses from a different nation or culture--starting with the Oxonian Ronald Hilton, married to a woman (Mary Bowie) from the Iowa heartland.

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            • Another Example of Anti-Goyism: Sao Paulo (Istvan Simon, USA 01/18/17 2:35 PM)
              Tor Guimaraes's experiences (18 January) bring to my mind another experience of a Jewish neighbor, who lived in the apartment above ours in São Paulo, Brazil. My dad used to greet her with "Wie Gehets Schone Frau?" (How are you, beautiful woman? for WAISers who don't speak German.)

              Schone Frau had a little boy, Marcelino. Marcelino went to school at Externato Nuno de Andrade, on Avenida Higienopolis in São Paulo. The nuns at the Externato school gave Marcelino beautiful pictures of Saints and Jesus, which Marcelino happily took home. Schone Frau did not like the pictures, and told Marcelino to give them back, which he did saying : "Minha mae me falou que ela não quer esta porcaria." (My mother told me that she does not want this garbage.  Actually, porcaria does not literally mean garbage--but I don't know how to translate it otherwise.)

              JE comments: Pig manure? I'm pretty sure porcaria lines up with the Spanish porquería.  It's especially vile stuff for those who keep Kosher.  Istvan:  how did the nuns react?  With understanding?  Rage?

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              • A Word on the Portuguese "Porcaria" (Istvan Simon, USA 01/20/17 4:50 AM)
                As a further comment on my post of 18 January, Porcaria is a word in Portuguese which is hard to translate because its meaning depends on context. It does come originally from porco, which means pig. But it does not mean pig manure. Here are some examples with translation:

                Este computador é uma porcaria--Here porcaria means a low-quality thing: This computer is a low-quality one. [I vote for "a piece of pig crap"--JE.]

                Você deixou a cozinha numa porcaria. Here porcaria means a mess: You left the kitchen in a mess. So, when Marcelino said, Minha mãe disse que não quer esta porcaria, it is hard to translate what it means exactly: It sort of just means, "My mother said she does not want this undesirable thing."

                JE comments:  Obrigado, Istvan!  The Spanish porqueria works exactly the same.  Why, one asks, has the noble swine always had such a bad reputation?  Two-thirds of the monotheistic religions are pig-averse, but pigs are smart, hardy, and delicious.

                Ed Jajko is next with a porcine comment.

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                • More on the Porcheria: Italian (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/20/17 12:38 PM)

                  The Italian porcheria is the same as in Spanish and Portuguese, and French cochonnerie.

                  JE comments:  Swinishness is in the air today!  (Ahem...)  Next up:  Rodolfo Neirotti.

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              • Swinish Language (Edward Jajko, USA 01/20/17 5:12 AM)

                The Portuguese porcaria has its equivalent in Yiddish: chazerai--filth, from the word for pig. Polish has a similar form:  "swinia" = pig; "swi'nstwo" = filth.

                JE comments:  The pig is the most maligned animal in every language I know.  Can anyone tell us if it's the same in Asia?  There must be cultures somewhere where hogs are a sign of prosperity and good fortune.

                Second place may go to Man's (and Woman's) Best Friend:  dirty dog, sick as a dog, hair of the dog, or (ouch) bitch/perra.

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                • Porcaria Again (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 01/20/17 2:34 PM)
                  I do not see the reason to use the equivalent in Yiddish and Polish to get the English meaning of the Portuguese porcaria.

                  Google translate gives the same result "filth" without the long equation we've gone through. Furthermore, the Larousse Portuguese-English dictionary--an excellent source I frequently use to prepare my lectures in Portuguese for my trips to Brazil--lists rubbishy (sem valor), filth (imundice), piece of junk (coisa malfeita), rubbish (coisa sem valor).

                  JE comments: But Rodolfo, the "long equation" is what WAIS is all about! We've turned a mere vocabulary word (porcaria) to a rich discussion on "swinishness" across the linguistic and cultural spectrum. Google Translate may be faster, but it's a coisa malfeita:  it doesn't provide what anthropologist Clifford Geertz would call the "thick description."

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                  • Pigs, Porcaria, and Google Translate (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 01/23/17 4:39 AM)
                    In response to John E's remark of 20 January, I do not believe that Google Translate can be regarded as a coisa malfeita--piece of junk, since it was not designed to provide what anthropologist Clifford Geertz called the "thick description."

                    Google Translate is just a component of a chain of innovations or reforms that are the result of the need to improve something or solve a problem. The only way to beat an existing technology is to bring in a disruptive and creative new technology that is a strong alternative. Just bad-mouthing it and stressing its handicaps do not go very far.

                    Nor is the "long equation" always the answer.

                    Interestingly, I had the opportunity to see a copy of one of Albert Einstein's theses provided by a friend of mine working at a library in Zurich. To my surprise, it had only a couple of pages. Making something complicated simple is a positive skill. Conversely, making something simple complicated with a long equation is not.

                    JE comments: Rodolfo Neirotti's countryman Elías Castelnuovo (my PhD thesis topic) said the same thing: Es fácil explicar las cosas en difícil. Lo difícil es explicar las cosas en fácil. (It's easy to explain things in "difficult." The difficult thing is to explain things in "easy.")

                    Yessir, WAIS can be guilty of overanalysis.  But I'll stick to my original point that the chaff of the long-winded discussion can yield gold nuggets of insight.  Silver linings too.  (How about that dreadfully mixed metaphor?)

                    My favorite Google Translate screamer came from a student who entered "wether" instead of "whether," and came up with the Spanish equivalent of Castrated Ram:  "We don't know castrated ram we'll go to the game tomorrow or not."  Garbage in, garbage out.

                    (I'm not sure castrated ram I already posted this anecdote on WAIS.  If so, please forgive.)

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                    • Easy Explanations of Difficult Things, and an Einstein Quote (Istvan Simon, USA 01/24/17 5:01 AM)
                      Regarding Rodolfo Neirotti's post about easy explanations of difficult things (23 January), I'd like to quote Albert Einstein, one of my all-time favorite quotes. Einstein said: a theory has to be as simple as possible, but not simpler. This is a really deep insight. It basically means that there is value in having a simpler theory than a more complicated one, provided that it agrees with the observed facts. That's what the "but not simpler" means. The theory is too simple if it does not fit the known facts.

                      Consider the ridiculous theory of Creationism versus Darwin's theory of Evolution. Creationism is the perfect example of a theory that is simpler than as simple as possible. It does not fit the known facts.

                      JE comments: Simple but not too simple: that's it.

                      The late, great Formula 1 car builder Colin Chapman (Lotus) is known for a similar quote: add lightness. He is reported to have said that the way you perfect a race car is to remove pieces until it falls apart. Then you put the last part back.

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                      • Einstein Again: on the Simple and Complex (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 01/25/17 2:40 PM)
                        Istvan Simon sent this quote from Albert Einstein: "A theory has to be as simple as possible, but not simpler" (23 January).

                        Interestingly, we started this discussion with something as simple as the meaning of the Portuguese word porcaria, and now we are moving into the potential limitations of going too far by making something complex simpler--too simple?

                        I enjoyed and appreciated Istvan's posting for raising the value of Einstein's concept.  It is particularly important in complex systems in which their function, performance, and outcomes depend on the interaction of multiple individual, technical, and organizational factors. These structures would not be strong and complete should one of its modules come to miss. In these complex socio-technical systems, human factors research has been a major contributor to safety, reliability enhancement, and error avoidance.

                        The most conspicuous advantage of the human mind is its remarkable ability to simplify complex tasks, a strength that can also be a weakness. This is something I experienced during my entire career in cardiac surgery--a complex system that has much in common with other complex structures that often demand complexity in situations in which simpler may affects outcomes.

                        JE comments:  I´m not sure what you mean by "come to miss," Rodolfo.  To be out of whack?  To fail entirely?

                        But in any case, your message is clear.  There are times when complex is truly complex.  I hope Freud will forgive me if I say that sometimes a cigar is far, far more than a cigar.

                        If I may ask, could you illustrate this with a specific experience you had in the operating room?

