Updates from January, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • John Stokes

    John Stokes 12:34 pm on January 31, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: chad ochocinco, , inherit, magic, , , , nobility, titles   

    Who you callin’ Beezow Doo-Doo Zoppittybop-Bop-Bop? 

    Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop is the name of a man who was arrested recently in Wisconsin. Yes, that is his legal name. Considering that for much of history, a person’s name was of such weighty import as to be the key to their “power” (in one way or another), Mr. Zopittybop-Bop-Bop is a sign of just how far that history is gone.

    As Wikipedia tells us, certain cultures throughout history have thought that something’s name was so important that it was actually a “separate manifestation” of that thing. If you knew the name of a demon, you could exorcise it from a possessed person. If you invoked the name of a god or another spirit, you somehow impregnated your words with their power. If you knew the name of a person, that person was under your control.

    Most of us probably think this is silly today. But given the names of these legal figures, maybe they were on to something with the idea that a person’s name can bear influence on the course of their life.

    Learned Hand — Every law student comes to know the great Judge Learned Hand. He’s widely considered to be one of, if not the, greatest judge never to become a Supreme Court justice, and his formulation of the test for whether or not a person has been negligent dominates the tort law scene to this day.

    William Wayne Justice — Judge Justice is famous (or infamous) for his role in what’s come to be known as the Texas Prison Litigation. This was a court battle that raged for two decades about the conditions in the Texas prison system. Justice dictated that the system be improved in order to meet minimum Constitutional standards, but his role (the role of Justice, that is) was considered by many to be ‘activist’ beyond what is proper for a judge.

    Then again, maybe those names are just a happy coincidence. After all, someone, sometime was bound to have a name that coincided with their profession. Either way, in many other societies, your name had an entirely different type of influence on the course of your life. It’s not that if someone knew your name, they had power over you — it’s that if you had the right name, it meant you had power over others. I’m talking about titles of nobility – land, power, and status conferred by inheritance. No mysticism is needed to understand the importance of names in this type of society. With one type of name, you were guaranteed riches and power as a matter of right; with another,well, tough luck.

    Today, there can be no question that one’s name is less important than it was during these other periods in history. This decline is probably the subject of some very interesting historical and sociological literature, but it seems likely that the end of hereditary ruling and aristocratic classes indeed had something to do with it. If there’s no longer a hereditary aristocracy, whereby your name entitles you to certain lands and status, it’s less important to be associated with a particular genetic line. (Interestingly, the US Constitution goes so far as to prohibit the federal and state governments from granting titles of nobility.)

    Even so, one would not expect names to become entirely irrelevant (just ask a Kennedy or a Rockefeller). But, taking Mr. Zoppitybop-Bop-Bop as an example, it has become increasingly popular to forsake the name of one’s ancestors and adopt an appellation that’s slightly less traditional. Here are a couple of interesting examples from the sports world:

    Ron Artest –> Metta World Peace.  World Peace is an NBA player on the Los Angeles Lakers. His choice of names is interesting, as over the course of his career he has garnered more than his fair share of flagrant and technical fouls, and he has generally become reputed for his less-than-peaceful play.

    Chad Johnson –> Chad Ochocinco. Chad Johnson is a renowned wide receiver with great talent and a huge mouth. He is now on the roster of the New England Patriots, where he’s had a less-than-stellar season. The name that’s currently on the back of his jersey, you guessed it, is the Spanglish translation of his jersey number – 85.

    Jon Koppenhaver –> War Machine.  This guy is a mixed martial artist who liked his nickname so much that he legally took it. Haven’t seen him in the Octagon recently? Well, that’s probably because he’s been in jail for the last three years…

    Lloyd B. Free –> World B. Free.   Lloyd came into the NBA to play for the 76ers in the mid ’70s. This name change is particularly cool because his actual nickname was World. He apparently got the nickname for having a 44 inch vertical that allowed him to do a 360 dunk (back in the days before that was a common feat among NBA players). So he went ahead and made it official–how convenient his middle initial!

    Often times, these names smack of caprice and/or arrogance. But as a form of self-expression, changing one’s name can in theory be extremely meaningful. There’s literally no better way of identifying yourself with, say, World Peace than to actually make it your identity (though as I mentioned above, I’m not sure I buy that from Ron Artest).

