Language Mastery As A Secret Code: How Sadid Al-Mulk Was Saved From Danger

Mastery of language is indeed a powerful tool.  This is especially true when the speakers hail from the same cultural background, and can make use of all those subtleties that would be lost on the non-native. This point is brilliantly illustrated by an anecdote told about Ali Ibn Munqidh, who became emir of the district of Shaizar in northern Syria in 1081.  His surname was Sadid al-Mulk, and this is how I will refer to him in this article.  We will see that words effectively deployed can literally save lives.  This story is adapted from Ibn Khallikan’s short biographical sketch of Sadid al-Mulk.

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The Linguistic Ideas Of J.R.R. Tolkien

We have often discussed language-related subjects here.  Readers interested in language acquisition may find it beneficial to hear something about the language ideas of one of the twentieth century’s most influential fiction authors, J.R.R. Tolkien.  Everyone knows him as a founder (perhaps the founder) of modern fantasy writing; few, however, are aware of the depth and breadth of his linguistic knowledge.  Tolkien himself once said that he considered his books as little more than vehicles for the expression of his language interests:  meaning that for him language was far more important than storytelling.

[To read the rest of the article, click here.]

The Song Of Roland


As Europe took shape in the early medieval period, the vernacular languages found their voices in popular epics and ballads.  This was not an accident; access to Latin and its literature required literacy, and this was something not easy to come by at that time.  But the lay audiences of Europe began to develop their own voices, and these soon coalesced by degrees into coherent form.  The tradition was mostly oral at first, until these songs and ballads began to be written down.  In every new civilization it seems that the epic ballad occupies the first stage of literary expression; perhaps this is because a people must first master their environments before they can have the leisure to philosophize.  And mastery of the environment means capability in war.

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Cuckold: History Of A Word

Tracing the history of words is fascinating and profitable.  We can learn a great deal about language and history by this sort of exercise.  And beyond this, philology is a weapon.

I’ve been greatly amused by the resurgence in 2015 of the term cuckold, which until now has rather languished from lack of use.  The word is a perfect description for the cowardice and insecurity of most of our current leaders and notables.  Cuckservatives, and cucks in general, are eminently deserving of the scorn heaped on them.

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A Professional Translator Shares His Thoughts

[A reader of Stoic Paradoxes contacted me recently and shared some of his experiences and adventures gained from many years of translating.  I told him that his ideas would make for a great guest post here.

His language is expertise is Japanese, a language that I am not proficient in.  But it is interesting that translators all face the same challenges, more or less, regardless of the language they are working in.

His comments highlight one of the things I mentioned in a recent article about translating.  It is the idea that you sometimes need to set things aside, and come back to them later, with a new and refreshed perspective.

His article appears below.]

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What I Learned From Translating

I recently published a translation of Stoic Paradoxes, a work of ethical philosophy.  It was without doubt one of the most difficult projects I had undertaken, for reasons that I will try to explain here.  Translating is a vastly different experience from conventional “writing.”  You have to use an entirely new set of motor skills.

Here are some of the lessons I took away from the project:

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The Importance Of Linguistic Nationalism


I read this weekend an article in the BBC that I interpreted as a good thing.  The article was discussing a recent decision of Pakistan’s Supreme Court to replace English with Urdu as the official language.

I should say at the outset here that I have never been to Pakistan and know nothing about its languages.  So why was I happy to see the Pakistan elevate Urdu as the official language?  This is the reason:  it shows that the dominance of English can be challenged.

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