Tag Archive | economics

Language Switching and why I do it so much

If you are a fan of the Legendary Women of World History biographies or period dramas, you have no doubt noticed that I tend to bounce around languages a great deal, sometimes at the expense of being directly understandable in a given point in the book.  So why do I do it and why will I not simply put the whole damn thing in English like normal people do?

In a word, PARALINGUISTICS.  Paralinguistics is a social science term for the parts of verbal communication that are not inherent in the meaning of the words we use.  Paralinguistics is the HOW of our speech: its melody, its pace, its inflection and so forth.  Dialect and specific word choice is also paralinguistic. It conveys to listeners a great deal of information about a person and in particular information about gender, ethnicity, place of birth, place of residence, socio-economic class, even race sometimes.  Different places have different names for the same thing.


The labels we use for objects varies greatly with our geography and our dialect. A classic example of this is our word for a sweetened carbonated beverage.

One classic example I studied in university in my “non-verbal communication” class was the word we use to refer to a sweetened carbonated beverage. No, it is not the same word everywhere.  In the southern United States, the word “coke” is used to refer to such beverages, regardless of brand (I heard this myself during my stay in Louisville, Kentucky).  In many Midwestern states such as Nebraska where I was born and raised, the word is “pop.”  In New England the preferred word is “soda” which is the word I default to. In fact I often very purposely avoid the word “pop,” much to the annoyance of my now late mother who complained that I “didn’t talk like a Nebraskan.” That’s because I had so thoroughly adjusted my dialect to what is normal in the greater New York City metropolitan area that I no longer sounded like someone from the Midwest.

crawdad crayfish

Is it a crawdad, crawfish, or crayfish?  The word you use is largely determined by where you are from.

Beyond geography, our paralinguistics tell listeners a great deal about our socio-economic status and education.  A person with a third grade education talks differently than a person with a university degree.  A person who has traveled a great deal also talks differently from a person who has never left her own town or village. The languages one speaks is a powerful communicator of this information and how that person is perceived.  As a rule, speaking multiple languages is a mark of education, travel, and often class.  It tells you very concisely who that person is and what her or his background is.

No where is this more evident than in the use of honorifics.

What is an honorific?  It’s a word we use to convey respect to another person.  A classic example is when we address a judge “your honour” and a member of a royal family as “Your Majesty” or “Your Highness.” In medieval societies it was especially important to show proper respect with these honorifics which include “your grace,” “my lord/milord,” “my lady/milady,” “my liege,” “sire,” “master,” “mistress,” and so forth.

Honorifics in the Legendary Women of World History biographies almost always follow the person’s nationality or adopted nationality.  So Princess Nest ferch Gruffydd respectfully greets King Gruffydd ap Cynan with the Welsh “f’arglwydd” which means “milord.” Use of “f’arglwydd” (or its feminine form “f’arglwyddes”) instantly tells you the speaker is Welsh. Likewise French Princess Catherine de Valois (book two) periodically speaks French, both to her family members and to the monolingual King Henry V, particularly during their many arguments.

When Matilda of England returns to London after the death of her husband, Kaiser Heinrich V, her persistent use of German and German forms of people’s names is there to tell you very concisely that she identifies herself as “empress” (German, Kaiserin; Latin, Imperatrix).  This is absolutely historical and it is a major reason why the Anglo-Norman nobility found her impossible to work with. Using German powerfully conveys how Matilda saw herself and how she insisted on being treated.

The use of language therefore tells you who the person is and how s/he self-identifies.  The actual meaning of the individual words is far less important than what the use of them says about the person as a whole and in the given moment.  Queen Elizabeth Tudor spoke at least six languages and therefore very fluently moved across them as she desired and the situation merited.  The immediate descendants of William the Conqueror spoke both English and French with the same fluency as many Canadians do today.  By necessity they used English, French, and Latin in the day-to-day administration of their vast realms.  Medieval Europeans prayed in Latin so all of the prayers found in the LWWH are in Latin as well.

