Monday, January 1, 2007


One of the particularly fun aspects of LanguageHat's site is that comments are encouraged.  Even when they are not right on topic, which is good because things are as likely to invoke tangential thoughts as anything else.  Since everyone expects this, the EPU problem is avoided.

One LH post concerned the word vegan.  Primarily, it dealt with the debate on how to pronounce it.  But along the way, it mentioned the coiner and the word in other languages.

Many languages have words for 'vegetarian' that resemble vegetarian, from the same source.  Most of those seem to have just taken vegan, adjusted to fit the local morphology.  Spanish and Italian vegano; Portuguese vegan (oddly enough); German Veganer; Dutch veganist; Polish wegani; Romanian vigăn; Russian веган; Esperanto vegano.  And even a few with no particular word for vegetarian or one from a different base.  Greek βήγαν (but χορτοφάγος also at least one site gives βήγκαν); Finnish vegaani (but kasvissyöjä); Swahili mvegana; Shona muvegan.  An exception is French, which has végétalien contrasting with végétarien.  The French word also has significant seniority; it first appeared in Larousse in 1890, more than fifty years before vegan.  Related forms also show up elsewhere, but not quite as firmly established, and so tending to lose out to the above ones.  Spanish and Catalan have vegetalista, first appearing in the RAE Usual in 1914; Italian vegetaliano; Esperanto vegetalano.

Now there are cultures where the cuisine does not traditionally use dairy.  So when there is a vegetarian variation, it is vegan.  But if the vegetarianism has a religious significance, there may be other additional characteristics, such as the restrictions may avoid other things at the same time, such as spicy or aromatic food.  For instance, the Buddhist cuisines of Japan's 精進料理 shojin ryori, Thailand's เจ jay, and Viet Nam's ăn chay.  So these words and phrases aren't strictly speaking translations.

That post was in February of 2005; Donald Watson died the following November.  Here is his obituary from The Guardian.  He was 95, which sounds like a pretty good endorsement of his ideas.  All of which would make a good coda to the discussion.

In the good old days, threads would usually remain open indefinitely.  Then comments could be added days, weeks, even years later.  And pick up again for a few more comments.  Old friends would appear on the recently commented list.  But now, because of the scourge of comment spam, this has had to stop.  And even when comments do appear on something still open but not brand new, the suspicion has to be that that's what they are.  It's really too bad, but that's the way it is.

What are respectable citizens to do when everything closes early before hoodlums take over?  Well, apparently, if I want to comment on things, I'm supposed to do it in my own blog.  The connections aren't as seamless, but there are ways to get around.  I guess I can't come up with a good reason why not.  I've been using the net for more than thirty years.  I wrote two email systems: a text one in the heyday of timesharing, and a graphical one when personal workstations came along.  I briefly had an office across the hall from Jake Feinler's NIC and down the hall from the NLS group.  I worked on one of the first networked hypertext systems.  I really do need to get with the new program.

So here we are.

Happy New Year!