    And dropping one’s inherited name (though most often done in favor of names less crazy than these examples) is one of the strongest forms of dissociation available to us. Today we take that to mean dissociation from one’s family for one reason or another. But this is actually something the ancients also recognized: by changing your name, you could avoid an ugly fate associated with your inherited name. An interesting idea for sure — I just hope Mr. Zoppitybob-Bop-Bop’s children get that message before it’s too late.

     
  • The Diacritics

    The Diacritics 9:30 am on January 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: affirmation, bible, britain, christianity, court, , i swear to tell the truth, , islam, justice, , , , religion, sharia, swear   

    I swear (affirm?) that I will tell the truth 

    I was watching a Kannada soap opera last night (because I have apparently become an elderly Indian woman as of late) and a scene in a courtroom caught my attention. One of the characters was being questioned, and before she gave her testimony she was asked to declare her intention to speak the truth.

    ಸತ್ಯವನ್ನು ಹೇಳುತ್ತೇನೆ , ಸತ್ಯವನಲ್ಲದೆ ಬೇರೆ ಏನು ಹೇಳುವುದಿಲ್ಲ , ನಾ ಹೇಳುವುದೆಲ್ಲ ಸತ್ಯ |

    satyavannu hēḷuttēne, satyavanallade bērēnu hēḷuvudilla, nānu hēḷuvudella satya

    I will speak the truth; I will not speak anything that isn’t true; everything I say is the truth.

    That segment caught my attention for a couple of reasons.

    First, that the declaration was different from our familiar U.S. oath, “I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

    But of course it wouldn’t be the same. While an objectively large number of people in India use English as a second or third language (some 125 millionaccording to the latest census, nearly half the population of the United States), that still only comes out to about 10 or 11 percent of the country’s population.

    It would be fundamentally unjust for court proceedings to be carried out in a language with which the parties were unfamiliar — even though that probably happens regularly, since there are only (!) 22 scheduled languages of India and hundreds more unrecognized dialects and minority languages.

    So, okay, the witness’s declaration was taken in Kannada. The action takes place in the state of Karnataka, where the two official languages are Kannada and English, so a witness could plausibly use either language. That makes sense. (Plus, it was a Kannada soap.)

    Another thing that caught my attention was that there was no religious sentiment expressed in the declaration. India is a highly religious country, with upwards of three-fourths of the country declaring that religion is important to them. In the U.S., that rate is a little lower, at 65%, but the most famous form of our witness declaration here does explicitly invoke God — “… so help me God,” a line that is usually delivered, scripted, by court bailiffs, along with a Bible.

    In American law, an oath specifically references God. The OED agrees: an oath is specifically a type of declaration that “invokes God, a god, or other object of reverence.” Those who don’t want to make an oath instead provide an “affirmation,” which starts with “I affirm…” instead of “I swear…” and omits the reference to God. Affirming is referenced four times in the U.S. Constitution as an alternative to swearing, and Britain has allowed affirmations instead of swearing since 1695.

    Regardless of whether you swear or affirm, if you lie, you can be charged with perjury, a serious crime.

    Other declarations abroad
    In Britain, oaths are given slightly differently from the American version:

    I swear by [Almighty God/Name of God/name of the holy scripture] that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    Affirmations in Britain require several more hedges than an oath, perhaps because of a cultural suspicion against people who affirm rather than swear: “I swear to tell the truth…” is such a well-known phrase that any deviance from that — regardless of how legal it is — can be regarded with suspicion.

    In Britain, one doesn’t simply “affirm” — one solemnly and sincerely and truly declares and affirms:

    I do solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

    In the U.S., one can simply affirm. Atheist and former Governor of California Culbert Olson, in office from 1939 to 1943, famously said to California Supreme Court Justice Waste, “God [can't] help me at all, and there isn’t any such person.” He chose to say “I will affirm,” rather than “I swear” during his oath of office.

    According to one of my friends in France (hi, Benoît!), the common declaration given by witnesses in France is:

    Je jure de parler sans haine et sans crainte, de dire toute la vérité, rien que la vérité.

    I swear to speak without anger and without fear, to say the entire truth, nothing but the truth.

