Category Archives: Language

Amazing Poem by 18-year-old Nienke Woltmeijer for National Rememberance Day

Nienke WoltmeijerShe is only 18 years old, but she penned an amazing poem. Every year, the Dutch government organizes a poetry contest. Youngsters between 14 till 19 are invited to write a poem for National Remembrance Day which takes place on May 4.

There were 260 entries in total. The winner of the 2014 competition is Nienke Woltmeijer with her powerful poem about a tree. Chairman of the jury Anne Vegter explained: “The jury was especially impressed with the amazing image that the poem evokes. A tree that has witnessed it all. Nienke also impressed with her presentation.”

Woltmeijer will read her poem in public on the Damrak in Amsterdam on the 4th of May.

Following is Nienke Woltmeijer’s original poem in Dutch with my TipTopTranslator’s English  translation:

poem

Woltmeijer: “The old trees at Westerbork or in the garden of the Anne Frank Museum are tangible reminders of the past. Each time I see those trees, I wonder what they have seen over time that we as the younger generation heard about, but never witnessed. That is what I want to communicate.”

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Decoding The Voynich Mystery – Are We Getting Close?

voynich-manuscript-finding-proper-nounsIn September 2012 and April 2013, I wrote about the Voynich mystery.

The Voynich Manuscript was created during the 15th century and is still an intriguing unsolved mystery. It is written in an unknown language that not even military cryptographers were able to decipher. It also contains beautiful illustrations and descriptions of events and flora unknown to man.

It seems that finally at least a small part of the code has been cracked. Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire, claims to have deciphered part of the manuscript using linguistic analysis.

Professor Bax is an expert in mediaeval manuscripts and familiar with Semitic languages such as Arabic. This helped him to analyze text letter by letter. Up till now, he was able to decipher 14 letters and 10 words.

He identified one of those words as the term for Taurus, alongside a picture of seven stars which seem to be the Pleiades. He also found the word KANTAIRON alongside a picture of the plant Centaury as well as a number of other plants.

Professor Bax explained: “The manuscript has a lot of illustrations of stars and plants. I was able to identify some of these, with their names, by looking at mediaeval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages, and I then made a start on a decoding, with some exciting results.”

To learn more, watch the following video.

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Why the Real Snow White Was Murdered in Brussels

magaretaMany fairytales are based on real persons and events. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm made it their mission to preserve Germanic folktales.

One of the most popular tales is for sure Snow White. But few people now that the story is based on a cause célèbre that took place in royal circles. It involves star-crossed lovers, child labor and death by poison.

The tantalizing tale starts with the beautiful Margaret, daughter of Count Philipp IV of Waldeck-Wildungen and Margareta of Eastern Friesland. Margareta was Philipp’s sixth child. Her mother died when she was four. Her father remarried. His second wife Catherine of Hatzfeld was a strict stepmother. She died childless a few years before Margaret herself passed away.

Margaret grew up in Freidrichstein Castle near the German town of Waldeck.  Life for many was far from a fairytale exisance.

For one, the area was known for its mining activities. The Waldeck family owned gold, silver, copper, lead and iron mines. In the local copper mines, much of the work was done by small children. The brutal working conditions and malnutrition stunned their growth. They were referred to as “dwarfs”.

Furthermore, Margaret’s hometown was the hunting ground of a grisly murderer. A local man suspected some children of stealing from him, decided to take matters in his own hands by giving the little suspects poisoned apples.

By the time Margaret turned 16, her relationship with her stepmother had turned so bad, that her father decided to send her abroad. She went to live at the court of Brussels under the protection of Mary of Hungary. Needless to say, her father also sent her there to marry well.

The young beauty got the eye of two prominent suitors: the Spanish Crown Prince Philipp and the Dutch Count of Egmont. Both suitors showered her with gifts and attention. Margaret and Philipp became lovers and he contemplated marrying her. That created a major problem for Philipp’s father; Margaret was not eligible enough. Marriages at that time were alliances between families, not love matches. Margaret could not offer the future King of Spain Philipp II any interesting political ties or benefits.

Soon after, Margaret’s health started slowly to deteriorate as she mentioned in letters to her father. She also wrote her last will and testament in shaky handwriting resulting from tremors due to poisoning. When she passed away at the tender age of 21, rumor circulated that she had been poisoned by or someone who hated her or by the Spanish court to prevent Philipp from marrying her.

Her life might have been short, but her legend will live on for many more centuries to come!

(Image courtesy of the Royal Library in Bad Arolsen, Reference: Genealogica iconica seu picturata comitum in Waldeck, antehac in archivo asservata ca.1580)

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Throwing The Book At Bookworms – Texas Style

eckPoor Jory Enck! He borrowed a GED study guide in 2010. He got it at the Central Texas community of Copperas Cove located about 70 miles northwest of Austin.

