August 31 – National Language Day in Moldova

Posted on August 31, 2016

Today's Moldovan holiday is largely about glottonyms.


Glottonyms” are names for languages. And, over the years, there has been a lot of attention paid in Moldova to the name for their language.

The people of Moldova speak Romanian – specifically, the Moldavian sub-dialect of Romanian that is also spoken in northeastern Romania.

But some people say that the language of Moldova is Moldovan. the language of Moldova called Romanian, Moldavian, or Moldovan?

A brief history of the language of Moldova...

Way back when, pre-1857, the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet was used in the Principality of Moldavia and by other Moldovan speakers. It was replaced by a Latin Romanian alphabet (more like our own alphabet), and when the Soviet Union dominated Moldova, the Cyrillic alphabet that had evolved from the Russian alphabet was used. Since the breakup of the USSR and independence for Moldova, Moldovans are back to the Latin-based Romanian alphabet.

Above, the Romanian Cyrillic alphabet.
Below, the modern Latin-based Romanian alphabet.

That double-step, from X to Y to Z and back to Y, has nothing much to do with the actual language – the sounds associated with each noun or verb. As far as I can tell, all through the alphabet upheavals, the words and grammar stayed pretty much the same. Of course, as with all languages, there were new words being invented and old words falling out of fashion. There were no words for cell phone or fax machine, back in the early 1800s, for example, but now we don't need the specialized words people used for the variety of carriages or coaches that horses used to pull through the streets.

However, the name for the language has also been a bit back-and-forth. When Russia and the Soviet Union ruled Moldova, officials emphasized the differences between Moldovans and Romanians in an effort to build up Moldova as a separate-from-Romania entity, a Soviet Socialist Republic. That's why the officials insisted on calling the language Moldovan, and also why they swept away the Romanian alphabet.

A comparison of the Moldovan flag, above,
and the Romanian flag, below,
shows them to be very similar.

The Declaration of Independence of Moldova referred to the language as Romanian. The 1994 Constitution called it Moldovan. The current constitution, on the other hand, recognized both Moldovan and Romanian as proper and official names for the language.

Apparently, most people in the cities of Moldova call their native tongue Romanian, but most people in rural areas call it Moldovan. In most schools, the language is referred to as Romanian, but in 2007 the president of Moldova asked that school personnel change to using the term Moldovan; however, there was public outcry against his idea, and the change wasn't made.

We may wonder, why the struggle with what to call a language? We haven't had so much struggle with the word English, which is not just spoken in England, but also in Wales, Scotland, Ireland, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and many other places as well. Most of the countries that joined with England to make up the United Kingdom or that were once colonies of Britain feel no shame in using the name “English” for their language.

I suppose it is all bound up in questions of identity and national pride. I mean, clearly the language is important - there's a holiday for it! And the name for today's holiday, Limba noastră, meaning “our language,” is also the name for the Moldovan national anthem!

Check out this earlier post on Moldova.

Also on this date:

Independence Day in Trinidad and Tobago

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August 30 – Popular Constitution Day in East Timor

Posted on August 30, 2016

Why is an island that is about the size of Maryland divided into two nations?

History. Religion. Language.

The Southeastern Asian island of Timor was settled by both Dutch and Portuguese colonizers. The two European nations squabbled over control of the island until a treaty signed in 1859 divided the island into Dutch Timor and Portuguese Timor.

Of course, the Asian descendants of the peoples who lived on the island long before Europeans arrived wanted to be independent. After World War II, the Dutch portion of the island and thousands of other nearby islands gained independence as Indonesia. It wasn't until 1975 that residents of Portuguese Timor declared their independence from Portugal.

Just nine days after this declaration, East Timor was invaded and occupied by Indonesia! After years of violence, the United Nations finally stepped in and helped hammer out a peace agreement. Indonesia gave up its claim for the other half of the island, and East Timor (also known as Timor-Leste) became the first new nation of the 21st Century!

(By the way, in case you were wondering about the religious differences, Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, and East Timor is predominantly Catholic.)