    My friend writes, “Because France is a non-religious country, there isn’t any trace of God in any institutions.” I’m sure truth is more nuanced than that, but the French people are certainly less religious than the United States. But the word – jurer – used in the oath is similar to “swear.” Jurer usually carries the same valence as the English “swear” (in that it has religious undertones) and it also has the same secondary meaning of “to curse.” But jurer can also translate to “certify” or “pledge,” words that carry no religious undertones in English.

    Another one of my friends, a walking encyclopedia of Islam (hi, Ahmad!), gave me an overview of Muslim declarations of truthfulness. In many majority-Muslim countries, cases that are tried under Shari’ah law (today, usually family law disputes) require an oath to be given by witnesses. However, unlike Western civil courts, the oath is traditionally given after testimony is given. Once the judge collects all the testimony, he asks the parties to swear on the Qur’an or by God that what they have said is true, or else bringing upon them divine wrath. (Incidentally, this traditional oath appeared in the recent Golden Globe-winning Iranian film A Separation, which I highly recommend.)

    Back home

    The U.S. government is explicitly areligious, but a profession of faith is built directly into the common understanding of court procedure. Of course, there’s no law requiring nonbelievers to swear. But it’s undeniably unfair when free deviance from a set religious phrase, scripted and delivered by a court’s bailiff, could color a jury or judge’s perception of a witness. We shouldn’t be suspicious of someone who affirms more than someone who swears, but many of us are.

    Eliminating “I swear…” probably won’t help, but maybe raising the profile of “I affirm…” as an option for nonbelievers (and even believers who object to swearing in a civil setting) will help make the process fairer.

     
  • Sandeep Prasanna

    Sandeep Prasanna 9:34 am on January 17, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , precision   

    The English literature academy’s glorification of “elegant variation” in which one attempts to vary one’s nouns and adjectives when referring repeatedly to the same thing is anathema to the law.

    Kuney and Lloyd. Contracts: Transactions and Litigation. 2011: 40.
     
  • John Stokes

    John Stokes 6:15 pm on January 8, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: E.B. White, , , , quote, , taxes, White   

    Advice from E.B. White (especially good for aspiring lawyers…) 

    “Some day I mean to have a fireside chat with my government, that we may come to know each other a little better, for it is by a better understanding of the other’s traits that a government and its citizens must fulfill their mutual destinies. In my chat I want particularly to take up the first sentence under Section G of Form 1040, which is called ‘Items exempt from tax’ and which starts this way:

     ’The following items are partially exempt from tax: (a) Amounts received (other than amounts paid by reason of the death of the insured and interest payments on such amounts and other than amounts received as annuities) under a life insurance or endowment contract, but if such amounts (when added to amounts received before the taxable year under such contract) exceed the aggregate premiums or consideration paid (whether or not paid during the taxable year) then the excess shall be included in gross income. . . .’

    I want to ask my government what it thinks would become of me and my family if I were to write like that. Three sets of parentheses in one sentence! I’d be on relief inside of a month.

    That sentence, above, was obviously written by a lawyer in one of his flights of rhetorical secrecy. There isn’t any thought or idea that can’t be expressed in a fairly simple declarative sentence, or in a series of fairly simple declarative sentences. The contents of Section G of Form 1040, I am perfectly sure, could be stated so that the average person could grasp it without suffering dizzy spells. I could state it plainly myself if I could get some lawyer to disentangle it for me first. I’ll make my government a proposition: for a five-dollar bill (and costs), I will state it plainly.”

    -E.B. White. “Fro-Joy.” One Man’s Meat.

     
  • The Diacritics

    The Diacritics 4:32 pm on January 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    thediacritics.com 

    Ladies and Gentlemen, we’ve reached a milestone. Our domain is now officiallyhttp://www.thediacritics.com!

    Subscribers, don’t worry–you don’t need to change anything. Also, our WordPress domain will redirect you to the new site automatically.

    Oh, and new posts to come soon!

    -John and Sandeep

     
  • The Diacritics

    The Diacritics 1:19 pm on January 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cyrillic, dear leader, dprk, hangul, hanja, hanzi, kim il-sung, kim jong-il, kim jong-il looking at things, korean, , naming conventions, north korea, russia   

    What’s in a Kim? 

    (Posted by Sandeep)

    I’ve been fascinated by North Korea’s late Dear Leader Kim Jong-il for a while now — not just because he liked to look at things or because he died, although many people agree that those were two of his more positive qualities.

