I've met a few zionists, but none of them were jewish. In the same way as I've met a few maoists, but none of them were chinese.
I've yet to meet a buddhist who's actually from a buddhist country. Almost everyone I've met from a hindu country, if they mentioned their religion, was muslim.
The proximimate reason why I've not encountered evangelical jews is...most jews don't believe in a god. They might regard their right to a homeland as god-given, but that's in a different compartment of their brains. Compare with those atheists who kind-of wish there were a god so they could *hate* him.
But even the hassidic types with the cool broad-brimmed black hats and curly forelocks...the ones who really do say "Oy Vey!" and use "schmuck" to refer to a part of the body which they mutilate...they don't look for converts.
They might believe you're going to Sheoul for not following all the dumb rules they've interpreted into their magic book, and they might personally think you'd look better in a skullcap...but they don't try to *push* you into salvation.
Christians on the other hand take it as a personal affront that you're not one of them.
Even the ones in sects which believe they-and-only-they are the elite, hand-picked by the almighty for paradise, where they can virtuously enjoy watching the rest of us burn for eternity...even these are insulted if you don't want to join.
Which is a little odd, because you can't be the elite few without being few.
You can see the same kind of double-logic in most marxist groups. The rightous are in the oppressed minority, therefore the smaller and more oppressed the minority, the more rightous they are.
But how *dare* the majority not *want* to join us?
One doesn't need to believe in a magic man in the sky to believe in a holy cause. Or adopt the hypocrisy.
Muslims are different again. They might find it incomprehensible that you're not already one of them, but if they try to convert you...take it as a compliment. Because it means they like you - they think you're worth saving.
I've got my own double-standard here. On the one hand I find the arguments tiresome and simple-minded. But I *do* enjoy humiliating soul-winners when they try it on.
There's absolutely no excuse - it's like beating a retarded child at chess...and feeling affirmed by it. *And* getting angry when they don't realise they've lost.
Usually I know their holy texts better than they do, and half a lifetime of careful thinking means I'm fairly good at out-thinking people who don't think much. There's no trick to it.
Especially when the arguments all look like these:
"If there's no god, where do you go when you die?". "My religion is true because the believers of the other one eat babies". "It makes me happy to believe, so it'd make you happy, so it's true".
"This line of scripture sounds a little like a fashionable bit of science, therefore gay marriage is wrong". "You can't explain X, therefore god did it, therefore Obama is the antichrist".
"Atheism is a religion, and you believe science is infallible, so...something something something".
In science, the least interesting thing about an idea is who had it. In the wider world, the least interesting thing about a superstition is...the superstition. Why it was invented, why people believe it, and the tortured ways they justify it - these are the stuff of anthropology, psychology and history.
And that's why it would be interesting to meet a jewish evangelist.
They say you learn a lot when you teach.
Mostly what you learn is
(1) You don't know the subject as well as you thought you did, or
(2) The books are wrong, or
(3) The subject has got really weird quirks and byways.
Usually you discover these things when students ask questions. For instance: What's the English word for the sound made by camels?
So far as I can tell, there isn't one. We can certainly have a stab at describing the noise - a long gutteral croak, or a low wet mournful keening. Terry Pratchett described it as "like a herd of donkeys being chainsawed"
We can attempt to *transcribe* sounds, like "woof" or "arf" for dogs, or "boc" and "cock-a-doodle-doo" for chickens, but I'm talking about a noun naming the sound or a verb indicating it's production.
Lions roar, dogs bark, small dogs yap, very small dogs yip. Cats mew or miaw, angry cats hiss, sheep and goats bleat or baa, cows low or moo, birds chirp, parrots squawk, horses neigh, pigs snort or oink, ducks quack, donkeys bray, pigeons and doves coo, wolves howl, chickens cluck and elephants trumpet.
So there's plenty of special words for animal sounds, and a selection of words for more general sounds that we can also use for animals - bears and gorillas grunt, mice squeak, tigers and panthers growl, monkeys chatter, some birds sing, and if they don't, they call or cry. Dolphins and whales also sing.
