I Don’t Understand English Spelling!

- - Language

Have you ever noticed how confusing English can be — particularly when it comes to spelling? Coming from Indonesia, I am used to a language that is spelled the same way that it sounds. In other words, there is some consistently. But think of the word “cow” in English. It rhymes with “brow” — and the spelling is consistent. However, it rhymes with both “bow” (as long as you’re talking about bending forward at the waist and not a knot or the tool you use to play a stringed instrument) and “bough.” However, “bough” does not rhyme with “cough,” which does not rhyme with either “through” or “though” either.

So, I went online to find out some explanation as to why the spellings in the English language are so inconsistent. Here are some of my findings:

The Roman alphabet didn’t show up in the British Isles, the birthplace of English, until Augustine of Canterbury showed up as a missionary in 597 AD. His crew tried to write down the language that they heard, but their alphabet only had 23 letters at the time, while it seemed like the Anglo-Saxons had about 35 distinct sounds. The missionaries scrapped together some Runic characters to describe those sounds, but they also had to use Roman letters in ways that Latin simply had not required.

In 1066, a group of people from Normandy, who spoke an early version of French, crossed the English Channel and conquered England. However, the people who already lived in England kept using their own language, while the new ruling class spoke French. French was also the official language of the courts and universities of the day. Most of the French words that carried over from that time were altered to match English pronunciation and spelling, such as attend, enchant, farm, lesson, and proof. However, other words that came from French to English retained a lot of their original spelling, such as people, muscle and autumn. French is based in Latin, while English is based in Anglo-Saxon, a completely different linkage of sounds and letters, which is one reason why English is such a mishmash. French didn’t really fall out of usage in England until the 15th century.

In the meantime, though, the “English” that the Anglo-Saxons had been using didn’t appear in writing, at least in an official capacity, for more than 200 years, as everything official was either written in French (for government and academic purposes) or in Latin (for purposes of the church). So, the scribes were trying their best to get everything down, but they just made a lot of mistakes — and left spelling much less than standard. Spelling basically collapsed into a practice that could vary wildly from one dialect to the next.

Before Gutenberg invented the printing press, there really wasn’t much uniformity in spelling from one place to another. Travelers spoke to one another more than they wrote letters, and there weren’t such things as pamphlets, newspapers or magazines to send around with the local news — that sort of information spread by word of mouth. Consider that the word “beauty” had at least seven different common spellings during that time frame, ranging from the relatively close “beaute” to “buute.” You really had to read phonetically to get a sense of what anyone was saying. Once the printing press showed up, spelling began to achieve a greater deal of standardization. Unfortunately, at the same time, there were major changes in pronunciation, as Middle English was transitioning into Modern English. Such letters as the “g” in “gnaw” and the “k” in “knee” became silent. Also, the “gh” in such words as “thought” and “night,” which had been pronounced like a guttural “ch” as they are in German, was becoming silent as well. However, the spellings for these words had already been standardized the old way by the time the new pronunciations took hold. Also, a huge shift in the way that people represent vowels was taking place, which meant that you had multiple spellings for the same vowel sound — and multiple vowel sound for the same vowel or group of vowels.

There was also a funky trend during the 16th and 17th centuries to start changing the spelling of words so that they looked more like they came from Latin or Greek than to represent the way that they sounded. For example, what had been written “Feverere” became written “February” in honor of the Latin word “Februarius.” This is how the “b” showed up in such words as “doubt” and “debt” and the “c” showed up in “indict.” These words did have a very tenuous provenance in Latin, going back through French even though they were imported into English without the extra sounds that the Latin letters justified. In other cases, the spelling just changed without a whole lot of thought for logic. Consider the Old English word “iglund,” which referred to what we call an “island” today. It was also spelled “ylonde” or “ilande” or “illond” until someone figured out that the Latin word was “insula” and decided that there weren’t enough consonants confusing things as it was.

An additional factor in the complex web of English spellings was the fact that, in many cases, many words came in from French, particularly referring to fancy things, but they were just allowed to keep their original spelling. This is why we have such difficult words as “casserole,” “silhouette” and “hors d’oeuvres” that are commonly used in the English language. The language has also brought in words from other Romance languages such as Spanish and Italian, and even from Asian languages (which use a completely different system for writing, going with symbols for words rather than using a phonetic system).

