Alphabet Soup

Hello and welcome back to another week of half truths and whole lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by an excellent scarab beetle of my acquaintance, who asked:

Why do so many languages use different alphabets? Why don’t we all have the same one?

As many people know (or at least, have been told), written language evolved from pictures and images. In fact, though, this is an oversimplification: written language evolved, specifically, from images of foods.

This is no arbitrary set of images: before language was expressed in images of foods, people used the foods themselves. That’s right: both written and spoken language were merely offshoots of edible language, which for millennia was the most common form of communication worldwide.

And while anyone can taste any flavour, the reason for different alphabets in the resulting languages is, ultimately, a fairly simple one: different types of foods can be found in different parts of the world – because different plants grow in different places, in the cases of fruits and vegetables and other naturally-derived foods, and because cultural palates differ from place to place, in the case of processed foods.

The different foods in different places led naturally to different lexicons in each of those places, which were transcribed first as images and then as corresponding letters and words, correlating to those disparate foods.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains incorrect information. Do not use as an authoritative source in research projects.

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The Lace of Queen Ann

Hello and welcome to yet another week of deception and disinformation here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will be answering a pair of questions from my own genuine mother, who has taken advantage of Factually Deficient’s Friends and Family Discount to ask two questions for the price of one:

How would you pluralize Queen Ann?
How would you pluralize Queen Ann’s Lace?

The first of these questions seems deceptively simple. It is true that “Queen Ann” would most commonly and correctly be pluralized as “Queens Ann,” but this question does not exist in a vacuum: it is no abstract notion.

In the 1100s, there was a King of Prince Edward Island (son of the eponymous Prince Edward), named Henry the Eight, who had – as his name suggests – not one but eight queenly wives, all of whom were named Ann. This created a rather contentious and precarious situation, and grammarians the isle over disputed which spelling of “Ann” or “Anne” should be used as the standard when pluralizing the bevy of queens.

As for the second question, however, I am afraid that it is too much of an absurdity to even answer. The eight Queens Ann had, in fact, only one lace between them: a highly intricate and coveted piece of embroidery which was seen as a status symbol in the pecking order of their crowded family.

Eventually, one of the Queens Ann (the third one) took the Queen Ann’s lace and used it to smother her husband and rivals to death. She became the sole ruler of Prince Edward Island, with one lace to rule them all, and her reign continued uninterrupted until Prince Edward Island was conquered by Canada in 1292.

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Disclaimer: the above post is untrue, and should not be used as a resource for information Prince Edward Island, King Henry the Eighth, or English pluralizations.

Canadian English

Hello and welcome to yet another week of half-truths and whole lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by the renowned Sicon112, regarding the language of my homeland:

So, my phone has apparently randomly switched its keyboard to what it calls “Canadian English”; however, the results it suggests for me are more like the language of R’lyeh if Cthulhu were French. I call in my ace investigator of all things Canadian.

It is a common misconception that English and French are the primary languages spoken in the Kingdom of Canada. Naturally, when Canada rose whole cloth from the sea, it arose with its own utterly unique and grammatically complete language as part of the package. John A. Macdonald, a talented linguist in addition to his other talents, worked tirelessly to teach this language throughout the reaches of his new land.

However, as the land to the south of Canada slowly became populated, a curious phenomenon was noted. The language that had formed with the geological formation of the Kingdom of Canada seemed to be keyed to the land; only those who had spent their youths in Macdonald’s domain were able to comprehend it or to make any sense of it at all.

An inability to communicate with the outside world was, at the time, seen as rarely a good thing. Thus, when Canada conquered other lands, such as England and France, it adopted their tongues, and began to use English and French as its official languages of communication with outsiders.

Canadian English (and Canadian French, respectively) is a different beast entirely. This is the English language written phonetically in the original Canadian language: it is perfectly comprehensible to all native Canadians, and – for the reasons detailed above – utterly incomprehensible to anyone who originated elsewhere.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a work of fiction. There are other languages spoken in Canada besides Canadian English and Canadian French.

Shamir and There

Hello and welcome to yet another week of unreliable narration here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed to Factually Deficient by the one and only Michael J. Andersen, who stated:

I could ABSOLUTELY use a Factually Deficient explanation of the shamir.

Mr. Andersen is referring to the shamir renowned in song and story. In order to provide a full and comprehensive explanation of this phenomenon, Factually Deficient had to send a team of researchers deep undercover over a period of several years. Two of our agents only narrowly escaped with their lives.

Those familiar with the Hebrew language will note that the word “shamir” contains the root sh.m.r., which can be used to refer to “preservatives” as well as “yeast”. This is an etymological hint as to the true nature of the shamir.

