Cabo da Boa Esperança

Ele dobra o Cabo da Boa Esperança.
He is rounding the Cape of Good Hope.
— Portuguese proverb

The Cabo das Tormentas, or Cape of Storms, as it was originally known after being named by Bartolomeu Dias was a monumental place for Europeans, and especially the Portuguese. But, before delving further into this story, I will note that I am not a linguist of the language nor do I have that good a sense of their culture or life — I am, quite simply, a master of conjecture. And, my mastery could be entirely misled. 🙂

The meaning of this phrase is something I’ll return to before espousing this wild conjecture I have in my mind. Namely, it signifies that the person in question is in the final phase of their life and that nothing else of significance will happen for them.

João II, o Príncipe Perfeito, decided to rename the cape from the Cape of Storms to that of Good Hope — his reaction, no doubt, signifying that for him the passing of the cape was the signal of divine providence he had hoped and looked for. He had been financing journeys to the distant lands for a long time, hoping to hear that the ships made progress towards India and yet thus far, all they had been able to do was to make their way further south. Yet, where they really had to go was north. This cape provided the first base after which they were likely to move further north, and hence this was a sign.

The rounding of the very same cape, therefore, was one of the most important moments ever. Who could guess that another few thousand kilometres remained before their carracks could reach the Malabar coast, and who could even guess what sort of difficulties they would find when they got there. Fortunately, when that time came they were up to the challenge as they had men of sufficient quality to lead in those troubled times.

So, my conjecture: what seemed to be an easy task would be such in the eye of the person in the old country. For them, the rounding of the cape made for that final stretch, even if unknowingly the stretch could take twenty years to conquer and be a few thousand kilometres long. They were *almost* there. And, with that mentality, the rounding of the cape was defining moment.

And, as such, it has remained in the language even though history shows otherwise for the country as a whole.

I wish to write more…

And I don’t. I even have posts that I manage to plan out in my mind whilst out and about. There is just the small and slightly relevant problem that I almost never manage to write them out once I get back home.

I have tried to think of ideas to make me more consistent in my writing, but I will have to see how that works out.

Right now, while watching ‘A Few Good Men’ once again, I thought that I would at least try putting some sort of a note down here that I can try writing more. A friend of mine recently started blogging, and I was hoping that her consistency would make me fall in line as well. Alas, that particular engine seemed to slow down so now I am wondering what would work best for me.

Until I work that one out, I will point out that I have had in mind to write a few words on British imperialism in the modern day, or at least my impressions on something that might be called as such. [And now that I have written it out, I will have to try doing it in least time possible. And maybe comment on ‘A Few Good Men’ as well. I do like that movie.]


To follow up on my recent thoughts on the word ‘Chiaroscuro’, I thought to bring up a word that English seems to lack. Namely, the French ‘descente’: the original word can be used in the way that I am familiar with it, and Finno-Ugric (Estonian certainly and probably Finnish as well), Baltic (Latvian and Lithuanian), and Slavic (Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Serbian to name a few) languages use a localised version of this ‘descente’ to signify what is known in English as a ‘landing operation’/’invasion’.

My problem with this? It’s not really the level of a problem, but more the question of elegance and conveyed meaning: namely, I find the ‘descente’-tree words far more elegant and stylish to describe a complex military operation than the constructed ‘landing operation’ or ‘invasion’ which is highly unspecific in what it looks like and what it does.

Indeed, what I find is that ‘landing operation’ is not entirely accurate because an actual landing operation would be far more than the landing — the logistics and naval/aerial forces involved play a huge part. This word-pair seems to suggest that we’re talking of a simple arrival at some undetermined location.

‘Invasion’ is nondescript in whether we’re using the sea or land: land invasion could hardly be considered a ‘landing’. Likewise, there is little to no chance of someone trying to say ‘an aerial invasion’. ‘Naval invasion’ works rather well but I would shy away from using invasion unless we had a proportionally relevant number of soldiers included. There is also the difference in goals: invasion is meant to occupy territory while it would sound a bit odd in some other contexts.

‘Descente’, on the other hand, also contains the auxiliary forces concerned in making the landing happen — be they planes or ships. It is specific to planes and ships — in other words objects one could ‘descend’ from, and there’s no information conveyed about the objective of the event. In other words, the French word sums up the complex situation in a simpler way.

What’s not to be liked?


From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

: pictorial representation in terms of light and shade without regard to color
a : the arrangement or treatment of light and dark parts in a pictorial work of art
b : the interplay or contrast of dissimilar qualities (as of mood or character)
: a 16th century woodcut technique involving the use of several blocks to print different tones of the same color; also : a print made by this technique
: the interplay of light and shadow on or as if on a surface
: the quality of being veiled or partly in shadow

For some reason, I really like the sound of this word. Why? I can’t really put my hand to it, but the sound of it when one says the word — it is ethereal. Otherworldly.

Now, I have to admit that I have not heard it used once in everyday conversations, and I have seen it in literature for only a handful of times with the majority of these being in one novel (that I have reread). However, every time I read/listen as it goes by, I feel that the word has a personality. Mind you, if it was a person, it would probably be a bit too pretentious — but as a word I would really like to know it better. I would like to use it… but not too much.