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                        • Simple and Complex, or, Tales from the Operating Room (Rodolfo Neirotti, USA 01/29/17 11:07 AM)
                          When commenting on my post of January 25th, John E wrote: "I'm not sure what you mean by 'come to miss,' Rodolfo. To be out of whack? To fail entirely?"

                          In complex systems, as I mentioned in my posting, function, performance, and outcomes depend on the interaction of multiple individual, technical, and organizational factors. Then, if one of the multiples components fails to perform--come to miss--the entire system is vulnerable.

                          JE: "If I may ask, could you illustrate this with a specific experience you had in the operating room?"

                          RN: Before being recruited by the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam and then recruited by Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I worked in Argentina, therefore, differences in culture, resources and technology have had a significant impact in my practice and interactions with colleagues, patients and the public.

                          Rather than talking about specific experiences in the operating room, I prefer to emphasize the characteristics of the setting and the importance of short-term creativity to produce good work and dealing with the uncertainty of tomorrow's needs. In Argentina, where I performed more than 3,500 operations on children with congenital heart diseases, we were forced to implement an ingenious multi-principle adaptive work, the KISS approach (Keep It Simple and Safe), to help more patients with the available funds, equipment, and manpower.

                          With this approach, which eventually became a policy, we were able to make a significant impact on pediatric cardiac surgery in Argentina, as well as in other Latin American countries, whose surgeons adopted it. Nonetheless, we were able to recognize the limitations of simplification--less is more--and to identify the conditions in which complexity demanded complexity. A flexible approach but never simpler that was adjusted to the patient diagnosis and needs.

                          Interestingly, after some initial resistance, I was able to adapt and implement this approach in a different contexts such as Amsterdam and in Michigan that had first-world human and physical capital.

                          I apologize for the length of my response, but this topic was relevant during my entire career.

                          JE comments: To think that our colleague Rodolfo Neirotti has saved thousands of lives. I stand in awe.

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                      • The Einstein Quote? Not So Simple (Francisco Wong-Diaz, USA 01/26/17 4:27 AM)
                        As this article shows, the background of the "simple" quote attributed to Einstein is not simple at all:


                        JE comments: Thank you, Francisco! It turns out we oversimplified the Einstein maxim, "a theory should be as simple as possible, but not simpler." (The essay above casts a wider net:  "everything should be as simple...")

                        There is no record that Einstein said or wrote these exact words, but he "meant" them in several of his writings. It was the composer Roger Sessions who attributed the quote to Einstein in a 1950 interview. From that point, it became part of the Einstein popular oeuvre.

                        Apocryphal quotes reach aphorism status if they convey what someone "should" have said.  In this sense, they're an interesting source of collective knowledge and myth-formation.

                        I'll be spending more time with the Quote Investigator website.

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                        • An Apocryphal Emma Goldman Quote (John Torok, USA 01/31/17 9:23 AM)
                          In response to Francisco Wong-Díaz (January 26th), here's another apocryphal quote I rather like: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

                          --Emma Goldman

                          JE comments:  Happy New Year to my good friend in Oakland, John Torok.

                          WAIS never gives Emma Goldman her due.  See below for some classic quotes.  Note that #1 is on dancing and revolution.  Is our apocryphal EG quote not apocryphal after all?

                          Here's another:  "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."  The US and UK of late have proved her wrong.  I think.


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                      • More on Theories, Simple and Complex (Tor Guimaraes, USA 01/29/17 8:42 AM)
                        I could not resist this discussion on theory and research, and wish to add some observations.

                        John Eipper may have stretched too far commenting on my 24 January post with: "[Conspiracy Theories], like 'true' theories, are examples of higher-level thinking. Non-human animals can develop technology, but they don't do theories."

                        I am sure animals take action by assuming that it will lead them to something desirable. If they can develop technology, they do it with premeditation. That seems to indicate implicit theories (broadly defined) about reality, albeit informal. If the animal technology worked, the underlying theory was right and reinforced.

                        Regarding Istvan Simon's post of 24 January, Einstein's words, "a theory has to be as simple as possible, but not simpler" have a direct bearing on the art of modeling any real-world phenomena where the modeler wants to include all relevant variables/parts in the model but not the unimportant ones which would unnecessarily complicate the model. Given the fact that any given real-world phenomenon can be as complex as we humans can handle, how does a modeler/theorist know how much is too much or not enough when developing a model or hypotheses? The answer depends first on the study's objectives, and ultimately on the model's ability to predict the real world.

                        Istvan is right to state that "there is value in having a simpler theory than a more complicated one, provided that it agrees with the observed facts. That's what the 'but not simpler' means. The theory is too simple if it does not fit the known facts." However, sometimes it takes more than a more elaborated existing model. Even the great Einstein missed the boat a few times. For example, in the context of subatomic physics, otherwise good existing theory was useless, no matter how simple or complex we made them. It took a completely different view/theory/model (very unorthodox and rejected by Einstein and all until its predictive power was established) from another new great mind: Heisenberg.

                        JE comments: Next up on the theoretical: Rodolfo Neirotti, with an example from his vast experience as a cardiac surgeon.

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                • Pigs and Culture in Asia, New Guinea, Australia (Martin Storey, Australia 01/21/17 7:38 AM)
                  I am not an expert in wordology*, but I can contribute elements of answer to John E's question on pigs from first-hand experience.

                  My wife, who is Chinese although not from China, tells me that the pig is also maligned amongst Chinese people. She herself thinks otherwise: she grew up on a pig farm, still loves eating pork like everyone else in her family, and often reminds us how a pig heart valve graft gave her late father extra years of life. Moreover, and speaking from her own experience, she calls pigs the "cleanest animals."

                  As the Pig is one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac, about one in twelve ethnic Chinese must have been born during a Year of the Pig. Wikipedia informs us that every 10th of the 12 months in the Chinese Lunar calendar is a month of the Pig, and every day between 9 and 10:59 PM, it is the hour of the Pig. What's more, we learn of Pig-signed people that "they are artistic, refined, intuitive, intelligent, and well-mannered. These souls love the preliminaries in love, and are fine artists in their lovemaking." A simple combinatorial brain teaser to flush the blush: assuming that births are randomly and uniformly distributed in the calendar, how many Chinese people are pig archetypes, or have a parent or child who is?

                  Turning to Southeast Asia: while with the UN in the late 1980s, I worked briefly in Thailand where I was a guest in a number of homes. I was quite surprised to see tacky posters of pigs hanging on walls in several. Then I was introduced to a lady called Pig, and to another one. Unfortunately I cannot remember whether that name was their actual name or a translation that they asked me to use. Either way, I was given a simple explanation for all these pigs, and there is nothing "cochon" about it: pigs have fair or pink skin, which is considered a very desirable attribute for people in Thailand--just like in other Asian countries. Hanging a pig poster in the room of expecting parents or of a young child is a way to wish for a fairer-skinned child, and naming one's child Pig there is not beyond the pale...

                  Further East, pigs are at the main object of power in New Guinean societies practising the Moka (quoting Wikipedia again): a highly ritualised system of reciprocal gifts of pigs through which social status is achieved.

                  In my adopted country of Australia, pork on the plate is just that, but pigs in the bush, also known as razorbacks, are detested feral pests. Introduced by the First Fleet in May 1788 when 49 pigs were brought into Sydney as a food source, there are now an estimated 23 million feral pigs in the country, ravaging native fauna, flora and soil. That this be exactly the current estimate of the human population in Australia is a coincidence. Wikipedia again: feral pigs "are considered to be the most important mammalian pest of Australian agriculture." Occasionally, a feral pig is featured in the national papers if it has newsworthy monstrous proportions. There is some irony and circular viciousness to the fact that humans, who upon their arrival some forty thousand years ago probably caused the extinction of all Australian megafauna, may now be responsible for the evolution of a new megafauna which, if anything, accelerates the destruction of the natural environment.

                  There is an apparent inconsistency between the last two paragraphs, given that New Guinea and Australia were joined by land until about 8,000-10,000 years ago: how can pigs be so important and entrenched in New Guinean tradition, but just-arrived in Australia? Should it not be the same on both sides of the Torres Strait? The answer, I have just learned surfing the net, is that New Guinean pigs too were introduced with human intervention, from mainland Asia according to recent genetic studies, but much longer ago, around the time when the land bridge disappeared under water.