The shamir is alive, yes, but it is neither animal, vegetable, nor mineral. Rather, it is the humble yeast. Many people believe yeast to be a leavening agent. This is not quite accurate. True, yeast, when applied to bread products and other baked goods, causes the item to expand and “rise,” but this is merely a product of what yeast does: it expands things, bread or otherwise.

When applied to bread, the result is leavening. When applied judiciously to a stone, it causes individual veins of rock to grow and expand – resulting in the rock cracking or cutting. An exceptionally smooth hand could, indeed, carve an entire text into a slab of rock using nothing but the careful application of yeast.

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Disclaimer: the above post is misleading. Do not attempt to use yeast to carve rock.

If You Have to Ask, You Can’t Afford It

Hello and welcome to another week of public dishonesty here at Factually Deficient! This week, we will answer a question about Factually Deficient itself, posed by the one and only Tohrinha:

What is the price of asking a question of Factually Deficient?

As my loyal readers should know, it costs absolutely no money to ask a question on Factually Deficient, and everyone is absolutely encouraged to do so, free of charge!

However. Every action comes with a cost.

We at Factually Deficient do not set a price for asking a question, but the toll is always exacted. Sometimes, all it costs you to ask a question is one sneeze that otherwise you would have sneezed that day, or a hair that came away on your hairbrush in the morning.

Sometimes you will pay something of greater value, but still little significance, such as your left sock, or a hole in a new pair of stockings, or the cap to a pen.

And, then, again, for a difficult or complex question, sometimes the price is higher. Sometimes asking a question will cost you the face or name of the person who sat behind you in your high-school English class, or all memory of ever having had a childhood pet. Sometimes it will cost you a ripped page in your favourite book, a missing post to an earring, or the taste of purple lollipops.

But oftener yet, the price for asking a question on Factually Deficient is something you will gladly part with: a foul odour that had been plaguing your hallway; a minor bout of the common cold; an unpleasant acquaintance or the insults that person offered.

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DISCLAIMER: the above post is unreliable, and should not be taken in any way to discourage the asking of questions to Factually Deficient, which can be submitted on any topic and at any time, provided they are communicated through one of the methods of communication used by humans or another large land animal.

Kings Henry

Hello and welcome to yet another utterly unreliable week here at Factually Deficient, where we print only the most untruthful of lies. This week, I will answer a question posed by the most excellent Tohrinha, who asked:

How do you pluralize “King Henry”?

While on the surface this may look like a simple question of grammar, the essential question that Tohrinha is getting at is something much deeper.

How we pluralize the name “King Henry” depends largely on the context – that is to say, the pluralization of the phrase depends entirely on how the actual King Henry in question has been made plural as opposed to singular.

On rare occasion, a King Henry can become pluralized simply by having a namesake for a descendant; when there are is a long line of kings, all naturally named Henry, we have a simple situation of several (often eight or more) Kings Henry.

There is, however, another way in which a King Henry may become multiplied. Too often, people – especially kings, with all of their awesome responsibilities – come to believe that their daily routine is simply too much for one body to handle. These people think that cloning themselves will solve all of their problems. Alas, with the unreliable cloning mechanisms available to us today, doing so more often than not leads to more harm than good.

But of course, the cloning cannot be undone, and we are left with, for example, far too many King Henries lying about the place.

There you have two possible pluralizations of “King Henry”; finally, if you have an assortment of each – clones spanning different generations of people named Henry, whether clones and their descendants, or the clones of an entire family – what you are plagued with are too many Kings Henries.

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Disclaimer: the above post is not well-researched. There is no evidence to support any King Henry cloning himself.

Fathertongue

Hello and welcome back to another untrustworthy week here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will be answering a question posed by my own personal mother, who asked:

Why do people talk about mothertongues but not fathertongues? And what exactly is a fathertongue?

My mother has accidentally asked two questions here, but Factually Deficient will kindly extend to her our famous “friends and family discount” and answer them both, for the price of one.

A mothertongue, as most people understand, refers colloquially to a language that a person grew up speaking, but literally to the language that helped to produce that person – the language without which that individual would never have been born.

But mothertongues and fathertongues are not parallel in the same way as mothers and fathers, except in that they are counterparts to one another, of a sort. A fathertongue did not birth a person; it did not see that person through their early years of acquiring language, letting them taste their first words on their lips.