Language switching in the Legendary Women of World History series is therefore essential in accurately communicating who these people were and the societies in which they lived.  It might be easier to render a prayer in English from a reader point of view, but it would not be historically accurate to do so. It might be more comfortable for some readers if all dialogue were in English, but doing so would strip out all of the paralinguistics that we all use everyday when communicating with other people.  It would be akin to writers universally using the word “coke” to refer to a soft drink without considering if that word is what a historical person or character would actually label the beverage.  A person from the southern United States most certainly would — but not all people in the United States are from the southern region nor are all English speakers from that region either.


Whether we realize it or not our word choices are an essential part of our daily communication.  More than simply which words we use, our dialects and use of borrowed words from other languages communicates a great deal about who we are to people.  Fluency in many languages is driven by many factors in our lives:  social, economic, educational, and professional to name just a few. How we speak is a major part of the tapestry of our lives.  Embrace that tapestry in your own life and use your understanding of it to enhance your understanding of other people.





Followup News: Booklinker REVERSES advertising policy

Blogging makes a difference!  After reporting on 4th October 2014 regarding Booklinker’s new plan to charge authors a monthly fee to use their links without intrusive advertisements before customers can reach Amazon.com, Booklinker has JUST REVERSED their decision,

“Laurel A. Rockefeller,

This is just a quick email to let you know that we at BookLinker have reversed our decision to use advertising as a means to fund our service.

This means that all BookLinker links are now completely back to the way they were a few days ago – i.e. no advertising whatsoever.

After having reviewed the situation, we are now uninanmously committed to an ad-free BookLinker forever.

Many thanks to those of you who provided us with feedback, and we have already refunded everyone who had already signed up for the premium plan.

It was at least encouraging to realise just how much our service is appreciated!”


Will this change my marketing strategy?  Probably not; I already deleted every viewbook.at link address from my files.  But this does represent a clear victory for the power of  our voices.  Change DOES HAPPEN when we band together and say “no” to something.


Let us continue to use our voices together to make the market place more fair to everyone, removing all thoughts of competition from our mind and replacing these with a sense of community.  Together we all sell more books.  Together we all make a difference to our world.

Reblog: OpenBytes Commentary on Royal Babies

The following is excerpted from the 10th September blog post “Royal babies, Mojang to be bought & when the best is not the always “the best”.


Normally I reblog the entire blog post.  But today I’m breaking from habit in order to bring just the first part of Tim’s insightful (and very British) look at the Windsors which follows the social justice theme many regular readers to this blog see repeated in my own social commentaries.  In a time where “entitlements” is a political hot button in the United States, Tim’s own reality check about the royal family speaks volumes as to who is really entitled to what and what is truly fair in a “civilized” society.


Breaking news – Kate Middleton has morning sickness…..

The UK as a rule is very quick to jump on a “welfare state” bandwagon when the public feels someone is getting an easy ride.  Thankfully I’ve never needed welfare/benefits at any point in my life, but I fully support the facility to be there for those in need.  The press make a very good job of demonizing those on benefits and whilst there are a minority of cases where there has been abuse/fraud of the system, the vast majority of people don’t get the “easy life” that is promoted in the press and certainly are not in that position by choice.  Talking of the easy life though, there’s one family who every tax payer in the UK already pay a lot of money for.  There’s one family who not only get the best in life – an almost private health care service from the NHS, get driven around, have their own security and will never want for anything in their lives.  Who? The Royal Family of course.

Now lets just stop any difference of opinion right now.  You think the Royal Family earn their keep with tourism et al? Check out the costs to look after the Royal Family (and its extended family) for one month.  If the Royal Family pays for itself (allegedly) why not privatise them? Let them fund themselves, after-all if they make so much money for the UK it should be easy.  Thats the best of both worlds, the UK keeps its Monarchy without the burden to the tax-payer.

I digress, the news I’m commenting on today is the impending new arrival of Kate and William.  One could almost be forgiven that morning sickness in pregnant ladies didn’t exist before Kate had it.  And maybe it doesn’t? Maybe out of all the pregnant ladies around the world feeling sick in the morning are mere pretenders to the one true case of morning sickness in Kate – afterall she is getting Doctors to her home.  I remember back to when my wife had morning sickness, she was told to get on with it.  She certainly didn’t have a doctor “treating” her at our home.  But then as I say, maybe Kate has the only “real” case on the planet.