For the etymologically inclined, it would seem that the root of the word is Italian — the words chiaro and oscuro, light and dark. Maybe that Romance heritage is what gives the word some charm in an English sentence, although it could be something else.

It could also be that if I knew what made me like this word so much, I would not like it any more. So I shall let this mystery be, at least for today…

On Swearing

I saw a few days ago that an acquaintance on Facebook posted a picture which went by the effect that “Science shows that people who swear are most honest in their daily lives”. I offered no comment then, but in my mind a rather prominent question-mark appeared. So, I thought of this…

As a general note on the background, I have to add that this same person does use swearwords as part of his everyday vocabulary, both online and in-person as far as I know. I, on the other hand, rarely do so — I indeed remember a particular instant last week when I did use an expletive with the explicit goal of trying to emphasize my point to the other person, which I believe worked at that time for her first reaction was: “I don’t think I’ve heard you swear before.”

Now, however, to get back on topic: I am very adamantly of the opinion that any use of an expletive in a conversation between two people only serves to dumb the discussion down, and is of no use in building intelligent constructive arguments. That, along with the fact that anything can be very well said without swearing, is the main point that I stick to as much as possible (singular cases like the one I brought out before excluded).

That is also the same critique I apply to most items I read and hear: if they have needed to use expletives to define their own point of view, then clearly something is wrong. Either their statement was too weak in their opinion without swearing or they just feel as if they need to add to it to make it stronger. And that “addition” by default makes me regard the entire point as less, not more.

I would indeed state that I have yet to see a sentence which has improved in its overall value by making it more profane — it is, in short, for me the (first and foremost) sign of an uncultured mind.

Of Tyrants and Dictators

I generally abhor the misuse of any term which has a specific meaning, and recently it has come up in discussion that one was again misused — or misused as I see it. Indeed, I much prefer the original Roman meaning for dictator and the Greek meaning for tyrant. I find that every subsequent use has degraded the original and added a connotation that they not necessarily deserve. Continue reading “Of Tyrants and Dictators”


Oh the wonders of accents. There’s “detail” and there is also… “de-tail”.

Or, at least, that is how it sounds to me. First I heard it a few weeks ago in an American film designed to introduce oceanography to people, but since then I’ve noticed it in so many different places that it is scary. Especially scary since it does sound as if they say that were “de-tailing” *something*…

This is, I actually believe, the first time that an accent manages to confuse me so much.

Confuse? Yes, because every time I hear it said like that, my mind asks: “Why don’t you like that tail?”

We have moved into unchartered waters, and see places that don’t exist.

The Devaluation of Words, or How History Repeats Itself

So, to keep this short and concise, I will start out with a short description of a friend I have. I need to describe him in a short manner for the present purposes — he was : a good person at heart but with the tendency to keep everything to the last minute; this meant that more often than not he would go up to people and apologize for something or the other that had been left undone. He is indeed a good person through and through but I would call it a mix of unwillingness and laziness that brought about how his actions unfolded — but in a sense, the reasons do not matter while the result does.

Then, my thoughts, looking at it from the sidelines, were that my friend was using up the value of the apologies that he had — for if he apologized a thousand times for a hundred different things, the word lost all meaning, the listener becoming desensitized against it. I did not like how this turned out (for it is important to me for every word to count). In a sense, I knew then (and know now) that people were more ready to forgive him for they saw the good person inside the outer shell, and that they were not interested in the apologies. The word, the action had already devalued itself against most everything the world could bring. But that knowing of him had only come with time, and they had seen the evolution into this creature of apologies. So they knew there was something else in there, and they knew it was hidden beneath the surface for the time being. That was then.

Now I find myself being the person apologizing : to customer A in this table, to customer B and C in that. I sometimes wonder how often I mean what I say, if it all hasn’t turned into an elaborate act. And yet, I couldn’t get by without performing it : since for me it is not a performance. If the output of service is lacking then there is a fault, and people need to know. So they will know. And they will know that I regret the fault even if I had nothing to do with bringing it about.

But I also know that every time I say something is wrong (with the apologies due at that moment), I reach closer to the place where it would be better for me to say nothing. And I could not do that. There is a reason for everything — this reason determines why one thing takes ten minutes when it could be done in five; the reason determines why I like to walk instead of cycle on another day. The reason may well be irrelevant when we look at things from a bit farther away but it is nevertheless a reason.

Unfortunately, in that business (and in so many others), the reason comes down to someone’s fault. And, if it is mine, I have the wish to tell the people that. Even though I know that it means nothing to them — and that the apologies I can offer mean even less.
It was sad to see this happening from the sidelines. It is even worse being in it — a farce as good a one as has ever been. And my thoughts return to whether my friend knew of it when he communicated with people in the manner.  And I know that I will ask him about it when we next meet. And I know that I will probably like the answer : for he is a good person, he is an honest person; and the reasons are likely to be similar to mine.

But in the mean time, what can I do except continue as it has been ?

Damned be my honesty.

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