Skip to main content


as we see out the final quarter of 2018 and i continue with my three-year [close enough] project of trying to learn every language in the world, i find myself excited by the news that 2019 has been designated as the year of indigenous languages by the united nations. this was announced back in 2016 but it's now upon us and hopefully, this will see an uptick in attention being paid to the vast array of languages in the world. [and how many of them are threatened.]

"indigenous languages" in this case refers to those spoken by small groups native to areas, most of which have been colonized or where the populations of different groups are isolated enough that there are substantial differences even over short distances. in a broader sense, all languages are and aren't indigenous to somewhere. english could be said to be indigenous to england. on the other hand, we know that english is a language that developed from a combination of latin-, germanic- and french-speaking invaders and that they displaced people already living on the islands, who spoke celtic languages. nevertheless, nobody would consider english an indigenous language in a global sense. by contrast, the inuit language came to the canadian north not long before the arrival of europeans [and displaced the dorset people who had been there before] but would be recognized as indigenous. for the purposes of 2019, "indigenous" is used as a synonym for "marginalized"- people whose cultures have been suppressed or at least lack government protection.

the question of protection is a tricky one. it's not like governments can offer comprehensive services in all indigenous languages. papua new guinea has 841 documented languages, most of which have well less than a thousand speakers. india has twelve official languages but that's from a total of 455. and even then, the availability of services in each of the twelve languages is largely determined on a regional level. but that doesn't mean that governments shouldn't take some steps to ensure that indigenous languages are supported and passed down to new generations. and that's the sort of thing that the u.n. [specifically unesco] is trying to inspire in the coming year.

duolingo, which i use as my primary language-learning tool, has implicitly thrown its support behind the initiative, by putting courses in hawaiian and navajo into development. i expect those will be launched early in the new year and making an effort to acquire a little of one or both of those will likely constitute my entire contribution to the year. beyond that, the only thing that individuals can do is support programs to make learning and sharing indigenous languages easier and to support programs that give increased resources and autonomy to indigenous people. it's also worth taking a little time [you have a year, after all] to read up on the challenges facing different indigenous groups. knowing is indeed half the battle.

the image at the top of this post is a snapshot of a truly amazing interactive map built by ethnologue. the page is linked earlier in the post but in case you missed it, the "live" version is available here. our linguistic diversity is truly staggering and as one of the only uniquely human attributes, it's something that's worth of protection.  


as long as you're here, why not read more?

filthy lucre

donald trump has shown utter indifference to the possible torture and killing of an american-based journalist jamal khashoggi by saudi arabian security forces acting on the direction of saudi crown prince mohammed bin salman but that's hardly a surprise. he said on the campaign trail that he loved the saudis because they gave him money. he refused to consider placing saudis on his infamous "muslim travel ban" list, despite the fact that saudi arabia is the one country that has been credibly linked to the september 11 terrorist attacks. or that the saudis' particular brand of fundamentalist islam has been described as the root of the extremism espoused by groups like al-qaeda and isis.

trump likes wealthy people and the saudi royals are the blueprint of the type of wealthy people he likes. they spend and live in lavish excess. family members are like catnip for the international celebrity press, even if the news media [like khashoggi] are perceived as enemies of the …

making faces :: written in the stars, in lipstick [part two]

it's the middle of september already? i'm not prepared for that? i mean, i am prepared for it because the heat this summer has been murder on me and i've been begging for a reprieve for months but i'm still bowled over by the speed at which time passes. this year, i've been measuring time through the launches of bite beauty's astrology collection, which arrives like the full moon once a month. [the full moon arrives every four weeks, which is less than any month except february -ed.] earlier this year, i took a look at the first four launches of the collection and already it's time to catch up with four more.

the most important thing for you to know is that after several months of problems, bite and sephora appear to have sorted out their inventory planning. for the last several releases, information has been clear and reliable as to when and where each lipstick will be available [pre-orders taken for a couple of days on bite's own website and a general…

it was my privilege

i haven't posted about the whole u.s. supreme court thing. it's not that i haven't been following it. it's not because i don't have feelings about it. if anything, i have the opposite problem: i have too many feelings about it. i'm normally a pretty icy viewer of news. between dom and me, he's the one who's more sensitive to what happens to other people. i just tend to be focused on what needs to change. or i get angry. and i am angry about what's been going on in the last weeks. but it's not the usual spitting vitriol in the face of the conservative old guard kind of anger. this anger eats away at me like a cancer because it makes me feel hopeless.

many years ago, i thought the idea of "privilege" being accorded to certain groups was a crock. that was because i misinterpreted it as meaning that white people, or men, or straight people, or cisgendered people could never have it as bad as their marginalized counterparts. what it really …