Fuck yeah, it's racist!
It's a safe bet than half of you readers clicked this link just to figure out what the subject even means. As you were intented to. Congratulations. You played right into our hands.
Dance, puppets, dance!
It's actually pretty straightforward. A loanword is a word that originates in one culture and gets appropriated by another. Rather than translate the meaning of an untranslateable concept into an inexact tangle of descriptors, you just use the word itself. They are usually used for things that are exotic and have no obvious nearby parallel, so foods, animals, and musical genres tend to keep the label they came with while function words (words with non-lexical or ambiguous meaning that serve a grammatical relationship to other words in the sentence) get changed.
Example: In Spanish: Este burrito se hace de un burro!
In English: This burrito is made from a donkey!
In this instance, burrito is a loanword. Other cultures have concepts for (and words to describe) "this" "made from" and "donkey," but when it comes to food wrapped in a soft tortilla it's easier just to stick with the word that works.
Because as everyone knows, wraps are NOT real food.
This is not to be confused with a calque, or loan translation, whereby one language appropriates the literal translation or root of a phrase without any real bearing on the original meaning. Hence the massive variation between DC's Superman and Neitzche's Ubermensch, vastly different concepts even though the words share the same derivation. Ironically, the word loanword is itself a calque of the German word Lehnwort, while calque is a loanword from French.
American English is full of loanwords. Between our status as a cultural melting pot and a relatively young nation (230 plus years, nearly a hundred of which have included nigh instant communiation, is not much time for linguistic drift) our language is full of words borrowed from other cultures. To make matters worse, the rules for our language were ret-conned. English was not standardized until 1755 when the first dictionary tried to emphasize it's traditional Latin roots, a process made difficult because it is in fact a Germanic language. Between all these factors, it is estimated that a good quarter of our language is blatantly lifted from somewhere else, making America English only slightly less plagiarized than the average sitcom.
Language is interesting because it interacts with culture. It affects it and is affected by it. So you can tell a lot about a culture by the concepts and ideas it possesses that remain completely untranslateable outside of that dialect. And some of these are just so spot-on-the-nose that they just have to be shared.
Nation/culture of origin: Chinese
Feng shui is an ancient practice of aesthetics in which the design of a room and the placement of the furniture within (or flow) help to affect the path of qi (or auspicious energy) in a way that is auspicious (or beneficial) to those affected (or gullible).
It works on the principle that qi flows in lines, lines that are affected by both geography and astronomy. Since a dearth of qi can cause misfortune, illness, or even death, it is to be avoided. Instead, buildings should be constructed (and furniture within placed) in such a way as to allow a beneficial flow of qi to the inhabitants. This can be as simple as placing a mirror across from a door to spread positive energy through the house, to actually building whole apartment complexes in such a way that the bathroom does not face the bedroom lest evil spirits come in through the plumbing. (Honest! This is a thing! People sue over this!) To facilitate this process, an expert uses a pa kua or ba gua, an eight-sided board utilizing Taoist trigrams, the cardinal directions, and Chinese astronomy.
The influence of which can be readily seen in the design for the Department of Heuristics and Research on Material Applications.
The seemingly basic principle of feng shui is actually highly-structed, rigorously ritualized, and inconceivably ancient, making it the perfect metaphor for China as a whole.
China remains one of the oldest existant nations on Earth. Though its culture has changed much in the intervening millenia, it says something about just how organized they are that the written language itself has remained pretty standardized. Which is not the same as saying that it is easy. Writing Han Chinese characters, sineographs, is like a recall vote in California: there are hundreds of options and chances are none of 'em will be right. Each character represents a single sound, and a dotting of ink can completely change the whole meaning. Oh, and there are about 43,000 of them. All but a handful of Chinese words include at least two sineographs, often more. The average literate reader cannot actually get through a daily newspaper without turning to a dictionary.
Of course, this is also true in America, but that says more about our educational system than our alphabet.
Chinese writing has remained so consistent that it has influenced the writing of Korea, Vietnam, and Japan, who actually appropriated the entire writing system with their own language and started calling it kanji. (This, as we learned above, is an example of calque. See? You're learning!).
