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While the recent and seemingly non-unexpected assassination of students in Kenya is repugnant, the 2009 discovery of 54 decapitated Vikings in Ridgeway Hill, England, presumed collectively executed by Anglo-Saxons, is exciting. The fundamental difference is time: today and yesterday.
What it tells us, or rather what it can tell us if we put our fear on hold for five minutes, is that things will probably get better. The descendents of Scandinavia and Britain enjoy the most “boring” of peaceful and cooperative relations today. So too will the descendents of Somalian Muslims and Kenyan Christians.
World War III has begun. It is a different type of war to ones with which we are familiar. It will be long, sickening, repulsive, shameful and utterly evil, but we will survive. Not only will we survive, we will learn and grow from it.
Returning to our Viking raiders, those who settled in Iceland at the turn of the 1st Millennium were at times as violent to each other as they were to outsiders, they also used slaves, worshiped wacko gods, and happily sailed away for a summer season of rape and pillage, although the former is largely exaggerated. Back home, however, once A had killed B, and B’s brother had killed A, and A’s sworn-brother had killed B’s brother whose nephew set fire to the house of B’s grandson, they realized they weren’t really getting anywhere. So they invented a legal system. It worked and Iceland is today one of the world’s most socially advanced nations on earth.
Hiroshima and Nagasaki told us that atom bombs were a bit more dangerous than we thought. Despite lots of saber-rattling around the world, we have still so far refrained from reminding us of this truth. It may well happen again, a fool and his big red button may be hard to keep apart, and if it does, the viral evidence will almost certainly force us to agree that this is not a good thing, and it may well be the last time we do so. This is not a question of hope, but of common sense.
But does the world have enough common sense?
No, but it will do one day. Learning and progress are almost impossible to prevent.
Muslim rage will flare up to a degree the “West” or “North” can probably not imagine. We are if not Liberals then at least essentially rational people with the common misconception that we can all sit round a table and talk about this. We cannot, and it will not happen.
What seems today to be either stealth propaganda inflaming passions between the various Muslim sects and hence encouraging internecine destruction rather than anti-Western, or the plain bloody-mindedness that comes from religious short-sightedness, the current spate of local bickering will spread.
It is inevitable. Of this I am as certain as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow. However, as with Viking raiders and the sons of Anglo-Saxon raiders, there is always an aftermath, and the grass will grow again.

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For those with a linguistic bent, would you consider French an esoteric or an exoteric language?

Answers on a comments page please.

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Geoffroy Tory Logo

As a long-time admirer of 16th-C French typographers, I have often wondered about the signification of Geoffroy Tory’s logo. He is said to have described the broken urn (pot cassé) as representing himself after the death of his young daughter (the urn is sometimes interpreted as that containing his daughter’s ashes, of doubtful symbolism given the obvious spillage and Tory’s sense of accuracy).

However, as often with Tory, perverse punsmith and wreaker of rebuses, there may be another side to the story. Tory was writing at an exciting time in western history, a period as creative, innovative and transformative – relatively – as today’s computer revolution. The Western discovery of printing and resulting bandwagon of type-casters and publishing was as anarchic as the Gatesian first-to-market rush. Tory’s sense of style and order, setting the stage for a future standard in which he, as printer, would also hold pole position with all its financial rewards, was not without commercial intent.

In his Champ Fleury (1529), Tiers Livre, folio XLIII, Tory gives part of the explanation…

The motto (the others need not concern us here), NON PLUS (observed interestingly by Tory as being both French and Latin), he quotes as Pittacus, but is apparently from an inscription at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, Μηδὲν ἄγαν, and means “nothing in excess”, perhaps reflecting his usually simple typographical stylistics. So far so good.

The urn he describes as the bodily vessel of life, the rod or spindle is a toret, or a drill or device for piercing (the skull among other things) and since he designates it as Fatŭ which my very shaky Latin suggests might be a supine form of the obscure verb for, to speak or say, it could be another rebus reference to the word of God penetrating the human frame (or skull), or just as likely dog Latin for fate which, as he says, passes through strong and weak alike, and indeed perhaps knocking out his daughter and leaving a fractured Tory behind. A pot cassé also designates the bill one pays for damage caused by someone else; in this instance his suffering due to God’s cruelty? The flowers and sunlight represent the virtues and good deeds inspired by the warming rays of God’s good sun. Perhaps (and without any clear-cut evidence at all, I strongly suspect Tory of being a closet atheist), but toret is too close to Tory for things to be that simple.

Beneath, the book of life, closed and chained down by two ordinary padlocks and one combination lock, which is tantalizingly described in two ways: one hinting that the metaphorical book of life (experience, intelligence, learning?...) can only be opened by he who can work out the combination, in other words who can read (and what more important to a printer of books?); the other more mundane reader being God, whose legitimacy must have been sorely tested by his murdering Tory’s daughter. The chains and locks are the three Fates, or goddesses of death, in Greek Μοῖραι, the apportioners, with later Latin moira meaning a part or portion. Tory, a pedant like myself, liked to pile complications on top of red herrings and multilingual puns.

So my interpretation is this: I, Geoffroy Tory, hereby pierce (I couldn’t really get away with “shaft”) the printing profession by punching through the pot / vessel / collective wisdom and knocking a part or portion out, a worthless sherd, the dross. In Ancient Greece, an ostracon, or potsherd, was a broken piece of pottery upon which a name (usually the “bad guy”) was written to ballot the person off the island, to ostracize him, leaving the remaining body, despite the missing part, as that which is “whole” and good.

In other words, this (Champ Fleury) is how you do it (typography) and I’m the man.

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(And hopefully some misspelled sxs).

Readers may be forgiven for forgetting my riveting post on consonants needing vowels, but for reasons I don't need to go into I was checking the origin of the word Salishan and what did I discover? Yes, it includes languages such as Nuxálk which includes the famous mouthful xłp̓x̣ʷłtłpłłskʷc̓ (see here, which I now learn means "he had had [in his possession] a bunchberry plant", a useful starter in any language teach-yourself guide…

Now, there's synchronicity and synchronicity... I have long had the "intuition" that this is not simply "things" happening when you want them to, but the mind putting together two or more notions stored, somehow, somewhere, in the nether regions of the brain's memory: the data points are there, out of immediate recall perhaps, but there. Possibly, as I followed the chain of words from sxs's source language, Bella Coola, to its group, Nuxálk, I simply read that it's a Salishan language, and moved on. Later (7 months), spotting the word on a website rang the faintest of bells, but still said: "Stop! You've seen this before".

Incidentally, I am convinced that one of the brain's primary functions is not to actively remember (we'd be incapacitated by junk data) but to screen out information that would interfere with routine survival. Some people, regrettably, are better than this than others... Failing failing memory, we don't forget (everything). The data gets stored, and springs out later, surprising us at the "coincidence" when coincidence there is none other than that of the significance we ascribe to it under our immediate agenda.

Such are the delights of random occurrence, and this is the butterfly from which tropical storms are made.

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Appropriately, OED's word of the day the other day (24/01/2015), was to "perendinate": [To defer until the day after tomorrow; to postpone for a day.]. Although not exactly the same meaning, and given as rare, it offers we procrastinators yet another day to lag behind ;o)

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