I wonder, do you think you would get the same service from the NHS should you find yourself in a similar situation? No. I wouldn’t think so.  Maybe your sickness is not really morning sickness as Kate has the only real case, or maybe its just you are not as “important”?

The new addition to the Royal Family is not just another mouth for the tax-payer to feed, it will be the beginning of a further extension to the families demands for money.  Consider that if the child gets married, we now have an obligation to another family for protection, further swelling the size of the financial burden.  How far out does the tax-payers “duty of care” stretch with the Royal Family? I’d say very far and its tentacles will reach far and wide into the pocket of those in the UK especially when you consider the “special arrangements” for members of its extended family.

So please, don’t expect me to be “over the moon” with the announcement of more cost to tax-payers and please if you are a Royal supporter, don’t dare comment negatively about those on benefits – you are happy to fund the mammoth cost of the Royal Family.

Personally, I think people needing help from state benefits are far more deserving of my money than a Royal Family.

The Economics of Domestic Violence

 The Economics of Domestic Violence

July, 2012


“Why don’t you just leave?” asked numerous acquaintances of mine in my living history group when I came to events after serious, abusive tongue lashings from my alcoholic boyfriend at the time. To them, it was irrational that I was tolerating his abuse — mostly verbal, but sometimes physical, depending on how much he had to drink that night.

Why women stay in abuse is a mystery to most people who have not lived it. But speaking to my own mother on the subject and comparing our experiences, a single common denominator showed up: women stay in abuse out of economic necessity.

It is a cruel fact that women are underpaid in the work place. Single mothers are put in the catch 22 of needing care for their children while at work, yet not making enough to pay for housing, utilities, food, and basic clothing – let alone childcare. Employer attitudes still regard female incomes as supplementary to male incomes; we seem stuck in a 1940s and 1950s idea of why women work and how children are provided for.

A lot has changed over the past few decades. Women now have the right to vote, marry later, divorce when they feel they need to, and raise children all by themselves. In other words, we are much more independent of men than we used to be. Now, instead of working to supplement a husband’s pay, we work to support ourselves and any children we might have – without a man paying most of the bills.

Our pay rate has not kept up with the changes.

The result: we do not have enough money from our jobs to pay for the necessities needed to live on our own without men. When the men in our lives become abusive, women are put into a horrible conundrum: live on the street, starve, or tolerate the abuse. For every single person I know, the first two are not an option. Are there shelters for women trying to get away? Sometimes, but as I found out first hand, they have rules that can be very discriminatory. In 1998, I was trying to get away from a violent relationship I had tolerated (for economic reasons) for three years. I asked a nearby pet store I was volunteering at to please take care of my birds for a few days because the shelter would not admit them and I did not trust my boyfriend at the time not to kill my birds. When I arrived at the shelter, they refused to help me. Why? Because I was an incest survivor from childhood and they worried I might somehow harm the other residents with “my emotional baggage.” Incredibly, the other reason they denied me: I had been raped by another student my senior year as an undergrad after accepting a ride from him during a harsh Nebraska blizzard; the weather was too deadly to walk the mile home from campus and public transit had stopped hours before. You would think a battered woman’s shelter would not blame a woman for being raped; this one did!


The idea a shelter might refuse women trying to leave is probably inconceivable to most people.

That puts us back to the original problem: if you cannot afford to leave because your job doesn’t pay enough for housing, food, and utilities, let alone any child care you have, and if shelters are not an option, what does a woman in an abusive situation do?

The answer is exactly what most women have to do: TOLERATE, WAIT, and LOOK FOR WAYS TO SAFELY LEAVE. In the meantime, many women die from the abuse or are injured for life.

I have been fortunate in that my patience, persistence and intelligence in the heat of the moment have paid off for me. In each case, it took years to find that window out; but inevitably I found it, though often at serious financial loss, particularly when getting out has meant running up high credit card balances put on food, housing, and utilities.

I am still over $10,000 in debt from the last situation. It could have been worse; I could have lost my life.

Money drives domestic violence. Never think otherwise. The women with the highest net worth are the ones who spend the least amount of time in unhealthy and abusive relationships. The work place is our first line in the sand against domestic violence. Women need equal pay and better pay! The 19th century is over; let’s earn 21st century wages!