                  *And I am not sure what the word is for the appreciation of animals, but it is not zoophilia...

                  JE comments: Perth's own Martin Storey doesn't write WAIS often enough, but his posts are always worth the wait. This one's a whole-hog of an informative post. Dare I go out on a limb and ask a question: aren't pigs especially prized in traditionally "anthropophagic" societies, such as New Guinea? There is a popular notion that pigs and humans taste nearly the same. I don't know who conducted the experiments.

                  A joyful New Year to you, Martin!

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                  • Pigs in Celtic Culture (Jose Manuel de Prada, Spain 01/22/17 4:56 PM)
                    Pigs were quite important for the Celtic peoples of Europe, and are featured often in Welsh and Irish Medieval literature.

                    For example, in one of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, an early set of interconnected mythological Welsh narratives, we are told that the first pigs seen in Britain were a gift of Arawn, king of the Otherworld, to Pryderi, Lord of Dyfed. Disguised as wandering storytellers, envoys of another realm stole the pigs, and a bloody war ensued.

                    According to Miranda Green's Animals in Celtic Life and Myth (London, Routledge, 1992) in the Celtic countries "[p]igs were and are kept almost exclusively for their meat: they are a very valuable resource in that they are able to eat virtually anything and convert a great variety of organic matter, inedible to other species, into high-quality meat. It is often thought that the Celts spent much of the time hunting boar and that this was their source of pork, but it is clear from the faunal record that most pig bones on Iron Age sites are those of the domestic pig" (p. 18).

                    From what Green says elsewhere in the book, pig bones, as well as those of other domestic species, appear in graves, and were used in a ritual context.

                    When and why in the Middle East pigs at some point became taboo is a question I'm not sure anyone has answered satisfactorily.

                    No doubt, at some point the capability of pigs to eat anything began to be seen as a rather negative trait.

                    And there is also the fact that trichinosis is associated with the consumption of pork.

                    Many years ago, in New York City, I met a Jewish-Argentinian scientist (I think he was a physicist) who tried to persuade me that there is written evidence, in the form of clay tablets, that the taboo on pork had been fostered by the Levites, because they traded in pigs with non-Jews and allegedly this benefited their business.

                    Obviously he was joking, but he spoke about this with enthusiasm.

                    JE comments:  Great to hear from you, José Manuel.  I'm eating pig as I type these lines--pepperoni pizza.  In my book, it's the perfect food.

                    I teach my students that the Inquisitors in Spain were always vigilant about who ate pork and who didn't, as a litmus test for authentic Christians.  Don Quixote was careful to serve duelos y quebrantos (scrambled eggs and chorizo?) on Saturdays.  Does José Manuel or anyone in WAISworld know if the Inquisition ever brought charges for non-pig eating, or is this another myth associated with the era?

                    How many in WAISworld have read the Four Branches of the Mabinogi?  I'll plead ignorance.  It's the oldest known work of prose in Britain.  All good Welshmen and Welshwomen must know it--Nigel Jones?

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                  • How to Keep your Pigs Clean (John Heelan, UK 01/23/17 3:59 AM)

                    Martin Storey's piece (21 Jan) reminded me of when we kept a few pigs in our farming days for family consumption. We found that the secret of having clean pigs relied on the way they were managed, as they are basically clean animals if managed properly.

                    For example, when introducing them to a sty, we found that it was best to put them in the opposite side to the slatted area where they would defecate. As a result they would scurry to that area, defecate from the stress of being moved, and thereafter always "go" in the same place. We also found that when we replaced their straw bedding, they preferred doing it themselves, enjoying themselves ripping up the straw bales, tossing them in the air and thus distributing the straw around the sty. My wife told me once that when she was coming back from market with a new set of piglets crammed into the back seat of her vehicle, she heard another driver comment when both were stopped at traffic lights: "Aren't those children ugly!" (smile)

                    JE comments: Piglets in the back seat?  In the US, you would get stopped for not having them in an approved child seat.

                    Pigs and cleanliness invite a nature-nurture debate.  John Heelan teaches us that pigs are only as dirty as the people who keep them.  So when we say "filthy pig," are we really pointing a finger at ourselves?

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            • Anti-Goyism, or Cultural Difference? (John Heelan, UK 01/19/17 6:26 AM)
              Tor Guimaraes wrote on 18 January: "The Jewish community, just like any other, is comprised of groups which often disagree violently."

              Perhaps there is also a cultural element in those violent disagreements. At one time, I was negotiating business contracts with Israeli companies, and I used to get upset when they shouted at me. However, I soon became mollified when I realised that they shouted at each other as well.

              (I recall my Jewish boss--an expert in negotiating business contracts--shouting at somebody over the phone, "I might be a Zionist, but I am not a bloody fool!")

              JE comments: We could put together an excellent WAIS thread on comparative negotiating styles. Contrast American, Japanese, Chinese, British, German, Russian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Israeli, et al. There is also a crucial distinction to be made between business and diplomacy. (Trump will need to learn this soon.)

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              • An American, a Russian, a Pole, and an Israeli... (Henry Levin, USA 01/19/17 8:49 AM)
                During the Cold War, a public opinion firm decided to do a study of four countries (Russia, Poland, US, and Israel) for responses to the following question: "Pardon me sir, but what is your opinion of the shortage of meat?"

                They started with Russia, but the Russian could not answer the question because was puzzled by the word "opinion." They went to Poland, but the Pole also had difficulty because he was unfamiliar with the term "meat." They went to the US, but the Gringo was tongue-tied because of his ignorance of the meaning of "shortage." Finally, in frustration, they went to the last of the countries, Israel, and asked the same question, "Pardon me sir, but what is your opinion of the shortage of meat?" The Israeli was puzzled and could not answer the question because he didn't understand. The interviewer asked which words he failed to understand. His response was that he had never heard the words, "Pardon me, sir."

                Also, readers of the best-seller by Michael Lewis, The Undoing Project, on the collaboration between American-Israeli, Daniel Kahneman and his equally brilliant (but deceased and ineligible for the prize) Amos Tversky and their impact on colleagues at their American Universities in the 1970s will read about their "collaboration." In their frequent meetings, behind closed doors, their yelling at each other, which reverberated down the halls, created anxiety and fear in their colleagues who were worried that they were coming to blows. Subsequently, they would leave the room with smiles and comraderie, happy with what they had accomplished in the fray.

                JE comments:  That's a joke for the ages!  (It was a joke, correct, Hank?)

                WAIS is not very strong at gender issues, but we should throw the male-female divide into our discussion of comparative collaboration styles.  For men, it's the result of a negotiation that matters.  For women, it's the process.  Or not?

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            • Got a Shibboleth? (David Duggan, USA 01/26/17 11:12 AM)
              In response to John E's question (see Tor Guimaraes, January 18th), originally the word "shibboleth" was used as an identity test by the Gileadites against the Ephraimites who had fled from battle. When the Ephraimites were captured they were asked to pronounce "shibboleth" but pronounced it "sibboleth" and were therefore slain. See Judges 12: 4-6.

              Apart from that, it appears to have no intrinsic meaning.

              JE comments: Thanks, David, and sorry about the delay in posting. This one got lost for a week.

              I've found a definition: the shibboleth for the ancient Hebrews was the part of the plant which yielded the grain, such as an ear of corn. But did the ancient Hebrews have corn?

              A similar story is told about the Dominican Republic under the dictator Trujillo. Haitians were asked to say "perejil" (parsley). Pronouncing the word in the guttural French fashion, alas, got you slain. Did Trujillo pick up this wicked trick from the Old Testament?

              Corn on the cob with parsley, anyone?

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              • Shibboleths, and Old World Corn (Edward Jajko, USA 01/27/17 3:41 AM)

                Honored JE, you are thinking like an American (no surprise), and not
                recalling that the word "corn" antedates its association with maize.  (See John E's response to David Duggan, 26 January.)