In September 2013, a new law came into effect that defines the failure to return library books as thef, which is a felony. The new law makes sense; non-returning of library books drains recourses. In Texas alone, the libraries loose an estimated $18 million in “lost” books (around 1 million items). Since many communities have to deal with shrinking budgets and rising costs, they are looking for ways to have their library items returned in time.

The Texas procedure is as follows. Any library item that is not returned within 20 days carries a fine of $200. If this fine is not paid in time, a warrant will be issued by the municipal court for theft.

That’s what happened to Mr. Enck. The police went to his address due to a reported disturbance. Once they arrived, they arrested based on a previous warrant for theft of the study guide. He was promptly arrested for theft since he failed to return his overdue library book.

Mr. Enck was released on a $200 bond, and returned the book in question to library. He also turned to the media to state that he wouldn’t set foot in a library again: He also said: “I think I will probably just purchase a book from Amazon.”

Mr. Eck forgot to mention that he had not been able to return the guide earlier since he had to serve a three-year prison sentence for robbery.

Texas is not the only state cracking down on people like Mr. Enck. Iowa jails this kind of offenders for one week. A man from Newton (Iowa) served jail time of more than a week for not returning six CDs and eleven library books with a total worth of a whopping $770. Vermont and Maine are also cracking down people that don’t return their library items.

The Enck incident is for now an oddity. However, it could happen far more frequently in the (near) future, especially since after such an arrest, long overdue library items are suddenly returned.

So what do you think? Are libraries (and the government) correct to crack down on people like Jory Enck to preserve their assets?

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“Selfie” Has Been Named As New English Word Of 2013

imageAccording to Judy Pearsall, chief editor of the Oxford dictionaries, “selfie” was first used in 2002 in Australia. ‘Hopey’ posted a photo of himself on September 13, 2002 with the text:

Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer (sic) and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

The term became popular throughout the English-speaking world during 2013. The use of the word “selfie” increased 17,000%. A search on photo sharing app Instagram retrieves over 23 million photos uploaded with the hashtag #selfie, and a whopping 51 million with the hashtag #me.

The Oxford dictionary defines “selfie” as: “photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

There are several kinds of selfies: Helfie (a picture of one’s hair), Belfie (a picture of one’s posterior), Welfie (a workout selfie), and Drelfie (a drunken selfie)

According to publisher Katherine Martin, the term “selfie” is a typical Australian word pun similar to “barbie” for barbecue, “firie” for firefighter and “tinnie” for a tin of beer.

Other words that made the shortlist:

  • Twerk – a raunchy dance move to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance
  • Showrooming – to check out merchandise in shops and then order online for a lower price
  • Binge-watching – watching a marathon of episodes of a TV
  • Schmeat – a form of meat synthetically produced from biological tissue
  • Bitcoin – a digital currency in which transactions can be performed without the need for a central bank

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The American Psycho Typo

American Psycho” is an iconic movie released in 2000 about a Wall Street serial killer.  In one scene, three executives are comparing their business cards. What was overlooked by almost everyone was the typo in the word “acquisitions”. In all three business cards, the word is missing the c.

Just watch the clip:

It’s one of those mistakes that viewers wonder how they could have missed it. Well, despite the best efforts of writers, proofreaders and editors, those little Gremlins slip through.

In this case, the oversight is minor. In case of Empire Magazine, that was a different story. The film magazine published an interview with Michael Fassbender, the popular German-Irish actor. During layout, an embarrassing mistake popped up. The F disappeared from view, resulting in misspelling Michael’s family name as “Assbender”.

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The Vatican’s Painful Typo – How Jesus became Lesus

typoThe Vatican wanted to commemorate Pope Francis’ first year of reign with a medal.

The Italian State Mint created and minted a few thousand medals in gold, silver and bronze for purchase.

The medals feature the Pontiff’s coat of arms and motto and went on sale on October8, 2013. Soon after, it was noticed that “Jesus” was misspelled as “Lesus” in Pope Francis’ motto.

His official motto is Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, “Sequere me” [Jesus therefore sees the tax collector, and since he sees by having mercy and by choosing, he says to him, “follow me”]

Once the typo was detected, Vatican officials quickly recalled thousands of medals slated for sale. However, four of the “flawed” medals were already snapped up by collectors before the embarrassing mistake was detected, which makes their value soar.

According to Francesco Santarossa, a coin and stamp shop owner close to St. Peter’s Square, no such a mistake has ever happened before in the 600-year-long history of papal medals.

In the current social media age, puns like “Lesus” Christ. “I blame the Lesuits” quickly made the rounds on Twitter.

Moral of the story: also the Vatican needs a good proofreader! Quod est demonstrandum!

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