Finally, there are all those differences between American and British English in terms of spelling. That’s why a gray cloud in Chicago is grey in London, and a tire in Texas is a tyre in Wales. Someone can do you a favour in Cambridge, but they’ll only be doing you a favor in Miami. Even those scientific words come into play, as what the Brits call “aluminium” we call “aluminum” in America, although that’s really because a newspaper writer misspelled the new element in an American paper, but the misspelling stuck. You’ve got to love how English works! So even knowing the reason doesn’t necessarily make me feel better about it, but at least I can get a laugh about the history of this intriguing language.







Pilih yang mana ya?

- - My Thought

Pertanyaan yang sering muncul akhir-akhir ini adalah “To, elu pilih pasangan Capres Cawapres yang mana?

Saya belum menentukan mau pilih yang mana, tapi ini pertimbangannya:

1. Visi & Misi itu Penting tapi …

Bagi seorang pemimpin, visi dan misi adalah cerminan bagaimana dia memandang tantangan yang ada atau masalah yang harus diselesaikan. Pandangannya harus luas dan menyeluruh. Apalagi buat seorang presiden. Holistik gitu kali ya bahasa kerennya.

Namun, bagi saya visi dan misi hanyalah dalam tataran pemikiran dan tanpa tindakan kerja yang nyata, dia akan tetap berada dalam angan-angan belaka. Yang penting adalah setelah seseorang punya visi dan misi, bagaimana dia melakukan kerjanya yang nyata?

Lalu bagaimana menilai ya? Toh dua-duanya belum pernah menjadi presiden. Hmm.. menarik, tetapi saya jadi teringat salah satu teman kuliah saya. Sempat dulu sekali berdiskusi ringan, bagaimana ya meningkatkan pemerataan pendidikan? Ala-ala mahasiswa yang masih idealis, kita “merumuskan” visi pemerataan pendidikan.

Belakangan yang saya tahu, beliau saat ini sibuk membuat taman bacaan di desa-desa. Rajin mencari sumbangan, rajin menulis, menggugah orang-orang di sekitarnya untuk menyumbang dana, tenaga, atau apa saja yang bisa membantu anak-anak di desanya bisa membaca buku-buku. Sedangkan saya? Cuma sibuk menonton, paling banter juga menyumbang beberapa ribu rupiah, yang mungkin cuma sanggup untuk membeli sampul buku ?.

Jadi, kalau anda mau milih saya atau teman saya tadi, mana yang anda pilih? Dua-duanya pernah merumuskan visi hebat pemerataan pendidikan kok.

Akal sehat saya sih, pilih seseorang yang pernah membawa banyak visi dan misi hebatnya dalam kerja yang nyata. Kecil besarnya tergantung pada kemampuan dia dan sumberdaya yang dimiliki. Teman saya tadi adalah contohnya, yang saat ini dia lakukan mungkin bukan kelas seorang presiden, tapi paling tidak dia sudah mewujudkan mimpinya membuat Indonesia menjadi lebih cerdas.

2. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika.

Gampang saja untuk satu ini. Indonesia adalah negara dengan kemajemukan penduduknya. Ini kan sudah kita paham, karena itu ada Bhinneka Tunggal Ika.

Saya akan pilih seseorang yang nyaman bekerja dengan semua perbedaan yang ada. Seseorang yang memberikan kesempatan kepada semua orang terlepas dari perbedaan yang ada. Saya tidak akan memilih seseorang yang memakai kacamata kuda, memberikan kesempatan hanya pada orang yang “sama” dengannya.

Orang yang punya pikiran sempit tentang perbedaan, termasuk juga memilih teman yang punya pikiran sempit yang sama, sudah pasti akan saya tidak akan saya pilih.

3. Pernah kena kasus = Blacklist?

Nah disini pandangan saya agak lain mungkin. Bagi saya manusia itu gudangnya salah. Sangat wajar koq seseorang membuat kesalahan. Saya begitu juga.