A fathertongue comes later. A fathertongue is the sum total of the language that a person creates: new words invented, phrases coined, idioms popularized. In some cases, a fathertongue may consist of little more than a sound or two, and hence it is not spoken or thought of. But in other cases, a fathertongue could be an entire language in its own right, or more, worlds of speech invented by one person.

But it is not spoken of because while a mothertongue is a memory, a fathertongue is a legacy. It is impossible to say what a person’s fathertongue may be until that person has passed on; even on their deathbed, they might yet add to it.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains erroneous information. Fact-checking is recommended.

The Invention of English

Hello and welcome to yet another week of only the fakest of news and the reddest of lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed to me on an oblong post-it note by a resourceful grade 6 student. She asked:

Who invented English?

It is a common misconception that the English language is named after its inventor. Although many languages are named for the person who originated them (good examples of this include French, named for General French; Turkish, named for Turkish Delight, and Phoenician, named for Phoenicia Smith), English is not one of them. The fact that it is typically written with a capital letter is merely in respect of the fact that it is the name of a language, not a language named for a name.

This is not to suggest, however, that the letters that form the word “English” do not hint at its origins. Indeed, they provide a very large hint to the fact that English was invented by engineers.

After decades of labouring in silence, with only rudimentary gestures to guide their shared work, the engineers of what is now the English-speaking world determined that they, too, needed a language, a lingua franca to facilitate innovation and invention, cooperation and coordination. They were more accustomed to inventing machines and structures, but with the best scientific minds of the decade at work together, they were at last able to throw together something at least resembling a language.

Because that language was the one made by engineers, for engineers, the head of the engineering team that created the language (one John English, though his name in most circles has been lost to the mists of time) decided that it should be named, as well, for engineers: and so he called this rudimentary language “English.”

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Disclaimer: the above post is a work of fiction, and does not accurately represent the origins of the English language.

Past Tense

Hello and welcome to another week of misleading claims and untruthful statements here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a question posed by the unbeatable Tohrinha, who asked:

What is the past tense?

With the invention of time travel in early 1292, the past became not only a memory, but also a place – a place that changed with an alarming frequency.

Although changing the past does not, of course, change one’s memories of how events had originally played out, it was discovered that those affected by the changes would gain an entirely new set of memories whole cloth, pertaining to the “new” state of past events, alongside their original memories.

Soon, with the congestion of time tourism, some people found that they had dozens, or even hundreds, of conflicting memories regarding the same period of time. And while those involved understood perfectly well what it was that they were remembering, it became increasingly more difficult and inaccessible to discuss these conflicting memories with others – even others who shared those memories, even others who had played a part in the time travel.

Fortunately, grammar came, as always, to the rescue, in the form of the past tense.

The past tense is a linguistic innovation – described by some of its detractors as a “slapdash barrel of neologisms” – in the form of an entirely new verb tense. This incredibly complex verb form indicates without a shred of ambiguity exactly which set of remembered events is under discussion, by way of a thorough if difficult conjugation.

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Disclaimer: the above post contains misinformation. Not all people retain memory of changed events subsequent to time travel.

The Language of Lamour

Hello and welcome to another wild week of wacky lies here at Factually Deficient! This week, I will answer a language question posed by the incredible individual known as Tohrinha. Tohrinha asked:

What does it mean to be the language of l’amour?

Well may Tohrinha ask about the language of l’amour. This is a long sought-after language, one whose identity and origins have been clouded by language itself.

What is the language of l’amour? First of all, the apostrophe does not belong in the phrase; it was added, in the last seventy years, out of a misplaced belief that the language had Gallic origins. Before the inaccurate apostrophe, it was the language of Lamour. But even this was not the original incarnation of the tongue. Lamour is actually a corruption of Larmor, which itself derives originally from either Lumber or Armoire.

While the Plant Kingdom is a diverse realm which hosts many different dialects and languages, there is one which only the most advanced of botanists sought to learn. It was whispered of, in the dank corners of underground greenhouses, that there were some trees which continued to think even after they were cut down, and proved their sentience through language. Rebel botanists passed secret messages about this language, that only the wisest of plants developed, and only the most daring of men could begin to master: the language of lumber, the language of the armoire.

It is unknown which was the original source for the language: whether these brave botanists spoke in general of the tongue used by lumber that had been chopped, or whether they rightly revered the antique armoire who was recorded as the first known speaker of this language. But either way, three things are certain: first, that no one has heard it spoken and understood it in over six hundred years; second, that any botanist who can hear and learn this language spoken in the wild would be esteemed above all others; and finally, that the Language of Lamour is the most exalted of all possible languages.

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Disclaimer: the above post is a pack of lies. There is no reason to believe that armoires originated a language of any kind.