Tuesday 14 March 2023

dita e verรซs (10. 610)

Translating to summer’s day in Albanian, the springtime rite with pre-Christian origins is observed on this day and corresponds to the beginning of the New Year on the Old Calendar, aligning with the seasonal shift from winter. Celebrations are marked with family reunions, intensive spring-cleaning, reverence for the life returning, and jumping over, through bonfires for a ritual purification to drive away the darkness and referred to as shedding the fleas—recalling an expedient method of delousing as well as with the Verore, a red and white bracelet worn to mark the occasion and the preparation of sugar cookies called ballokume—named for a review by one Ottoman rulers that: ร‹shtรซ ba si llokume—it was as good as lokum—that is, Turkish Delights.

Tuesday 29 March 2022

vilnius group

Constituted in May 2000, member countries Slovenia, Slovakia (having already undergone its Velvet Divorce in 1993, the date falls on the anniversary of the 1990 compromise that ended the so called Hyphen War, Pomlฤkovรก vojna, started in 1989 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union on what to call themselves and how to share a territory with two identities) Romania, North Macedonia, Lithuania (its capital the namesake), Latvia, Estonia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Albania to lobby as a group for NATO inclusion, all aspirants acceded to the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on this day in 2004 with the exception of Albania, Croatia and North Macedonia (under the Adriatic Charter) joining in 2009 and 2020. The former association closely maps with the composition of the Visegrรกd Group, another former pooled campaign for European Union membership and presently a regional economic cooperative.

Thursday 17 February 2022

to know wisdom and instruction—to perceive the words of understanding

Venerated as a saint in multiple faith traditions, Mesrop Mashtots (ี„ีฅีฝึ€ีธีบ ี„ีกีทีฟีธึ), early medieval linguist, theologian and statesman, passing away on this day in 440 (*362), was the inventor of the Armenian alphabet—the first phrase rendered in that new script said to be the above passage from the Book of Proverbs. Further credited by some scholars as the creator of the Caucasian Albanian and Georgian forms of writing, Mashtot’s contribution first in royal court in service to the king and later after taking holy orders ensured that Armenian literature and identity was preserved rather than being absorbed by its larger neighbouring empires of Persia and Syria. Finalised around the year 405, the Greek-modelled system endured in its original form of thirty-six letters until the twelfth century when three additional ones were added—for f- and o-sounds, the Armenian word for alphabet, aybuben (ีกีตีขีธึ‚ีขีฅีถ) comes from the first two letters, ayb (ีก) and ben (ีข).

Monday 20 September 2021


fallout boy: the legacy of Albania’s seven-hundred-thousand bunkers  

al forno: Barilla (previously) sponsors an annual contest to solicit for innovative designs for its 3D pasta printer  

mathmos: how lava lamps are manufactured—see also 

stowaways: butterfly researches in the ร…land islands accidentally introduce a parasitic wasp that relies on the caterpillars as well as a hyperparasitoid that the wasps host 

 รฎle flottante: a boat camouflaged as a rock tours the coastline of Marseille—via Everlasting Blรถrt

Sunday 22 November 2020

alfabeti shqip

With the conclusion of the Congress of Manastir—now called Bitola, on this day in 1908 academicians from around the country met and achieved their goal of standardising the national language and script for the native population and the diaspora aboard and in neighbouring Kosovo and North Macedonia—who commemorate this Dita e Alfabetit—whereas prior to the democratic, deliberative and well-considered process the language was expressed in no fewer than six distinct scripts that drew from Greek, Cyrillic, Ottoman and Arabic. There was great potential for confusion between rho and pi, aitch and kha. The outcome was a variant of the Latin alphabet (see also) with thirty-six letters to best represent the phonology of Albanian with diagraphs including dh, gj and nj.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

ฮทฮผฮญฯฮฑ ฯ„ฮฟฯ… ฯŒฯ‡ฮน

Though the response of the Greek prime minister to the Italian ambassador regarding Mussolini’s ultimatum to allow the Axis armies to occupy strategic points in the Hellenic lands delivered on this day in 1940 was a bit more bellicose and francophone—“Alors, c’est la guerre!”—than the popular account that the prime minister answered with a simple and laconic No—ฯŒฯ‡ฮน/ohi, it was the latter that resounded in the streets and shouted first by members of the resistance then by all. The refusal was met by Italian troops stationed at the Albanian border invading Greek territory, beginning the Balkan campaign of World War II. This act of defiance, rejection of fascism is commemorated annually in Greece, Cyprus and the diaspora as the “Anniversary of the No!”