    Kim Jong-il looking at a leaflet.

    The reclusive state that he, and his father before him, maintained affected the development of the Korean language in the North by setting forth new standards (via official pronouncements in 1964, 1966, and 1987), which solidified differences between the Seoul and Pyongyang dialects. And while general daily vocabulary is based on a pre-partition standard, South Korean uses a lot of foreign borrowings from languages like English, whose influence is all but absent in the North.

    I was also surprised to learn that Kim Jong-il was born in Siberia with the name Yuri Irsenovich Kim. I couldn’t find any information about that discrepancy, so I did a little sleuthing.

    Kim Jong-il looking at names

    Korean naming conventions place the family name (here, Kim) at the beginning of the name. The name 김, Kim (pronounced /kim/, often mistakenly heard as “gim” because the /k/ is unaspirated) is the most common surname in Korea, with nearly 22% of Koreans named Kim. The name is derived from the Chinese hanzi (called hanja in Korean) 金, jīn, which means gold. In fact, nearly all popular Korean names derive their meaning from Chinese, and are often written in hanzi as well.

    The second part of Kim Jong-il’s name is derived from 正, zhèng (hanja), written 정 jeong (hangul), which means “straight” or “correct.” The third part is derived from 日, rì (hanja), written 일 il (hangul), which means “day.”

    Kim Jong-il named his sons using a generational name, keeping the character 정 jeong in all of them — Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-chul, and finally Kim Jong-un (the current Supreme Leader), although he didn’t do the same for his eldest child, a daughter, Kim Sul-song. Kim Jong-il’s father, Kim Il-sung, kept the character 일 il in his son’s name.

    That all does little, of course, to illuminate Kim Jong-il’s Russian name, Yuri Irsenovich Kim. For that we turn to the Slavs, whose naming conventions differ widely from the Koreans.

    Who is Kim Ir Sen?

    Russians place the family name (Kim) at the end. For males, the second name is a patronym, which means that it’s derived from the father’s name. If Yuri’s father’s name was Ivan, then his second name would be Ivanovich, like cosmonaut Yuri Ivanovich Malechenko. If Vladimir’s father’s name was Vladimir, then his second name would be Vladimirovich, like Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.

    So this means that Kim Jong-il’s father’s name was Irsen, right? Right.

    Wait, what? Sort of.

    Kim Jong-il’s father, as we all know, was Kim Il-sung, the Eternal President of North Korea. In Russian, his name was transliterated Ким Ир Сен, Kim Ir Sen. That form is the most commonly used Cyrillic transliteration of Kim Il-sung’s name. However, under the standardized Kontsevich system of transliterating Korean hangul into Cyrillic, his name would be spelled Ким Ильсо́н, Kim Il’són. The Kontsevich system is the main system for Korean transliteration in Russia, but proper nouns such as names are still often treated differently. (Indians can relate to this discrepancy — for example, while my name would be transliterated saṃdīp, it’s most commonly written in English as Sandeep.)

    What a happy brutal autocrat!

    The border between the liquids /l/ and /ɾ/ is frail in Korean, and a word spelled using /l/ can be pronounced as /ɾ/ depending on its position between vowels or at the end of words. However, the “l” in Il-sung is not located in one of those places. Instead, the Russian transliteration of Il-sung as Ир Сен Ir Sen seems to be a sound change that occurred in Russian, not Korean. I’m not familiar with Russian phonology, so maybe somebody can explain in the comments why his name is spelled with “р” r, not “л” l.

    But… Yuri?

    The name “Yuri” is derived from the Greek word γεωργός geōrgos, which roughly means farmer. It’s unlikely that naming Kim Jong-il “Yuri” was an attempt to translate “Jong-il” into Russian, because the component parts of Jong-il translate into “straight” and “day.” Maybe Kim Il-sung just really liked the name Yuri for his son.

    Yuri is a nice name, although if Kim Jong-il had kept it, he probably would have been teased on the playground — Yuri (유리, transliterated yuli but pronounced /ju:ɾi/) is a girl’s name in Korea.

    And nobody — nobody – teases the Dear Leader.

    So there you have it — a “look” at Korean and Russian names. Kim Jong-il — sorry, I mean Yuri Irsenovich Kim — would have been proud:

    Yuri Kim looking at jam.

     
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