Likewise, Feng Shui is remarkably old but has remained consistent for thousands of years. The records of its history go back 3500 years. Keep in mind, anthropologically speaking, that doesn't mean it started 3500 years ago. It means 3500 years is the earliest we have records that are intact. In fact the earliest references to it come from before 4000 BC, which if you are a member of the Tea Party means that feng shui is older than creation itself! The astronomical data used in the pa kua board date back to the Hongshan culture, which date from 4700 BC to 2790 BC, so it is literally older than the Egyptian pyramids.
The energy flow of the pyramids, of course, was not sufficient to prevent their conquest by the Goa'uld System Lords.
Nation/culture of origin: Japanese
Every culture seems at least a little weird to those outside it, but even allowing for cultural diversity...God DAMN Japan is weird.
Everyone knows Japan is weird. DOGS know Japan is weird. Even the Japanese know Japan is weird. Just a few of the shining beacons of peculiarity available in downtown Tokyo include - and keep in mind all of these are true - maid-themed cafes, kigurumi cosplay (not just dressing like an anime character but wearing a full body-cover and mask to actually look like an anime character), Loligoths, soiled schoolgirl panties in vending machines, Ice Cucumber Pepsi, bukaki theater (don't ask. Just don't ask), eating sushi off of naked women, robotic secretaries, an actual 1:1 scale Gundam, and karaoke bars.
America dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Japan gave us karaoke. We're even.
But when it comes to all-out, balls-to-the-wall weirdness, you cannot beat hentai.
Hentai literally translates as both perversion and pervert. And keep in mind that this is from a culture where every single cartoon show includes a visit to the beach or the hot springs to see the female cast in bathing suits.
But hentai also has a very specific meaning, which is X-rated anime. Or, put another way, animated porno.
The Google safesearch! It does nothing!
Now, every culture has its own pornography. Very few of them actually animate the fucking stuff. Actually take a moment and consider this. Animated. Porn. Someone writes them, storyboards them, creates multiple character designs. Artists, people who have trained and studied and honed their techniques for years, drawing poon cell by cell, image by image. Vocal artists, picked out of auditions from open casting calls, dub faked orgasms and read actual scripts. These cartoons are shown in theaters, transfered to video, dvd, and blu-ray by electronics professionals, and even exported overseas where often they are dubbed AGAIN in the local language. IN JAPAN THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO SPECIALIZE IN THE LIGHTING EFFECTS FOR CARTOON PORNOGRAPHY!
Part of what makes hentai so weird, beyond the obvious, is as a result of the censorship that created it. Until the last decade, the Japanese Censorship Board had a few absolute rulings: no penises, no penetration, and no pubic hair. Which, if you've watched porn, tend to be reoccuring themes. Japanese pornography evolved for decades with this mindset. In some places this led to bukaki (I said don't ask!). In anime it led to younger girls as heroines, because underage nudity is A-OK just as long as there ain't any grass on the field, which has warped over time so that now you have fourth graders with tits that put porn stars to shame.
Take away the boobies and there is literally no reason for this to exist. But then, the same can be said of everything, everywhere.
And in hentai, it led to some interesting ways of violating the spirit of the law (and the sexy neighbor girl next door) while adhering to the letter. For instance, penises were made pixelated (Not pixelated after the fact. They actually DREW the pixelation!) or sometimes just not animated and left to be inferred, which led to a slew of hilarious scenes in which girls mime hand jobs before bobbing their mouths up and down in midair. Since it is drawn, animators also included inside shots, but since naughty bits could not actually be depicted one usually only sees a phallic shape of one color cleaving another color, with less actual pornographic depiction than a Georgia O'Keefe floral.
Then, in the late '80s, a wily hentai director by the name of Toshio Maeda brought the world Demon Beast Invasion, Adventure Kid, La Blue Girl, and Urotsukidoji, hentai which changed the whole nature of the genre by basically inventing the paradigm of tentacle rape.
On the off-hand chance that there exists a single Cracked reader who doesn't know what tentacle rape is: it is exactly what it sounds like. Maeda realized that phalises could not be depicted but nothing in the censorship laws said phalis-like things - such as tentacles - were off-limits. Hentai has come to be almost synonymous with tentacle rape. Because nothing screams sexy like getting raped in every orifice by Ursula the Sea-Witch.