                "Corn" is any grain crop, especially wheat. The Hebrew "shibboleth"
                and the Ephraimite "sibboleth" mean "wheatsheaf." In the story in Judges 12, the Ephraimites fleeing from battle with
                the Gileadites under Jephta, actually all soldiers trying to cross the
                Jordan, were required to say the word "shibboleth." The Ephraimites
                couldn't; their word for the same thing was "sibboleth."

                It is not
                uncommon in Semitic languages and dialects for consonants to vary
                according to certain patterns. So the unfortunate Ephraimites were
                slain, more than 40,000 men. (The two words are written exactly the
                same, shin/sin-bet-lamed-tav. To distinguish shin and sin, one puts a
                dot on the top right of shin and on the top left of sin, but this is
                not required.)

                I have problems with this Biblical story. First, the men would not
                have been ordered, as the Bible says, to say "shibboleth." It is more
                likely that they would have been detained, even briefly, and a
                wheatsheaf would have been held before their faces. They would have
                been asked to identify what the item was. Those who answered
                "shibboleth" instinctively would have been allowed to pass; those who
                instinctively said "sibboleth" would have been killed. Pity not only
                them but also the Gileadites and Ephraimites who had speech defects,
                an inability to pronounce sibilants, or too much fear to respond.

                Second, the number of dead is too great. That many men killed in an
                inter-tribal battle would have amounted to the wiping out of the tribe
                or house of Ephraim. Third, surely canny Ephraimites who saw and heard
                what was going on would have figured out how to save themselves and
                would have pronounced the word properly. The fact that in their
                dialect the word was "sibboleth" would not have excluded the use of
                the "sh" sound in other words; which is to say, it was probably a
                phoneme available and familiar to them.

                "Shibboleth" is still part of the Hebrew vocabulary and cognate forms
                are found in Arabic. "Sunbulah" is the exact equivalent, a feminine
                singular (as is the Hebrew) meaning a single wheatsheaf. "Sunbul,"
                masculine singular, means "wheatsheaves" in general. Most people of
                some education know the Egyptian colloquial form of the word, in the
                name of the southernmost monument of ancient Egypt on the Nile, Abu
                Simbel. "Simbel" represents the Egyptian colloquial pronunciation of
                the modern standard word "sunbul."

                JE comments:  Nobody in WAISworld out-philologizes Ed Jajko; thanks for this informative post.  Several other WAISers also caught my corny anachronism.  (Kudos to you, too, Bob Gibbs!)  I presume the first appearance of "corn" in the shibboleth context came from the King James Bible, 1611.  Does anyone know if maize had reached England by that time?

                A related question for Ed:  How easy is it for Arabic speakers to learn Hebrew and vice versa?  And which one is "easier"?  Brazilians seem to pick up Spanish with greater facility than Spanish-speakers learning Portuguese.  Is there an analogy with these two Semitic languages?

                Our colleague in Brasilia, David Fleischer (next), has sent a shibboleth story from the Uruguayan independence period.

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                • You Call it Corn, We Call It Maize; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/28/17 9:38 AM)

                  Gary Moore writes:

                  As to the Old World spread of the New World's corn-maize (Edward Jajko, January 27),
                  we know maize wasn't in the Old World before 1492, and probably not before Cortés
                  in the 1520s. The spread of "corn" after that, both agriculturally and linguistically, is
                  claimed to have a crucial twist, pegged to an Unknown World in the other direction.

                  There were the Turks, a gigantic and mysterious empire to Europe's east--whence
                  many exotic things came. Not just maize but a number of new agricultural products
                  started showing up in Europe as grandees tried them on their estates, while public
                  information was a little slow. Surely these strange new farmyard items had come,
                  like coffee, from the Turks. So soon, farmers were wedding known names to the
                  familiar code-word for "exotic." At first, Europeans talked, in full clumsiness, about
                  "Turkey corn"--the grain supposedly from Turkey.

                  The pattern is demonstrated in
                  reverse by a still more familiar heir. Looking at those strange things with the puffed
                  feathers appearing on innovative farms, Europeans talked about the "Turkey cock."
                  Eventually, one term dropped the prefix and one dropped the suffix, giving
                  us "turkey" and "corn" (among other famous gifts of the exchange, like
                  pellagra and probably "the French disease," syphilis).

                  JE comments:  The Slavic languages give turkeys their proper New World origin--indyk in Polish, indejka in Russian.  French, too:  dinde.  (Let's leave aside the fact that the "Indies" themselves were misnamed.)  I was curious about Hungarian turkeys, and they're pulyka.  No clue.  Can Istvan Simon explain the meaning for us?

                  Gary Moore triggered my memory of a TV commercial classic.  It's from 1976--yikes again.  Note how Mazola perpetuated the stereotype of earnest and humorless Native Americans.  Did this come from Tonto?  The Tearful Indian of anti-pollution campaigns?


                  This WAIS topic evokes another American icon:  the Corn Maze.

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              • Got a Jota? (David Fleischer, Brazil 01/27/17 4:15 AM)
                When Brazil gained its independence from Portugal (7 September 1822)--a father-to-son "deal"--Uruguay was part of Brazil, the southern province. A conflict arose with Argentina over Uruguay. It was finally settled (imposed by the British) and the independent nation of Uruguay was created.

                In this conflict, the Brazilians asked their captives to pronounce the letter "J"--if they said "Zota" they were slain, but if they replied "Jota" they were spared. Another pronunciation "test." Maybe our WAISer colleagues can come up with other such examples.

                JE comments: Wouldn't it be "hota" (h sound, but written j) for the Spanish-speakers?

                We language teachers don't emphasize pronunciation like in the old days. The belief (shibboleth?) of the "communicative approach" folks is that pronunciation will naturally become more natural with practice. This is true, but what happens when phonemes are a matter of life or death?

                And David: wouldn't a 30-second conversation be sufficient to identify a Lusophone?  Or not--how many of the famed "33 Orientales" could speak Portuguese?

                Feliz ano novo to you, David!

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              • Another Language Test: Chickpeas (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/27/17 4:31 AM)
                During the Vespri Siciliani, the 1282 Sicilian revolt against the French occupation of the Angio, it is reported that the escaping French soldiers were recognised because the Sicilians asked them to pronounce the Italian word "ceci" (chickpeas) and they would say "cecì" in the French style instead of "chechi."

                (It is not so easy to try to compare French and Italian pronunciations using English!)

                JE comments:  Absolutely Eugenio.  Ceci n'est pas ceci?  I think we need a plural verb here to make sense.

                These pronunciation tests are irresistible to language geeks like me, but I wonder how many of them are apocryphal.  For starters, they refer to a time when very few people could read.  How could you administer the jota or ceci test on the illiterate?

                In my next Spanish conversation class I'm going to cite these examples.  What's the penalty, students might ask, for incorrect pronunciation?  Death.

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              • Why I Don't Say Beach (Francisco Ramirez, USA 01/27/17 12:15 PM)
                There is a reason why I say seashore and not beach.

                Standing some years ago in front of a class at San Francisco State U, I made a reference to going to Santa Cruz and admiring the beach, alas pronounced bitch. So, it is always "seashore" for the little guy from Manila.

                My children and now grandchildren roll their eyes as I encounter vowels, and this word too can be a problem.

                JE comments:  Yes, Francisco.  Must take care of one's vowels! I cannot imagine what General Motors was thinking when they came out with two different electric Chevys: the Volt and the Bolt.  Doesn't anyone at GM know that Spanish speakers make no decision?  They should have called the Bolt the Electric Nova.

                Q:  What do you call the male child of the seashore?  A:  No "A" is necessary.  Groan is optional.

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                • Excuse Me, How Much is this Sheet? (Enrique Torner, USA 02/03/17 5:44 PM)
                  I have the same problem as Francisco Ramírez (3 February), so I neither go to the beach, nor go shopping for a sheet. Instead, I swim in the ocean, and shop for bedding.

                  Once a Hispanic friend of mine went shopping for sheets, and, while looking at some, she was looking for the price tag, but couldn't find it. A clerk came by, and she asked: How much is this "sheet" (short i)? The response: "Well, if you don't like it, you don't have to buy it!" So my friend walked out of the store all confused! Her husband later explained what had happened.