Crickets chirrup. I once read in a book about psycholinguistics that grasshoppers make six distinct sounds, with meanings like "I'm hungry", "I want to have sex" and, rather wonderfully, one used specially for "I've just had sex". But for those of us who aren't grasshopper experts (Cicadologists? Locustophiles?), they probably just chirrup too.
Hippos, rhinos, deer, reindeer, moose (or is it mooses?) oxen and bison - these join camels in the list of animals whose utterances we don't designate with a specific word. They just "grunt".
I've absolutely no idea what sloths sound like. Maybe they're too lazy to speak.
Esperanto has a word meaning "to make the sound appropriate to the animal": Blek. The closest English has to this is probably "call".
So what do humans do? That's easy, we txt.
There's a term in prison slang: Gate Happy.
If you're gate happy, your release date is days or a few weeks away, and you're feeling bouyed up and optimistic, looking forward to it. You're still on the inside, but you're nearly out.
Even if there's nothing for you on the other side of the gate but a nebulous freedom and a whole lot of concrete problems, the prospect feels better than a stone box.
Well, I've got two weeks to go. And I'm feeling pretty good about it - with the inevitable downside that time can really *crawl* when you're waiting.
As for what's waiting for me...hmmm.
* A bacon sandwich. Yes, I'm perfectly happy to live without pork, but seeing as I haven't had it for over a year, I want it.
* A midnight meetup with my married, closeted friend. Yes, I'm perfectly happy to live without, erm, porking, but seeing as I haven't had much....
* A replacement laptop. I don't live online, but pretty much everything I do except basic biological functions involves a computer. Sometimes two.
* Parents and friends. You don't need to see them very often, but it's good to have them available.
* The Doctor Who 50th Aniversary Special. Plus a year's worth of other recorded TV and radio, so I can be a complete and utter couch potato over christmas and new year, munching my bacon sandwich in front of my new laptop.
* Same old same old. The plan was to wait out the recession while getting moderately rich doing a job I enjoyed. Now I'm bored with the job, not well paid and the recession's still going on.
* Little holiday, big plans. There's a lot of things I want to do or try out. But talking about them seems to make doing them more difficult. Which is either a profound psychological insight which explains much human behavior...or me being a bit weird.
* See the world. Some time off teaching followed by a job in a decent school will hopefully turn me from a tired old lag (more prison slang) weighed down with experience...into an experienced old lag weighed down with wisdom.
I want to try a different country.
What words should I teach? What words do students actually need to know? I don't know either, and intuition is always a lousy guide, but here's one approach to finding out.
The latest Oxford English Dictionary contains about 290,500 entries. The Concise OED has 65795, and I'm using these as my starting point.
I can discard 13,479 entries because they're phrases instead of individual words, plus I can lose 2,727 entries because they're hyphenated terms. That leaves 45,495.
But which ones are absolutely essential, which are kind-of useful, and which are in there to make it look 'comprehensive' or because the compilers just liked them?
I have the subtitles of 20,749 BBC programmes broadcast over the last two years - in effect, transcriptions. By ditching the shortest 749, then filtering out formatting data and punctuation, I've got a pretty large corpus of reasonably authentic utterances.
So, what words from the COED occur with what frequency in the BBC transcriptions? And what words don't occur at all?
Well, here a selection from the 14,633 individual words which occur exactly zero times in two years worth of BBC TV. I know what ten of them mean.
That means 29,140 words occur at least once. Here are 25 of the 19,381 which occur less than ten times. I know the meanings of 14 of them - what about you?
9,339 occur a hundred times or more. The following happen more than ten but less than 1,000 times.
A more managable quantity of 520 occur 10,000 or more times. Here are some of those between 1000 and 10,000:
Here's a selection between 10,000 and 100,000. Do any surprise you as being more or less common than you thought?
A mere 76 occur 100,000 or more times:
So, here's one difficulty in learning a language. Once you've got the major meanings of the top 100-200 words, you've got tens of thousands of others to learn, and the additional benefit of knowing each of them - their usefulness - is pretty damn small.