Did we talk about all that just a little too knowledgeable? Whoops.
God DAMN, the Japanese are weird!
Nation/culture of origin: French
You do have to give the French a little license when it comes to acting superior. They've kind of earned it. At several points throughout European history, France has made itself the center of civilization, a major source of art, cuisine, literature, poetry, philosophy, and culture, not to mention economically with its position smack dab in the middle of Europe.
Of course, with all that art comes the artists. And in any group of 1000 artists, you have 1 genius, 5-10 who are really good, and about 50-100 who are decent enough not to be embarrassing. The rest are all the beret-wearing, cigarette-smoking, coffee-house-crashing parasites that infest the art community, the ones who insist on actually calling it an "art community."
Ya can feel his suffering from here, can't'cha?
So with all these black-clad artists hanging around trying to appear deep, it's no wonder this word entered the lexicon: ennui.
Ennui refers to emotional mono. It is the ultimate boredom, a sense of being so disaffected and disconnected that it actually causes physical symptoms of lethargy and weariness. You know, the way teenagers act from ages 15-19, and the way artists act until their wives stop supporting them.
Stuff is, like, hard, and stuff.
Perhaps the best way to comprehend ennui is in the song "It's a Bore," from the 1958 musical Gigi (which takes place, appropriately enough, in France, and is even sung by an actor with a fake French accent). In this song, a man and his uncle are traveling through Paris, and as the uncle points out all the wondrous sights and opportunities the City of Lights has to offer, his nephew responds with the titualar chorus "It's a bore."
Nation/culture of origin: Russian
More than anything else, Communism has defined modern Russia. And not in a good way.
There is a permanent and impregnable gap between the generations of those who lived under Communist rule and those who did not. To the younger generation of Russia, their elders seem eternally haunted, bound together by a shared tragedy that has stolen some part of their lives and will never give it back. They often resent their elders, who vote to erect monuments to the long-dead rather than housing for the living, incapable of understanding how important the power of that vote and the memory of those dead are. And to those who actually lived under Stalin, Khrushchev, and all the chaos that followed the death throws of the Soviet Union, they are like the victims of rape: no one can really understand living under Communist dictatorship unless it's happened to them. Standing in lines for hours just for the hope that the bread truck was not diverted. Living as meekly as possible to avoid the suspicion of neighbors and secret police, while at the same time decrying your need over that of every other just on the offhand chance it might be answered. A lifetime of hunger, of paranoia, generations of people who never knew pride, or glory, or hope.
In Soviet Russia, party finds you! It finds you and it fucking kills you dead.
The Soviet Union was a monument to Communism. But Communism, when you get right down to it, is rule by committee, and you can't get twelve people to agree on a single pizza topping, let alone the fiscal responsibility of tax code clauses for single mothers. The best you can get it whatever offends the fewest people, which is why the overriding architectural theme throughout the country was unadorned cement mixed with children's tears. Not just the sidewalks, but the buildings, the houses, the apartments, all the monochromatic gray of abject despair.Russia is covered in snow nine-tenths of the year, so leave it to the Communists to decorate by adding absolutely nothing from the color wheel. Nor was this even good cement: the same perpetual bureaucractic snafus that led to food riots also extended to building materials. State housing might have been free to party members, but it was constructed by people who'd never done it before using materials slightly sturdier than origami paper. Imagine the Western world's surprise when Gorbichav tore down the wall to reveal...just more wall.
But even these weren't the worst the Soviet Union had to offer; those were the gulags. The term gulag is an acronym that translates as Chief Administration of Corrective Labour Camps and Colonies. They were scattered collections of prisons to send criminals and enemies to the Communist party (which included intellectuals, Jews, and traitors whose insurrection included missing work without permission or telling anti-government jokes). At best a gulag was a labor camp; at worst they became outright death camps, usually located in places so cold and morose that even the Russians couldn't quite eek out a living there. Prisoners suffered food shortages, inadequate clothing, overcrowding, poor hygiene, inadequate health care, and forced labor: basically the same shit everyone else in the Soviet Union was facing but way worse. People were sent to gulags without trial, by the order of secret police, and often executed. Under Stalin's rule more than 1.6 million of his own countrymen died, a body count roughly on par with Pol Pot and the Khamer Rouge.