Saya sendiri memandang ketika seseorang pernah “terjerumus” melakukan kesalahan, tetapi kemudian sudah menebusnya dengan menjalani hukuman, maka wajib bagi saya memberikan kesempatannya lagi. Sudah pernah dihukum koq, ya sudah kan? Ngapain ngungkit-ngungkit lagi.

Semudah itu? Eits … ada syarat tambahan, kasusnya benar-benar telah tuntas loh ya. Tidak ada lagi rasa keadilan yang terusik. Karena banyak kasus yang kalau kita lihat hitam putihnya hukum memang tidak salah, tapi kalau dilihat dari rasa keadilan, banyak yang terusik.

Justice maybe blind, but it can see in the dark ~ dark justice ?

So saya masih punya waktu nih untuk memilih yang mana. Apapun pilihan kita, dan siapapun yang menang, semoga Indonesia menjadi lebih baik. Selepas pemilihan presiden ini, siapa pun yang menang wajib kita dukung, wajib kita kritisi kalau ada yang salah tetapi tanpa niatan untuk menjelek-jelekkannya, atau menjatuhkannya lantaran semata-mata dia bukan pilihan kita.

Live your life at the fullest

- - My Thought

I don’t understand in the slightest why so many people stress out all the time and think about the little things all day long. Better yet, I can’t understand why people are so adamant on trying to avoid others without being accepting of them.

That’s what makes Tom Chivers’ recent column in the Telegraph all the more meaningful to me. I consider it to be a real wake-up call to anyone who tries to think about the little things all day long. Chivers really does put things in perspective when he mentions that your lifespan is slowly running away as every week is anther good 0.025% of your life gone. This might sound like a small bit but it can really add up after a while.

Chivers argues that we people on this planet are the only things in the universe that can really work towards understanding the universe and how it all works. We have to work hard to make our lives meaningful because we all have short attention spans. Eighty years might sound like a long time but it is nothing when compared to how long humanity has been around for. You have to make your life worth something if you want to be satisfied with it.

I absolutely agree with Chivers’ argument that we cannot just try to think about silly conspiracies and other questionable mystic ideas as they are nothing but the small stuff in life. They are just things that people think about because they have nothing better to do in their lives. You shouldn’t be thinking that like as it’s not something I would recommend doing.

It’s especially important to be tolerant of other people. I think that our lives would be much better if we were a little more accepting of society and that we didn’t criticize others for what they believe. This is a challenge to some but I feel that it is something that must be considered as our lives are often tough for what it’s worth.

You really have to live your life to the fullest if you want to go places. The fact is that you can’t just think about what you will do in the future and how it will impact the world. The fact is that the people you are around will die out just as well and that your work may end up being forgotten at time goes along.

The fact that the human race will someday die out as a whole will only make some of the small things that you do all the more questionable and unnecessary. I know that it sounds like a harsh concept that Tom Chivers introduces but it is a good point that has to be understood regardless of what people would think about.

In summary, I agree with the article and the ways how it explains how we should be more concerned with our lives and to be open to ideas without thinking about questionable stuff. We have to think about ourselves in the big picture and in realistic terms if our lives are to actually be worth something.

Towards A Tolerant Society That Respects Diversity and Encourages Inclusivity

- - My Thought

We cannot ignore the fact that we live in a globalized world. There are more and more people migrating into our country each day. There are also many people emigrating to other countries in search of jobs and other opportunities. It is therefore unlikely that we will continue to comfortably live in our own cultural cocoon. Our society is in itself shaped by very many people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. We would not be as powerful and as great if we did not embrace each other as a people and set our differences aside.

However, our society is becoming more and more intolerant to minorities. This is a sad reality because the blood and sweat of both the majority and minority populations present in this country today built the foundations of our economy and industrial might. We must therefore look at the direction our social interactions are taking. We can begin by examining why we need diversity and inclusivity in our society. Here are a couple of reasons why.

Diversity prevents monotony in our economic, social and political systems. It encourages us to think outside the box and really examine where we as a people want to go. We question our values, the importance of our principles and the missing pieces in our moral fabric. It is only through diversity that we truly learn to be just, accountable and responsible for what happens to our fellow citizens, now and in future.