Check out East Timor:

Mt. Ramelau (aka Tatamailau) is the highest mountain on the island.

Dili is the capital and largest city in East Timor.

The smaller islands that are part of East Timor include Atauro Island...

...and Jaco Island.

There is a little divot, called an exclave, on the Indonesian half of Timor that belongs to East Timor. This portion, pictured in red below, includes the city of Pante Makasar.

Here are some more photos of East Timor. Loads of beautiful beaches, interesting and complex culture...

For more on East Timor, check out this earlier post.

Also on this date:

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle's birthday

National Toasted Marshmallow Day

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August 29 – Happy Birthday, Chris Hadfield!

Posted on August 29, 2016

He's one of the most famous astronauts, ever.

And it's not because he was the first to circle this or the first to step on that.

Instead, it's because he has reached out so well, so often, to all of us non-astronauts, helping to spark interest in some and answer questions for others, helping to excite and educate and even entertain!

Actually, Chris Hadfield was a first: He was the first Canadian astronaut to walk in space.

Hadfield flew in two space shuttle missions and served as commander of the International Space Station.

He was in space 165 days (altogether), including a mission that was almost five months long.

He was famous for being “savvy” about social media. He has more than 1,500,000 Twitter followers; he created one of the top Reddit AMA threads of all time; he has a popular Tumblr blog and loads of followers on Facebook and Google+; he created YouTube videos that have been viewed by tens of millions of people!

Not-so-social media is no stranger to Hadfield, either. His easy-to-read autobiography is called An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me about Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything. His interviews have been published in magazines – he's even made the cover! – and he's been interviewed on TV and radio as well.

Now retired, Hadfield had a 35-year career as a military pilot and an astronaut. Now he gets to do fun Earthly things like speak to audiences and throw out the ceremonial first pitch in a Major League Baseball game.

 Here are a few fun videos to get your Hadfield on:

  • Cool animated lyric video for “Feet Up” 
  • Is Somebody Singing?” – a music video with spacefaring Chris Hadfield and Earthbound Barenaked Ladies and an choir
  • This is the biggie: “Space Oddity,” made famous first by dearly departed musician David Bowie. Be sure to watch the coming-back-to-Earth final shot!
"Space Oddity" was really, truly recorded on the ISS,
and all the zero-gravity shots like the one below
really were 0-G. No special effects on THIS music video!

Also on this date:

Slovakia's National Uprising Day

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August 28 – Radio Commercials Day

Posted on August 28, 2016

I know, I know – commercials and ads are a bother you just have to endure to get to music or programs...or maybe that you just have to avoid by changing channels.

But...if you think about it...advertising is an industry that can let us know what's out there AND that provides jobs to a lot of writers, producers, actors, and so on.

Today is the day to consider the positive side of radio commercials. Here are my top 3 favorites:

I love Honda's Random Acts of Helpfulness ads on the radio. This seems to be a Southern California thing. The Honda people give real people real, practical help, and we get to hear about it! Often the people answering the phone are getting help for one of their friends and relatives, instead of for themselves. I cannot help be touched by how relatively simple or not-all-that expensive some of the acts of helpfulness are, and yet how grateful people are.

(The website I linked to has videos, not radio ads, but I assure you that, here in SoCal, there are many Honda radio know, on the radio!) 

I don't personally EVER drink beer, but I love the Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man in the World” radio ads. 

The Most Interesting Man in the World became a famous oft-used meme.
Messages usually try to be funny in the form of, "I don't always ____,
but when I do, ____."

Again, my last favorite is local, only available on the particular radio station I listen to, KROQ. But there might be similar ads that you can relate to and enjoy in your area. I'm talking about the ads for Mercedes Benz cars voiced by DJ Kat Corbett. These ads seem pretty sincere and informative and appealing...and even though I know that they are paid-for advertising, I still FEEL the sincerity and appeal.

(Part of it is surely that I just really like Kat's voice. I mean, her voice is a big reason she is a DJ...)

Here is a website with samples of some other effective radio ads. What do YOU like to hear?

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