The gulags symbolize hopelessness, and the terror of totalitarianism, and the gray of Russian winter, and the utter, irrevocable, crushing despair in knowing that your only solace might lie in an open grave. To the youth Russia, this idea is hard to understand. To the older generation, even decades later it is still hard to understand anything else.
Sorry to get serious there. To lighten the mood, here's a picture of kittens with hula-hoops.
Nation/culture of origin: Australian
Foster's is Australian for beer, while chunder is Australian for what happens when you drink too much Foster's.
Cracked bylaws insist this photo gets included in every single countdown list.
The word doesn't just mean to vomit, but to vomit due to an enormous excess of alcohol, which is pretty much the Australian national pasttime.
Rule four: now this term, i don't want to catch anybody not drinking. Rule five: No poofters. Rule six: there is NO...rule six. Rule seven: no poofters!
Nation/culture of origin: German
One thing you don't hear a lot of from Germany these days is: "Why do bad things only ever happen to us?" On the losing side of two world wars, for a long time being German basically meant apologizing for everything from the Holocaust to the slightly uncomfortable feeling you get watching Charlie Chaplin. Germany's less-than-family-friendly policy has in the form of WW2 influenced every single human on earth, as evidenced by the mere existence of Godwin's Law.
And even this cat!
They've got a lot to feel bad about. 15 million people died in the Holocaust, give or take. Fortunately, feeling bad about things is sort of what Germans do best.
That they have the word angst is one such example. Angst technically translates as fear or more accurately oppressive anxiety. But German has the world furcht to describe fear as most people think of it: a threat from a direct source. Angst, on the other hand, refers to an existential dread: the fear, as the philospher Kierkegaard expressed it, of "a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity and fear in the free human being." It refers to the tension and frustration associated with the conflict between responsibilities to self, one's principles, one's higher ideals, and to others. The closest English term is anguish, from which the word also derives, but anguish is mere sorrow, while angst includes an overriding sense of futility and despair, along with the implication that these conditions are the fundamental baseline of human nature.
It's enough to make you wanna SCREAM!
Nation/culture of origin: Also German
If there's one thing Germans are better at than feeling bad about themselves, it's feeling good about someone else feeling bad.
Enter schadenfreude. The word means "the joy one feels at the suffering of others." It is when you smile at another's misfortune, when you rejoice in another's downfall, when you laugh at another's pain.
That smug, superior grin you got when you first learned that Germans thought THIS guy was awesome: that's schadenfreude, baby!
Most people will barely admit this dark side of themselves even exists: Germans gave it a name.
And suddenly a whole lot about Germany makes sense.
(Side note: dibs on "Enter schadenfreude" as a name for a metal/grunge album!)
Nation/culture of origin: Jewish
Speaking of German's enjoying other people's pain, let's talk Jewish.
How's THAT for a segue?
For being God's chosen people, these folks have taken a heaping dose of shit over the last couple of forevers. Even their heyday includes exile and a forty-year trek through the desert. You know why it was the Israeli Defense Force that invented Krav Maga, the most deadly fighting martial art yet devised? Self-fucking-preservation. Because everybody has had it out for these guys for the crimes of...
Well, we'll get back to that.
Anyway, if anyone knows what schlimazel really means it's these guys, and not just because they invented the word. Schlimazel refers to an extremely unlucky person, someone who simply cannot get ahead. No matter what, things go wrong for the schlimazel. If he is late to work, his car gets a flat on the way. If his girlfriend breaks up with him, she puts his reaction on YouTube and it goes viral. So how exactly does this embody all that is Jewish?
Hey, did you hear? The Romans captured Jesus, the Romans tortured him, the Romans crucified him, the Romans put a wreath of thorns on his head, and this one dick of a Roman soldier named Longinus stuck his spear in the guy's side! We should totally blame the Jews for that for the next 2000 years or so!
Nation/culture of origin: Scottish
We were going to avoid food as untranslatable concepts, but you really cannot gloss over haggis (literally. It eats through the enamel). Nothing, repeat nothing encompasses all that is the Scottish mindset better than haggis.
For those of you lucky enough never to have tried it, here is a picture of haggis:
No, a ball of poo did not just vomit. The truth is actually much more disgusting. Haggis is the heart, lungs, and liver of a sheep, boiled for several hours in its own stomach.