                  JE comments: And what about people who would never choose bedding as a gift for newlyweds? Well, they just don't give a sheet.

                  Son of a Beach! (That's the answer to the today's riddle. I told you it was a groaner.)

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                  • More Sheets...or Sheeeets (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 02/04/17 3:18 PM)
                    My wife and I would like to express all our understanding to Enrique Torner's friend, 3 February.

                    When we lived in the US, my wife Mariarosa kept very busy with her painting. (Among her clients was the great actress and philanthropist Marlo Thomas.) See Mariarosa Scerbo's website in English, Spanish and Italian.


                    Her clients frequently requested paintings on fabrics. She painted on wool, Thai Silk and cotton. The only good large cotton available were the Wamsutta king-sized sheets from Marshall Field's, so she had to use the word "sheet" quite often.  For her it was a nightmare. She solved the problem pronouncing the word as sheeeeet just to be sure.

                    But sheet was not the only problem.

                    Once a very sophisticated rich and beautiful Jewish lady came to visit her.

                    They were in the basement/studio looking at some paintings when the lady asked for the restroom. Promptly my wife answered, "it is outside" instead of "it is upstairs." The house was in front a nice park and the lady, joking answered: "I knew that life in a house in the suburbs was quite different from life in an apartment in front of the lake, but I did not expect that..."

                    JE comments:  Small world--Marlo Thomas (born in Detroit) is the daughter of Danny Thomas, who was born in the minuscule town of Deerfield, not far from Adrian.  Danny T lived in Adrian for some years.

                    Eugenio:  Please tell Mariarosa that her work is exquisite for this critic, especially the sacred pieces.

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                • Joys of Menu Translations (John Heelan, UK 02/05/17 6:13 AM)
                  Menu translations are a source of confusion as well. When visiting my favourite city--Seville--I decided to have a Chinese meal. The ever helpful Chinese (mainly Hong Kong Chinese I have found in Spain) had provided English translations of the Chinese and Spanish menus. I was put off by the "Shitken" and chose the "pollo con arroz" instead.

                  We have spoken before about bloomers in brand names in different languages, such the Rolls-Royce "Silver Mist" for the German market, Perrier's soft drink "Pschitt," and Japanese products like "B-M" or "Pocari Sweat." Of course there is the Chevy "Nova" and Ford "Cortina" (for Spain) while in China, apparently the characters for Coca-Cola were translated as ""bite the wax tadpole." I wonder how well Japanese "Asse" coffee sold in the US.

                  As for John E's Q: What do you call the male child of the seashore? My answer would be Alex...Sander. I live by the seashore! (Now you can groan!)

                  JE comments:  WAIS stumbles on this topic about once a year, and I never tire of it.  How about the IKEA "Fartfull" desk, or Wang Computer's ill-fated slogan for the UK, "Wang Cares" (wankers)?


                  Chinese menus are in a class by themselves.  My favorite Chinese place in Ann Arbor had an entire page devoted to "shimps" dishes.

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                  • Biting the Wax Tadpole (Edward Jajko, USA 02/06/17 3:39 AM)
                    "Bite the wax tadpole" for Coca-Cola?  (See John Heelan, 5 February.)

                    Hmmm...My recollection is that the four characters in Chinese writing that make up the word for Coca-Cola, "k'e k'ou k'e le," are read as "can drink can enjoy."

                    JE comments: My recollection of this classic screamer is that "can drink can enjoy" was the second attempt to translate Coca-Cola into Chinese.  And are we speaking just about Mandarin?  Wouldn't the several Chinese languages read the characters differently?

                    The pantheon of bad translations must have a lot of apocryphal members, such as Gerber selling its product in Africa with smiling babies on the label.  In societies with a high level of illiteracy, the custom is to label a food product with a picture of what's inside.  This is a fascinating example of cultural miscommunication, but did the Africans really think they were buying jars of pureed babies?

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                    • Refresh with (Pocari) Sweat! (Istvan Simon, USA 02/07/17 12:38 PM)
                      My friend Ed Jajko's always thought-provoking posts brought to my mind a Japanese ad for a drink that was promoted for sports enthusiasts a few years back.

                      When they marketed it in the West they called it Pocari Sweat. Needless to say, it was not a great success in marketing circles.

                      JE comments: John Heelan referred to Sweat just two days ago, but we should say more.  Wikipedia tells us it is popular throughout Asia, as well as in the Middle East.  I'm up for trying it.  Amazon sells its Sweat in easy-to-mix powder form.  Tempting.

                      Next up:  "Wudy" brand sausages and frankfurters, from Italy.

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                • How About "Coger"? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 02/05/17 6:38 AM)

                  Gary Moore writes:

                  Re: Francisco Ramirez's hilarious rendering of his beach/seashore epiphany
                  in English pronunciation: We've all been there, knowing the strange pain
                  of a linguistic thorn. 

                  Francisco set me wondering about nebulous questions in
                  my own background, and I realized I had only a vague alarm bell, and
                  not a real grasp, of the Spanish pitfall-word "coger."
                  Turns out that here, as ever, the Web is way ahead of me, and there's
                  a site for such words:


                  But I'm still not sure I entirely trust their analysis/advice on "coger."
                  Any takers (who can explain the transnational nuances of catching this seashore)?

                  JE comments:  The article above fails to mention that coger (to take or grab) is extremely common in Spain, and has no vulgar connotations.  Just last week in class we saw a Spanish short film where a female character says, "no me cogen por coja" (Nobody will hire me as a dancer, because I have a bum leg).  In South America, this statement would tickle every puerile funny bone.  Closely related in Spain:  recoger (to pick up, as at the airport).  For the Argentines, this would be carrying out a sex act...again.

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                  • Paja, Pajudo, Pajero (Henry Levin, USA 02/05/17 9:17 AM)
                    The discussion of language slips is more fun than the painful discussions around Trump.

                    One time in a meeting with students, I blew it. As you know, paja (straw) is another word for "bullshit" in Latin America. One of the students asked me what I thought of a particular author's interpretation of an event. I responded that this person was a "pajudo bien conocido" [well-known BSer--JE]. The student was from Venezuela or Colombia and screamed and lost all composure and ran out of the room.

                    It turns out that in some countries the term pajudo means one who amuses himself by abusing himself, masturbation. When I returned home, I told my wife. She had lived in both Colombia and Venezuela and had never heard that meaning before.

                    JE comments:  Indeedy, Prof. Levin, you called the author a "wanker."  Remember the Mitsubishi Pajero (Masturbator)?  Possibly even less marketable than the Rolls-Royce Silver Manure.

                    Should you need a drinking straw in Mexico, make sure you don't use the non-Mexican word "pajita" (little paja).  It's a popote in Mexico.  "Excuse me, Sir, would you be so kind as to give me a pajita?"  Yes, I've made that mistake before.

                    To return to weightier matters, Hank Levin sent this link to a Cato Institute op-ed comparing Trump to...Kaiser Wilhelm II.  Author Doug Bandow (no pajudo, he) makes some interesting points.  Shall we discuss?


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                    • Pajudo, Pajuo (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 02/06/17 3:16 AM)
                      Regarding Henry Levin's post on "pajudo," Venezuela is the only place in Latin America where I ever heard the word used, or its variant "pajúo." It has a lot of meanings depending of the context, but definitely it is not used to call one who amuses himself by masturbation, but somebody silly, stupid, or idiotic, or someone who makes fun of people, a liar, a gossiper or tattletale, a boring person or even a coward.

                      Maybe originally its meaning was to refer to somebody addicted to self-abuse, or maybe it was the belief among young people that excessive masturbation would eventually turn one into an imbecile, a belief spread by Catholic priests to repress it.

                      I cannot be certain, but the current meaning is that.

                      A more interesting word similar in less common context is "jalabolas" or "jalamecate," meaning a evident and exaggerated flatterer.