Saturday 10 September 2016

kitsch and clowder

Thanks to Poseidon’s Underworld, a blog dedicated to unearthing forgotten cinematic kitsch, we learn about an obscure but star-studded production of a movie called “The Phynx” by Warner Brothers and the Seven Arts, released to only a few venues in 1970.
It sounds wonderfully dreadful and has an equally byzantine storyline (that’s sort of derivative, hoping to maybe capture some the success that operatic productions like the Beatles’ “Help” found with audiences a few years earlier) that seems to be a light-hearted indictment against Communist Albania, who seems to be systematically kidnapping America’s national treasures in order to lower morale in the West and claim them as part of their own culture. Colonel Sanders is abducted and forced to cook for the Albanian First Lady—Marla Gibbs, Butterfly McQueen and countless other personalities are being disappeared as well and pressed into service as celebrities behind the Iron Curtain.
America’s intelligence agencies meet but are unable to agree jurisdictionally how to proceed, previous efforts to infiltrate the country having failed, and so turn to a “super-computer” called MOTHA (Mechanical Oracle That Helps Americans) for advice. MOTHA suggests quite sensibly that they form a boy-band—the eponymous Phynx—whose members are also trained in the arts of espionage, to take Albania and the whole of the Communist Bloc by storm and liberate their captured compatriots. This looks wacky and deranged but I think just for the sheer number of cameo appearances (the actors and/or their roles of the Lone Ranger, Tarzan, singer James Brown, Charo!, choreographer Busby Berkley and Charlie McCarthy—not the leader of the Communist witch-hunt but rather the ventriloquist dummy), the animated interstitials and musical interludes, it might be worthwhile viewing.

Saturday 10 November 2012

(ad)mirality or pรซrkthyes

Philology and the classifications of grammar were naturally invented long after languages developed and drifted apart and are imperfect disciplines trying to fit foreign tongues to a framework of rules whose theory and practice maybe go unnoticed to native speakers. Constantly struggling to translate and parsing my own words, I think I have gained an appreciation for mood and tense and try not to take such parts of speech for granted.
English has managed to shed the need for most conjugation and only has a limited spectrum of grammatical cases, exclusively constructed by other means than declension, while many others rely on a linguistic quadriga of the not unfamiliar nominative, accusative, genitive and dative cases to express ownership, location, motion, agency and action.

Still other highly inflected languages, like Finnish, Basque, Turkish or Hungarian, use a dozen or more cases to express subtleties and precision in a wealth of mincing ways: a changed suffix can denote reversion, privation, association, similitude, coming-into-being, frequency, number, affinity and whereabouts. It is hard to imagine what kind of dialogue it took to impart these elements in an exacting and scientific way from a native speaker to a foreigner and what sort of media were available to bridge the linguistic gap. What’s mostly rendered in English as a prepositional phrase—across the room, in the company of strangers—can be summarily expressed by changing the endings. Include verbal moods and the situation becomes more complex.
Whereas in English mood is caught up in wishes—“if and only”—in other cases can even be used to master the tone of sarcasm and surprise. That is quite amazing and that its counterparts recognized in other tongues impressive, I think.  Albanian (Shqip) and a few others admit of mirativity and alter verb endings to express admiration, shock or disdain in an otherwise non-nuanced declaration. This sense exists, of course, and one could assume that there are many routes of getting to astonishment outside of punctuation, a shrill or droll tone or context but I wonder how those distinctions were ever translated and categorized. It must have been quite a revelation to first get the difference between “ai flet shqip” (he speaks Albanian) and “ai fliske shqip” (he surprisingly speaks Albanian or apparently he speaks Albanian or yeah—he speaks Albanian). Translation quickly becomes a lost cause without the art of interpretation and the admission that correspondence does not always have direct correspondence.