That is not food. That is penance. That is the plot to the next fucking Saw movie. Anyone who has tasted haggis would prefer to be stripped naked and boiled in hot grease rather than eat it again, as evidenced below:
What, you thought we'd mention Scotland and NOT include a picture of Groundskeeper Willie?
In the USA - and this is entirely true - many of the ingredients for haggis are not available because the FDA has deemed them unfit for human consumption!
So why, you ask, would any human being allow this to exist, let alone actually eat it willingly? Let alone make it the national dish of choice?
It's actually rather obvious, if you're Scottish. See, the Scots hate the Brits. The Scots hate the Irish. The Scots hate foreigners. But who the Scots hate the most, way deep down, is other Scots. Scotland's inter-tribal warfare was so violent and barbaric that the Romans (the people who nailed folks to crosses) built a wall across the top of England just to keep the mayhem of angry Picts from spreading.
When you live in a land where the ultimate evolution of music results in the bagpipes, death by haggis doesn't sound so bad. And, take it from one who knows, halfway through haggis you won't be longing for death, you'll be longing for back when you were just 1/4 through the haggis and retained enough coherence to long for death.
The word haggis itself is so old that there is no known derivation for it, and so central to Scottish identity that 250 years in the future it is referenced by Montgomery Scott, who also serves it in two subsequent Star Trek novels.
Nation/culture of origin: British
Britain is on a completely different level of insults than America. In America we usually just resort to vulgarity. Sometimes we combine the vulgarity into new, even more insulting words like assbag and fucktard. But in Britain you get phrases like this one from Eurotrip: "So I told the swamp donkey to sack it before I give her a tonk in the tradesmans' entrance and have her lick me yarbles." That's not just a string of random words. They all mean something. And if you actually know what they mean it's even worse than it sounds.
This is even weirder when you consider how the English have a reputation for such politeness and effite manners.
In fact there are two types of Brits and always have been: the upper class, and the lower class. To the upper class everything is a matter of status, and each display of manners is actually a carefully cultivated means of displaying one's own superiority. While the lower class couldn't give two shits and will tell you as much. At least, until they are dealing with someone of actual superior status, when something clicks in the British brain that makes them take off their hats and bow.
So somewhere between a devotion to hierarchy that borders on the religious (literally, since the King of England made up his own religion) and a propensity for new and interesting insults, we get twit.
What is a twit?
This is a twit:
No, not ALL of our references come from Monty Python. Some we just made up.
Twit was originally a verb, meaning to tease or mock. But then Monty Python ran the Twit of the Year sketch, and it turned into a noun.
A twit is an inept, bumbling bufoon, but in a very specific way. Because, remember, everything in Britain comes down to status, a twit is someone of a certain class who lacks absolutely any. He is an idiot who does not realize he is an idiot but seems bent to make sure everyone else does, someone who has gone to all the right schools and had all the right privileges and still turned out a complete embarrassment.
There is no exact way to explain who is a twit and who is not. You just know. George W. Bush was not a twit, because he was at least vaguely aware that he wasn't that bright. The best American example of a twit - an example based off an English TV show - would be this guy:
Yeah. Now you get it.
Nation/culture of origin: Brazilian
When South America was claimed by European powers during colonial expansion, the two major competitors were Spain and Portugal. In fact, it looked like conquest of the southern portion of the New World would result in war until Pope Alexander VI formed the Treaty of Tordesillas by dividing the continent straight down the middle, a resolution repeated by endless numbers of feuding roommates to this day. Hence, the entire west half of South America speaks Spanish, while in Brazil the primary language is Portuguese.
To anyone who has never been to Brazil, here it the nation in a nutshell: no other culture could have invented bossa nova. Tropical passion mixed with relaxed attitudes and a touch of class. Most of the major cities have bland modernist architecture, but you can't tell because everything that isn't painted the color of pure Samba is covered in tropical plants that grow out of the goddammed concrete, and the locals like it that way. Brazil does its own take on things. In Rio de Janeiro they paint the favelas festive colors, and it is the only place on earth where the poor have a better view of the ocean than the rich. Brazilia built a city in the shape of airplane just because no mad scientist had ever gotten his act together and done it yet. Their culinary addition to the world is the churrascaria, a steak house where they force every known type of meat down your throat until you explode. For the 2016 Olympics they are constructing a massive artifical, solar-powered waterfall on an island in Guanabara Bay off the coast of Copacabana Beach just because view wasn't quite awesome enough.