Diversity adds to our cultural and historical heritage. This is because we can now identify with different societies all over the globe. We can relate to their cultures, customs and beliefs. We can do this from a point of knowledge and not from an ignorant perspective. We can now understand the world better and appreciate what humanity has overcome and how far we are yet to go.

Diversity also increases our overall level of satisfaction and happiness. This happens when society allows everyone to pursue happiness by choosing his or her own destiny. We should not hinder anyone in their pursuit of what they believe will add value to their life just as long as it does not interfere with the lives and freedoms of others. Additionally, we should not also discriminate against anyone who chooses a given lifestyle that we see as strange or unconventional. It is their choice not ours.

At the end of the day, an inclusive society is able to produce people who are happy and content with their lives. People who live in such a society will fight to protect it. This therefore means that an inclusive society also brings out a sense of belonging and national pride. Patriotism soon follows thereafter. People will protect the structures, systems and government that make them feel included and important just like everybody else.

We as a society should therefore be more tolerant to diverse views, opinions, cultures, religions and ethnic backgrounds. We should create systems in our schools, universities, medical institutions, political systems and judicial structures that promote diversity and inclusivity of all people regardless of their background.

5 Songs that I like in 2012

- - Uncategorized

These are 5 songs that I like in 2012. It is not necessary a new song released in 2012, but I just discovered in 2012.

1. Jason Mraz – 93 Million Miles

2. Wanting Qu – Life Is Like a Song

3. Lady Antebellum – Just A Kiss

4. Owl City feat Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time

5. The Wanted – Glad You Came

Pasar Malam

- - Uncategorized


Satu hal yang saya sukai dari tinggal di Singapura adalah negara ini berstandard first world country namun tanpa meninggalkan jiwa asianya. Salah satunya adalah adanya pasar malam seperti yang baru-baru ini saya jumpai di kawasan tempat tinggal saya.

Gila Baca

- - Uncategorized



Saya memang suka sekali membaca. Dari mulai koran, majalah, buku, sampai brosur, bahkan pembungkus cabai pun saya baca. Entah bagaimana ceritanya saya senang sekali membaca, sementara orang lebih senang menonton tv atau main game online. Yang pasti memang dari kecil saya sudah dibiasakan membaca oleh kedua orang tua saya. Paling tidak mereka selalu rajin membelikan saya buku-buku cerita atau majalah anak-anak. Mungkin dulu ketika zaman SD, sebulan atau dua bulan sekali, saya selalu diajak ke Toko Buku untuk sekedar cari buku cerita terbaru. Dulu kegemaran saya adalah cerita Lima Sekawan yang dikarang oleh Enid Blyton.

Kehilangan Bahasa Indonesia

- - Uncategorized

Baru saja saya mendapatkan adsense newsletter. Namun tidak seperti biasanya, kali ini saya menerima edisi berbahasa Indonesia. Entah apakah saya sudah pernah menerima edisi bahasa bahasa Indonesia sebelumnya. Tetapi rasa-rasanya ini adalah kali pertama saya membaca adsense newsletter dalam bahasa ibu.

Tulisannya sendiri cukup baku dan formal. Dilihat dari gaya bahasa yang digunakan, saya menduga newsletter ini diterjemahkan bukan oleh penutur asli bahasa Indonesia. Walaupun bahasa Indonesianya cukup baik, masih terasa bukan gaya orang Indonesia asli yang menulis.

Yang menarik adalah, kalau newsletter ini ditulis atau diterjemahkan bukan oleh penutur asli bahasa Indonesia, boleh dibilang kemampuannya sudah jempolan. Tinggal masalah waktu saja, gaya menulisnya bisa seperti tulisan di Kompas atau Tempo.

Hal itu membuat saya merenung betapa saya sudah mulai kehilangan kemampuan menulis dalam bahasa Indonesia yang baik dan benar, terutama untuk penulisan formal dan baku.

Apakah ini pertanda saya harus mulai rajin menulis blog? :)