                      JE comments:  The Urban Dictionary on-line describes "pajúo" as "100% echa [sic] in Venezuela" (100% made in Venezuela), but the Colombians use it, too.  The meaning is in line with Henry Levin's original understanding:  a gossiper, a spewer of flattery, or a clumsy and stupid person.  I will ask around to see if it carries any masturbatory connotations elsewhere in Latin America.  "Pajero" is definitely the preferred term for the latter.

                      Back to an English question:  What is the origin of the euphemism "self-abuse"?  It must be church-related.  The Online Etymological Dictionary traces the term back to 1728, but gives no details.  Prior to that, it was "self-pollution" (1620s).  "Polución" still has that meaning in Spanish, such as "polución nocturna."

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                      • Self-Abuse and Macbeth (David Duggan, USA 02/06/17 12:38 PM)
                        From Macbeth, Act 3, scene 4 (when Macbeth sees Banquo's ghost), the concluding lines spoken from Macbeth to Lady Macbeth:

                        "Come, we'll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse

                        Is the initiate fear that wants hard use:

                        We are yet but young in deed."

                        I'll leave to others more literarily inclined the question whether the juxtaposition of "self-abuse" and "hard use" in a pre-bedtime conversation between a ball-busting wife and her murderously compliant husband has any sexual connotation.

                        JE comments: Sounds racy to me.

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                  • Coger, and Parva Leves Capiunt Animas (Paul Preston, UK 02/06/17 11:44 AM)
                    On the ambiguities of the Spanish verb coger: there is the tale of what happens if you ask a Mexican or an Argentinian where to catch a bus: "¿Por dónde puedo coger el autobus?" (where can I "coger" the bus?) and back comes the reply, "Pues, podría ser por el tubo de escape" (try the exhaust pipe).

                    As for menus, I remember with affection the one in a restaurant near where I worked in Rome--"Osso buco con fungui" rendered as "bone hole with fungus," or from my student days in Madrid, "Rape a la marinera" (Monkfish in a shellfish sauce) as "Rape sailors' way."

                    Puerile? As my teachers used to say reproachfully, "Parva leves animas capiunt" (it was a Catholic school), leaving us to finish with "and small pants fit small behinds."

                    JE comments:  Small things amuse small minds.  From Ovid?  I'm with Paul Preston here:  great minds enjoy small things, too.

                    I'm not much for rape, but bone hole with fungus sounds delightful.

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              • Another Language Test: Scheveningen (Timothy Brown, USA 01/28/17 3:16 PM)
                During my tour in Amsterdam (one of my favorite diplomatic assignments), I learned that during the German occupation of the Netherlands during WWII, to tell whether someone was Dutch or German, they would have them say "Scheveningen," the name of a neighborhood in The Hague, since almost no one who's not a native speaker of Hollands could pronounce it correctly. (I flunked this test every time!)

                Languages can be tricky. According to another story I heard during my years in Amsterdam, a short-lived ad once aired on Swedish TV as a new sales pitch for a vacuum cleaner client:

                "Buy a Hoover. It really sucks."

                I leave it to John to explain why this pitch was a ball not a strike.

                JE comments:  A few years back we discussed the legendary (and probably apocryphal) Lucas vacuum cleaner, the only thing in the company's line that didn't suck:


                All the German occupiers needed was YouTube.  A commentator is correct that "shaving again" sounds pretty close.


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                • Pronouncing British Place Names (John Heelan, UK 01/29/17 1:32 PM)
                  Americans are often faced with the linguistic difficulties of pronouncing the names of English cities and towns that are sometimes different from the way they are spelled.

                  Although WAISers are far more world-wise, here is a small cheat sheet: "Lester" (not Lie-cester), "Edinbrugh" (not Edinboro) , "Sissiter" (not Cirencester), "Yovil" (not Ye-ovil), "Shroesbury' (not Shrewsbury).

                  London districts provide even more problems--"Chissick" (not Chis-wick), "Clappam" (not Clap-ham). Was it Churchill who remarked that the US and the UK are two nations divided by a common language?

                  JE comments: "Sometimes different from the way they are spelled":  John Heelan, in a nutshell, has described the entire English language!

                  We have at least one biggie in Michigan:  Mackinac (the island and the Straits) has no final "C," unlike Cadillac.  It's pronounced "Mackinaw."  And how about this Florida challenge?  Islamorada.  How would you pronounce it, WAISers?

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                  • English Spelling: What Gives? From Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/31/17 3:39 PM)

                    Gary Moore writes:

                    John Heelan's very useful gazetteer (29 January) on how to pronounce the names of English cities opens a vast mystery:
                    Just why is it, exactly, that English stands out for its seemingly illogical spelling?

                    Is the only other alphabet
                    language with such a quirk to be found just west, in Ireland? What has shaped the written versions of English
                    and Irish/Gaelic into such non-intuitive gyrations? Is a stubborn Celtic lyricism closer to the surface in English
                    than we tend to think? Did the stuffy English decide to obstruct entrance to the Old Boys' Club of fluency by
                    making the spelling so forbidding (an early visa edict for the figurative seven nations)? Does Ireland, too,
                    have spelling bees? (Other countries would seem unlikely, since their spelling is predictive, a built-in cheat sheet.)

                    Is it like the weather--with everybody complaining about it but nobody doing anything (apologies to Clemens)
                    to see where it came from?

                    JE comments:  I like the Old Boys' exclusivity theory, although the best guess is that there is no Academy (Royal or Otherwise) of the English Language to update and issue edicts on how we must spell.

                    I make this point in my Spanish classes:  kids in the Spanish-speaking world don't have to take spelling.  

                    But do the Irish have spelling bees?  Yes--http://www.rte.ie/tv/programmes/spellingbee.html --but in English.  What about Gaelic?

                    Last fall the Adrian College Theatre Dept put on a production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  It's a cute, feel-good musical comedy, with audience participation.  On the night I attended, a colleague of mine was dragged onstage and asked to spell a very challenging word:  Cow.

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                  • Joys of English Pronunciation: Arkansas (Tom Hashimoto, UK 02/07/17 12:06 PM)
                    As I gradually come back to WAISdom after so many months of silence, I thought John Heelan's topic (29 January) is an appropriate one for me to get used to American English.

                    Yes, Ar+Kansas is what I had a problem pronouncing when I first learned English.

                    On a separate note, there is a rumour that British agents were denied entry during the May-Trump joint press conference, because the FBI could not confirm the agents' identity. Apparently, the agents filled in the documents with the British style of birth dates--i.e. dd/mm/yy.

                    JE comments: Welcome home, Tom! Some of our newer colleagues may not know that Tom Hashimoto is a prolific WAISer from the early (pre-JE) days. Despite his youth, Tom is a true WAIS veteran, and a citizen of the world.  Most recently, he's been completing his DPhil at Oxford and conducting research in Warsaw.

                    Tom, do I catch a hint from the above that you may be returning to the US?  Tell us more!

                    How many non-Americans knew this one? The Arkansas River pronounces the final "s," but Bill Clinton's state does not.

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                • Schevinengen, Again-gen (Timothy Brown, USA 01/29/17 1:43 PM)
                  Two more comments on my "Schevinengen" post.

                  I don't remember there being any YouTube during WWII, although maybe there was but I was too young to remember.

                  As for Scheveningen, pronouncing it "shaving again" as per the viewer's recommendation, would probably have "gotten" the speaker shot, tossed into a frozen Dutch canal or strapped onto the revolving sail of a windmill.

                  JE comments: A logistics question.  How do you throw someone into a frozen canal?  Did the Dutch underground keep a hole chopped out for disposing Nazi riffraff?

                  About all things Dutch, this item came across my desk.  "America First," clearly, but why not the "Netherlands Second"?  As the video proudly notes, they have a long history of building really awesome walls.


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              • Language Gaffes: Spanish (Richard Hancock, USA 01/29/17 4:18 AM)
                After reading our discussions on "porcaria" and "Shibboleth," I would like to recount some of my experiences with using the wrong words in Spanish.

                Being raised on a ranch in New Mexico where practically all our employees were Hispanic, many of whom could not speak English, I was able to speak and understand Spanish by the time I was 10 years old. I never took a Spanish class until I was in high school. The Spanish that I learned speaking to Mexicans on the ranch and maids in the house included some words not acceptable in polite society. I was not aware of this so I made some embarrassing errors (please note "embarazado" in Spanish means "pregnant" rather than embarrassed).