So it makes sense they'd give a lusotropical twist to their adopted language.
In European Portuguese, the term saudade refers to a very specific type of longing. It is the nostalgia of being away from the one you love, the longing for a distant lover, possibly one with whom you will never be reunited.
But to Brazilians, specifically the cariocas - the locals of Rio de Janeiro - it has a very different meaning. In Brazil, saudade is the wistfulness that comes from not being in Rio. It is no mere homesickness. It is the experienced by any carioca away from their beloved city, the hollow feeling of knowing that no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing nor whom you do it with, the experience will pale just because you are not in Rio.
Rio rocks that hard.
Pictured: better in Rio
Nation/culture of origin: Mexican
It is an unfortunate but true fact that America has impacted upon the development of Mexico. A not-small part of the reason so many Mexicans try to get into the US is because the conditions in Mexico are so bad precisely because the US makes it hard for Mexicans to get in.
See, at its heart America is and always has been an agricultural nation. This country was founded on farmers. And farmers need laborers to pick their crop. They just don't need them all the time.
Up until the about 1930 this was not a huge deal, because migrant workers were common. Keep in mind, migrant workers wasn't always synonymous with Latinos. It referred to anyone who made their living by traveling to where the work was. Irish, Chinese, Japanese, and blacks all took up this ancient profession, as well as midwestern whites, especially after the Dust Bowl ruined many a homestead and they were forced to seek employment as background characters in John Steinbeck novels.
Just a little pun.
Migrant workers would go to places that needed work. They would infuse an area with money just like tourist season does now. They would do the work until the work was done. And then they would leave. The system worked pretty well.
Then some smart guys decided that they didn't like so many wetbacks around the place and passed harsher immigration laws. They didn't want them filthy Messycans stealing hard-working American jobs (like gardner, janitor, fry cook, and all the dreck jobs that allow lower prices and more product turnaround that impoves the economy). Nowadays the outright racism that is the backbone behind anti-immigration has the ironic effect of keeping Mexicans around long after they would have otherwise left. By making it so hard to get over the border, anyone who does cross is darned well going to stay here.
This has also had the effect of causing a lot of the best, brightest, and hardest working Mexicans, the ones who would be entrepreneurs in their homeland, to go work in America instead. As anyone who read Atlas Shrugged can guess, this just leads an inevitable eugenics situatin that leaves Mexico getting even shittier every year. And no matter how high or electrified a fence you build and how many racist hicks calling themselves a militia patrol the border with guns, people determined enough are going to find a way to get through.
Enter the coyote. Not the North American desert-dwelling praerie wolf. That creature's name is actually Aztecan, from the Nahuatl word cayotl. No, the coyote in this context is quite human.
A Coyote is the name for a smuggler who facilitates in bringing people across the border. As opposed to human trafficking, the Coyote is paid willingly by the immigrant to get them safely into the country. Often these are in unpleasant and even deadly conditions, such as the unfortunate incident in '97 when an abandoned truck was found to contain sixteen illegal immigrants who had died of heat stroke. But just like stricter drug laws just make smarter dealers, harsher enforcement and improved detection have just made the coyotes more ingenuitive.They are usually part of a large, organized group, and they work well. Human smuggling is estimated to be a $5B a year business. Meanwhile, Arizona alone spends nearly 3/4 of a billion dollars trying to keep shitty jobs safe for Americans who don't want them.
It's not derogatory to say that Mexico's economic state (and the cultural influence that follows such) is more deeply affected by American than any other factor. It's just basic observation. Sit down and think about it, and ask yourself if Mexico would really be in quite that bad a shape if its nearest neighbor to the north was, say, Sweden.
Nation/culture of origin: American
Oh, you thought America was getting off easy? Not a chance, my friend. Other people adopt our words, too.
