Siege Diaries 11/26/2020


Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt:  What petty comparisons am I bothering myself with?

As the associated meditation notes, measuring yourself against other people makes things difficult, because we want what they have or we want how things could have gone, not what we happen to have.  And this is one I struggle a lot with.  I have several friends from university who are now beloved teachers, and that’s an outcome I envy.  In doing so, I’m belittling my own path, what I happen to have and to have done.

But sometimes I also measure myself against other people and get overly prideful.  That’s less of an issue now than it was when I was younger, sailing through high school with a perfect grade point average.  School was what I was good at.  Of course, as I found out, being school smart wasn’t necessarily the same as being truly knowledgeable, or able to grasp complex issues.  That took work, and it did knock me down a peg.  But I still sometimes still do that “measuring” thing.  I have a decent science background–I did almost complete a major in genetics, and took university-level classes in chemistry and physics along with the biological sciences work I did.  I’m pretty humble about what I don’t know, but in an age of science denial, sometimes I catch myself feeling “better” than others for this basic knowledge base.  That’s a pretty petty comparison.  In all honesty, it’s really frustration at the fact that what seems to be basic knowledge to me isn’t basic knowledge for everyone.   But gloating isn’t useful, nor is getting angry.  The best I can honestly do is to be the kind of person people want to ask questions of because I’ve gained their respect for my ability to teach, share, and answer questions–and to know my own limits.

Not a lot exciting today.  I downloaded the vest pattern I’ve selected to make, but haven’t yet started the design process–that will involve printing out the pattern so I  can use it as a canvas for sketching the design.  We also found out my team won week 1 of the virtual scavenger hunt at work–that means points in our recognition system.

I did do a Reddit response a couple days ago about Latin loan words in English, which generated a followup question as to why the plural forms in some Romance languages seemed to be derived from the accusative case rather than the nominative.   Jumping in on something I already knew–that terminal “m” was not being pronounced in Latin poetry and seems to have dropped out of spoken Latin, at least by Vergil’s era–I did a little digging, and now I know better what precisely was happening there:  Vulgar Latin (the spoken dialect) was already on the way to losing its noun cases:

 One hugely noticeable thing about third declension nouns in particular is that the only form that does not use the stem form (often involving the addition of the letter “t”) is the nominative singular. Most modern words based on third declension nouns build on that stem, not on the nominative singular formation. The other thing in play is related to pronunciation. Accusative singular forms end in -m. The terminal letter “m” seems not to have normally been voiced in spoken (vulgar) Latin, even in classical Latin (which I learned when I studied poetry). In first and second declension nouns, that makes the accusative sound very close to the nominative case. Terminal “s” was also generally not pronounced in spoken (vulgar) Latin, and as soon as these consonants are dropped the vowels coming right before them tend to start sounding more and more alike (losing their long and short sounds, as well as “high” vowels–i becoming e and u becoming o). So as early as around the beginning of the first millennium, as vulgar Latin and written Latin diverge, you’re already starting to lose cases and the vowels are starting to sound more like those in the accusative forms. (Yep, vulgar Latin started to lose cases that early, even as the written language did not). I suspect because all third-declension noun forms (aside from nominative singular) were based on the stem form rather than the nominative singular form those forms “won out.”

All of this is fascinating to me–so often it’s just assumed that Romans all went around speaking perfect Classical Latin, when, in fact, their language was already starting to evolve in a different direction.

A friend posted asking for people to post old travel photos, and so I sought out the one at the top of this post, taken in March, 1985, on the observation deck of the World Trade Center.  I still have the brochure–and vivid memories of walking across the plaza, entering the lobby, and going up the elevators in shuttle form–part of the way up, then transferring to another set for the upper floors.

Things change.