                I studied animal husbandry for my BS degree at New Mexico State University, but I took a Spanish course in almost all of the semesters that I studied there.

                The Spanish Dept. took us on a good-will tour to an educational institute in Chihuahua City where there were many speeches made by Mexican professors to which responses were made by our native-speaking Spanish students. When we ran out of native Spanish speakers to respond to the Mexican speakers, Dr. Carl Tyre, the head of the Spanish Dept., asked me if I would make the next response. Being fairly confident in speaking my sheep-herder Spanish, I replied that I would be happy to do so. Just before I got up to speak, Dr. Tyre gave me a hand-written note which read, "Muchas gracias por sus agasajos." I didn't wish to read directly from his note so I quickly memorized it and when I got up to speak, I said, "Muchas gracias por sus agazados." Agasajos means favors but agazados means "gassing" in the border vernacular. The Mexican students laughed uproariously and all the teachers stood and "shushed" them.

                My first job out of college was to work with the "Foot-and-Mouth Commission" in Jalisco, Mexico. One day I was loading a horse in the back of the commission power wagon in the village of Ezatlán. This horse was difficult to load and when I finally was able to get him in the truck, and I went into the store where I was parked and found the owner of the store and several teen-age girls that had been watching me. When thy commiserated with me over my problems with this pony, I answered, "Ese caballo se porta como un pedo." Which to me meant that the horse acted like he was drunk. What I had said in reality was, "This horse behaved like a fart." In the community around Corona, NM where my father had his ranch, people use the expression "anda pedo" for being drunk. The owner of the store turned to the girls clustered around him, saying, "Es que el señor no sabe español." After the girls had departed, I learned what I had said.

                This year while at the home of a friend for Thanksgiving dinner, I talked with a young lady from Perú. I asked her if they used the word "gringo" in Perú. She replied that the word was not common in Perú. I sang her a verse from a song that my father had taught me when I was probably seven or eight years old. He had served as the foreman, in the early twentieth century, on a ranch just east of today's Big Bend National Park where all of the cowboys were Mexican. In addition to American cowboy songs, he taught us Mexican songs. The verse that I sang was, "Los gringos son pendejos; no sé qué hacen ahora. En vez de diez reales, dicen dollah and a quarter." This young woman gasped, because "pendejo" means fool but also means "pubic hair." The Dictionary of New Mexico and Southern Colorado gives the meaning of foolish, inept, etc. but makes no mention of "pubic hair."

                Fortunately, Latin Americans are very tolerant of gringos who make these mistakes, but intolerant of fellow Hispanics who behave in a manner not acceptable in Latin America. When I was in El Salvador, 8 or 9 Hispanics from New Mexico and one Puerto Rican were employed by USAID. The New Mexicans were inclined to speak to people too much in the familiar, while the Puerto Rican took great care to use formal Spanish when speaking to high-level Salvadoran officials. I don't think that my fellow New Mexicans realized that they were considered rude for over-using the familiar forms.

                When I was training Peace Corps at Oklahoma U, one of our Spanish teachers, a Puertorriqueño, always gave the volunteers a lecture on bad words in Spanish. This lecture drew quite a number of students and faculty that were not connected with the training program. I guess that they were fascinated by offensive expressions in Spanish.

                We took our nine-month-old son with us to El Salvador. Over the next two years, he spent quite a lot of time with our gardener, who taught him a considerable collection of dirty words in Spanish. I recall lying in bed early in the morning and hearing our blond child yelling at the maids, "Dame jugo, putas!" (Give me juice, you whores!). The maids thought that this was very cute and were highly amused. I have always said that male behavior in Latin America is modeled to some extent by the fact that maids will never scold a male child for misbehaving and the child's mother also tends to cater to his every wish. The father might discipline a male child, but often does not spend much time with his children.

                JE comments:  "Dame jugo, putas":  imagine an adorable little boy screaming this on YouTube.  It would go viral, guaranteed.

                Great stories as always, Richard.  I've never encountered "agazar/agazado."  Wouldn't it be with an "s" in any case?  "To gas," as in the trenches of WWI, is "gasear."  Passing gas, whether human or (presumably) equine, is "echar pedos" or the more polite "flatos."

                This reminds me that we're still looking for an answer to the "esperquéndico" mystery  (David Pike, January 24th).

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                • More Language Cringes (John Heelan, UK 01/29/17 6:19 AM)

                  Robert Hancock's comment on language gaffes (29 January) made me recall--with shivers--my own that I have reported on WAIS before.  They range from confusing coño with caña when ordering beer in a Madrid bar for some friends to the dangers of different idiomatic uses in American and UK English.  

                  I still remember the aghast look on a female colleague's face when I told her that "I would knock her up early next morning" because she had a flight to catch. Yet perhaps the prize goes a friend (who usually had a good grasp of German) complaining of being overheated at the pool one day.  She said, "Ich bin heiss," shocking another rather prim female Bavarian companion who pointed out that the phase was idiomatic for "I am horny."

                  JE comments:  These are fun.  Offering to "knock up" a female colleague in the US is a guaranteed ticket to the HR Director, possibly for "career assessment and re-employment."

                  It's 7 PM at WAIS HQ:  almost time for a caña...

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              • Shibboleth and the Mother Lode; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 02/02/17 7:48 PM)
                Gary Moore writes:

                A word impossible to rhyme? Shibboleth. (Yea, the Mice of Time do nibbleth?)

                Fascinated by WAIS's ability to compile an original shibboleth directory, plumbing niches of history for the times when tomato/tomahto turned fatal, I began wracking my brain for another example I'd heard, but found that memory had retained only the cryptic clues "bread and cheese" + "London." Try Googling that and quickly you're drowning in grilled cheese sandwich recipes, not shibboleths.

                But the dark arts of keyword searching are deep, and eventually I dug into more than I'd bargained for, a place where the new WAIS compilation shares a spiritual home, and to some extent is reinventing the wheel.

                But first, here's the WAIS compilation of shibboleths: Jan 18-27: Tor Guimaraes, David Duggan and Edward Jajko brought up the original example, from Judges in the Old Testament, when the unfortunate Ephraimites said "sibboleth" rather than "tomahto" (so to speak)--and were slain.

                Then David Fleischer in Brazil added that country's example, from the Brazil-Uruguay war after independence in 1822, where pronouncing the letter "j" not as "jota" but "zota" could get you a fatal Ephraimite ticket.

                And then, Eugenio Battaglia added the 1282 Sicilian revolt against the French, where the test word was "chickpeas" (ceci). If you said it French style: blam.

                And then, Timothy Brown brought up Nazi-occupied Holland in World War II, where the test word was an unpronounceable place-name: "Scheveningen." Tim reminded JE that it was not as simple as thinking "shaving again." (This also reminds of colorful Battle of the Bulge stories about disguised German infiltrators getting tested with baseball lore.)

                But finally, the home base I stumbled into--and a ton of shibboleths: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibboleth#Notable_shibboleths

                I think that somewhere I did eventually find the "bread and cheese" case, but then I lost it again. Hope I'm not in the wrong dark alley some night, in the wrong rebellion.

                JE comments: Unrhymable?  I can't pass up the challenge:

                Speaking tongue-tiers like "shibboleth"

                is no laughing matter to quibble with.

                Ephraimites tried to

                and thousands would die. Too

                Bad they had no pens to scribble with!

                I was on a roll until the last line. Some alternates:

                (too) Bad there weren't iPhones to fiddle with!

                (too) Bad they had no snacks to nibble with!

                (too) Bad they had no balls to dribble with...or flavor their rottweilers' kibble with.

                Nota bene:  The final variant works from the assumption that the Gileadites and Ephraimites could easily have worked out their differences on the basketball court, had Dr James Naismith been an Old Testament patriarch.  The dogs would have watched.

                But Gary:  "blam" in the 13th century?  Wouldn't it have been "slice"?