The United States of America has forever prided itself on being the biggest and best at everything in the world. We actually had a real concept called Manifest Destiny, the belief that GOD HIMSELF wanted this nation to stretch from sea to shining sea (a perspective, incidentally, that he failed to mention to the Indians or Mexicans). The idea of the potential of anyone to rise from the humblest of beginnings to become president of the United States is the foundation for the American mythology of the Self-Made Man. And as Capitalism fought with and finally triumphed over Communism, it metamorphosed into Consumerism, and by god we do that better than just about anybody else, too.
As the years have gone by this combination of entitlement and self-satisfied superiority have shown up in many different ways in this culture, from blowjobs to the Hummer (to take two totally random examples) to Twitter, a means of sharing every dumb thing to cross your mind, named by someone who must - MUST - have known what the word twit actually means.
But nowhere is the American condition so perfectly described as in the word shopaholic, which means, quite literally, someone who is addicted to shopping. Think about this, really. There is a psychologically recognized mental illness for people who cannot - cannot - feel good unless they have spent money, often more than they can afford. Terms like retail therapy are so common that we don't even think it's weird.
God bless America.
Nation/culture of origin: Italian
France may have made itself the center of culture over several points in history, but that was because Italy was on vacation. Keep in mind, where Italy is now is where Rome used to be, and they sort of ruled all the known world for a thousand years or so. Historically speaking, almost everything you come away learning with a Bachelor of Arts degree has been heavily, heavily influenced by Italy, to the point that we still use their vocabulary.
Music? Take a look at a peace of sheet music sometime. All those directions - a capella, mezzo forte, allegretto, largo, pizzicato, soprano, trio sonata, virtuoso - those are all Italian words
Architecture? The technical names for half the structures out there - corridor, fresco, parapet, mezzanine, piazza, balcony, dome, portico - they are Italian.
Art? These guys named entire MEDIUMS of art. Sketch, mosaic, relief, pastel, figurine, and even studio and gallery are all Italian.
Crafts and industry? Guess where we get carpet, bronze, sequin, frigate, and pants?
Cuisine? Even leaving out the pastas, al fresco, brocolli, zucchini, and even cup are Italian.
And when it comes to the darkest sides of a culture? Batallion, mafia, graffiti, saloon, and charlatan are also Italian.
Rome was the center of the world for a long time. Go figure it would impact on the langauge.
Nation/culture of origin: Buddhist
Every culture has its dominant idea of what happens when you die and how to be a good person in the time leading up to that.
To Buddhists, if you've done everything right then what happens at the end is...nothing.
Specifically Nirvana, which often gets used as being synonymous with Heaven even though it is not. Buddhists believe in samsarai, which is the reincarnation cycle of life and death. Samsara is a cycle of endless suffering, suffering that is caused by the separation of the ego from the atman, which is sort of like a super-mind except that it exists below everything instead of above it. In essence, the universe is a pond perfectly at rest, then a little bit of consciousness (you) separates itself from the perfect and starts swimming in another direction and starts creating ripples that throw everything out of whack, for you and every other little bit of consciousness floating on the surface of the pond. And then you keep doing it, dying and coming back again and again. The only way to escape samsara is to forgo the illusive temptations of this world and attain Nirvana.
ur doin it rong!
Nirvana is not Heaven. Nirvana is the opposite of Heaven. In Heaven you get to live forever unchanging with your every wish fulfilled. Nirvana is the loss of all self, where the ego is subsumed by atman and goes back to the tranquil depths of the pond. It is bliss, but the bliss that comes when a pain you'd had for so long you've completely gotten used to suddenly disappears.
Confusing as all shit, aint' it? Well, that's where koans come in. A koan is a story, a statement, or a question that cannot be understood using rational thought. The most famous are "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" or "If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is around, does it it make a sound?" Koans are designed to help in meditation, to give you something to focus on that will remove the focus from yourself. They are not riddles or questions meant to be answered; thinking like that misses the point. The illusion of reality is that we are separate from reality, and so attempting to dissect an idea or solve a problem just takes you further away from the true answer.
If you've ever interacted with a Buddhist monk, they have a tendancy of speaking in non sequitors, answering questions with questions, and leaving you more confused than when you started. That's the point. Just like a koan, they are trying to lead you to a way of thinking that is 180 degrees inverse from the norm.
A deep note to end on. Here's the hula-hooping kittens again.
There ya go.
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