How often do you need to describe something as 'spicy' (position 3,000, 975 occurances)? Or 'compulsory' (position 5,000, 370 occurances)? Or describe someone as a 'colonel' (position 7,000, 182 occurances)?
I may have had the occasional 'manky' cheese sandwich (position 10,000, 85 occurances) - but I'm not sure I've ever used the word in conversation.
The Arabic method of learning languages is "memorise the dictionary". It doesn't work, for obvious reasons. But it's...interesting that they've taken only the most difficult, least interesting and least rewarding part of the process, missing out all the easy, fun and useful parts.
The Arabs are almost British in their ability to miss the point.
This is a bit of a rant. Sorry.
There are three reasons to stay in a job, or a place, or an arrangement. One is for the money, or some other definite, measurable and significant benefit.
Two is because you enjoy it.
And three, the job itself isn't what you love or benefit from, but it comes bundled with something that does give you something good. You might not like the city, but you stay because your family are there. A personal reason.
Well, my personal reason to stay in this job, this city and this country...is incredibly busy and a two hour plane journey away. I am thoroughly bored with teaching - maybe after a good holiday I'll start to like it again, but right now I get no pleasure from stepping into the classroom.
And the money...is always promised, and in the future. The one big contract which will make us all rich is always on the horizon, and negotiations are in progress, but it never arrives.
So, of the three possible reasons to stay, I don't have one.
And I do have reasons to leave. I am sick of so many things about this country. I'm sick of the insane bureaucracy that means it takes a year to get a licence to set up a business, and six months to get a bank account, and three months to get a work permit - which ties you to one contract with one employer for twelve months.
The only way to get out of a contract is to commit a crime and get deported. And if it comes to that, the easiest crime to commit is to go on strike.
I'm sick of the infantile supersition that's tied up with self-mythologisation. The more intelligent Arabs I've met are puzzled that god's chosen people are not rulers of the world - and the stupider ones can't grasp that outsiders don't want to be god's chosen people.
In this last, they're a bit like the stupider Americans.
Why did god deliver his message in Arabic? Was it because he was talking to an arab? No, it's because arabic is god's language. And how do we know this? Obviously, it's because he delivered his message in arabic.
Oh, and because arabic allegedly (but not really) has sounds that no other language has. Because...something or other. And therefore...something. Somehow.
We know the Quran is the perfect, eternal word of the magic man in the sky because it's impossible for mere mortals to make a sentence which compares in beauty to any of its sentences. And we know this because the people who've appointed themselves to judge the beauty of competing sentences have already decided that no sentence can compare.
I'm sick of a government that's trying to reap the benefits of being open, while staying closed. They want to be innovative and cosmopolitan while staying a fossilised monoculture. The people are obsessed with images of drugs, alcohol, sexual freedom and even political dissent...and with condemning each other for having the same thoughts.
This is a culture that's trying to develop a work ethic while maintaining a racist elitism that justify's only foreigners doing work. And not just foreigners from poor countries.
I'm sick of an educational system that confuses rote recitation and mindless copying with learning. Tomorrow I'm invigilating an exam for elementary students who, after six years of study, can name every object in their house. They just can't construct a single complete sentence about them.
They've actually asked for more tests and exams, presumably on the grounds that the more tests you do, the more chance you'll get the answers right by the law of averages.
Oh, and strictly unofficially, no one gets graded below 50%, even if all they do is write their misspelled name at the top of the sheet. Because low grades are "discouraging" and high ones are "respectful".
So what's the plan?
Well, there is another potential big contract that will take four weeks for come into effect...or else collapse. In fact it's the biggest ever. So if after six weeks the money is rolling in, I can stay until the work permit expires in February.
If it isn't, I'm out. And with luck I'll even be home for christmas.
Edit: Actually, a slight miscalculation. The work permit doesn't expire in the second month of the Gregorian calendar, it expires in the second month of the Islamic calendar - which is used in one islamic country, and almost exclusively on official documents. Like, erm, work permits.
Expiration date: The 27th of Safar. Also known as the 30th of December. New Year's Eve.
So I've got ten weeks.