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          • Teaching that Jesus was Not a Jew; from Gary Moore (John Eipper, USA 01/18/17 4:28 AM)
            Gary Moore writes:

            Regarding John Eipper's apt replay of one of the landmark signs of anti-Semitism, the revelation from Henry Levin of a classroom in Spain teaching that Jesus was not a Jew:

            Well, everybody knows that Jesus was an American. He was born in Palestine, Texas (pronounced Pal-uh-STEEN), and sought his fortune in the Holy Land on a Roman Tupperware franchise, where his consultations with the money-changers were misunderstood.

            This fits with the 80-20 percentages in Ric Mauricio's Pareto Principle and Tor Guimaraes's comments on the 20% of Americans said (by highly reliable pollsters, of course) to believe men didn't land on the moon--though this version fits in reverse. Turn the percentages around, and 10% (or up to 20%) of Americans are said by clinicians to be highly hypnotizable--meaning they don't have to endorse the moon landings, because they can make their own. This alleged statistic has always posed a lurking spoiler for democracy--as does the other back-end stat, the old news item that at one point the National Institutes of Mental Health said that one-fifth of Americans, or 20%, suffered a serious mental disorder.

            Maybe the moon is safer.

            JE comments:  Schoolyard exegesis was always simpler:  20% of people are downright crazy. 

            My maternal grandmother used to repeat a piece of Quaker wisdom:  "Everyone is queer except for me and thee, and I'm beginning to wonder about thee."  (Here's a version attributed to social reformer Robert Owen:  "All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer.")

            Jesus was a Texan?  Maybe not, but He would have been if he could.  Ask any Texan.

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      • Zionism and the Founding of the Israeli State; Response to Istvan Simon (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/16/17 11:07 AM)
        I really appreciated the impassioned post of Istvan Simon (14 January), and would like to make a few clarifications:

        1) Amin al Husseini was the first to present the idea of two states in Palestine.

        In fact on 29 March 1938, the Gran Mufti, through his man Alami, presented the following proposal to Mussolini through FM Ciano:

        a) A British Mandate over Jerusalem and Bethlehem,

        b) A State of Israel in the Haifa-Jaffa area, where the Jews were living at the time, but with no more immigration,

        c) State of Palestine in the remaining area.

        The Jews from Iraq were evicted as a retaliation for the eviction of Palestinians by the new Israel.

        2) Regarding ethnic problems, after the second generation it is not possible to right any wrong, because it causes a bigger one. For example, we cannot expect the Poles to reconquer Lwow or the Germans Breslau, kicking out the people living there now, etc.

        3) The new State of Israel's navy was only due to Mussolini, who granted to the Zionist Organizations La Section Juive de l'Ecole Maritime de Civitavecchia (Italia), founded in 1934. This arrangement followed an accord between Mussolini and Vladimir Zeev Jabotinsky. The Jewish cadets wore an emblem with an anchor, the Menorah and a fascio littorio. Moreover, they used to do the "saluto romano." Among those who attended the Italian school was the future admiral of the Israeli Navy Avram Blass. During a cruise on the school ship Sarah in the Mediterranean, they reached Tel Aviv in front of exuberant local Jews. The cadets in another port had a brawl with the crew of a German ship. This episode highly irritated the German government.

        Another cadet, Abram Strausberg from Danzig, went swimming, dove into some rocks and was killed. His grave is on the Jewish side of the Cemetery of Civitavecchia with the following inscription, "Cadet of the Nautical school of Civitavecchia, Jewish section, committed to his dream of serving the sea of Israel."

        JE comments:  If al-Husseini's two-state offer included a moratorium on further immigration, it would not have been a meaningful Jewish homeland, especially in 1938. 

        Eugenio, do you have an image of the insignia of the Jewish Citavecchia cadets, for posting on WAIS?  I couldn't find one in Google's trove of imagery.

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        • Gran Mufti of Jerusalem; Ze'ev Jabotinsky (Istvan Simon, USA 01/17/17 1:47 PM)
          Eugenio Battaglia's information of January 16th is not quite accurate. In my January 14th post I included a link on the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, where his miserable life is described in detail.

          From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Mufti_of_Jerusalem

          "When Kamil al-Husayni died in 1921, the British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel appointed Mohammad Amin al-Husayni to the position. Amin al-Husayni, a member of the al-Husayni clan of Jerusalem, was an Arab nationalist and Muslim leader in the British Mandate of Palestine. As Grand Mufti and leader in the Arab Higher Committee, especially during the war period 1938-45, al-Husayni played a key role in violent opposition to Zionism and closely allied himself with the Nazi regime."

          Amin al Husayni was a murderer and a rabid anti-Semite. He started organizing pogroms against Jews in Palestine much before the founding of the modern state of Israel. The precursor of the IDF was founded to defend Jewish farmers from these terrorist attacks.

          It is completely absurd to claim, as Eugenio did in his post, that the expulsion and murder of Jews in Iraq was in retaliation for the expulsion of Palestinians from Israel. This is an absurdity, because the event took place in 1941, and therefore seven years prior to the founding of the modern state of Israel. Al-Huseyni fled Palestine to evade an arrest warrant by the British authorities because of his terrorist activities. He then fled to Nazi Germany via Iraq. It was during his stay in Iraq before going to Nazi Germany that he organized the destruction of the Jewish community in Iraq.

          Eugenio really should get a little better informed about these historical events before commenting on them.


          The Jews were not living just in the Haifa-Jaffa area as Husayni "proposed" to Mussolini, according to Eugenio. They were living all over Israel. I said in my last post, for example, that internationally recognized and highly distinguished physicist Haim Harari is a fifth-generation Israeli, and all of his family were born in Jerusalem, they have lived in Jerusalem for seven generations (seven now, because Haim Harari has children and grandchildren. ) Haim Harari's mother was one of the founders of Tel Aviv.


          Eugenio said: "Regarding ethnic problems, after the second generation it is not possible to right any wrong, because it causes a bigger one. For example, we cannot expect the Poles to reconquer Lwow or the Germans Breslau, kicking out the people living there now, etc."

          This is curious coming from Eugenio, because he defended the reintegration of the Sudetenland in this forum into Germany by Hitler. Most recently, he defended the annexation of Crimea by Putin.

          The connection of Jabotinsky to fascist Italy is true. On the other hand, Jabotinsky had a remarkably rich and varied international life, living in many countries, from Odessa, Ukraine, to Germany, Italy, Palestine. He served with the British in World War I, and was very influential in Israel's founding. He worked as a journalist and organizer for many years. He was also associated with Jewish terrorists during the events that eventually led to the creation of the modern state of Israel.


          JE comments:  Al-Husseini/Husayni traced his ancestry back to Muhammad's grandson Hussein/Husayn.  Two questions (they aren't addressed in the Wikipedia bio):  What is meant that al-Husseini was "placed under French protection" after WWII?  Was he ever tried?  And secondly, are there any extant descendants of al-Hussein, who could therefore claim a direct lineage back to the Prophet?

          Jabotinsky (according to Wikipedia) proposed a Jewish homeland in Palestine with absolute equality for Arab citizens, including military service.  What is his reputation in Israel today?  He died of a heart attack on a visit to New York, in 1940.

          WAISer Alain de Benoist, in a 2009 post, shows a very different side of Jabotinsky--stressing his Fascist sympathies and his direct call for random violence against Arabs.  Einstein, among others, signed a petition in an attempt to prevent his entry in the US.  See below:


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        • Tomb of Avraham Strausberg, Civitavecchia (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 01/17/17 3:14 PM)

          I would like to share this photograph of the tomb of Avraham Strausberg, in Civitavecchia.  Strausberg is the Jewish naval cadet from Danzig, mentioned in my post of January 16th, who died in a diving accident.

          JE comments:  Thank you, Eugenio.  That cemetery must have many fascinating stories to tell.  I presume you are the photographer.  A curiosity:  were many of the earliest Israeli seafarers from the port city of Danzig/Gdansk?  I did a bit of searching, and found this obituary of the captain of the refugee ship Exodus, Ike Aranne/Yitzchak Aronovitz, who was born in Danzig and emigrated to Palestine in 1933.  My calculations put him at just 24 years of age when he commanded the historic voyage of the Exodus (1947).


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