Maybe the word is universal because it’s a very early sound for babies, and therefore easy to associate for a small child .

In biology there’s a concept with a complicated name, the sort of thing that turns kids off science. It’s called the convergent evolution of analogous structures, and a good example is the eye of the octopus, when compared to the human eye.

As you know, the lens in our eye flips the image, so we see everything upside down. Our brain then flips the image so we ‘see’ it correctly.

This spanile goes arse over tit when it hits your retina, then your brain descrambles the pooch.

This spaniel goes arse over tit when it hits your retina, then your brain descrambles the pooch.

The human eye is often cited as an example of poor design.


If you close one eye, look at the cross, and move your screen (if you’re mobile) or your head (if you’re not), the circle will disappear. This kiddies experiment is designed to locate your blind spot, the place where the optic nerve interrupts your retina. In the human eye, the nerve fibres are between the lens and the retina.

Creationists don’t accept that this challenges intelligent design, one of the great hoaxes of our time.

The whole creationist argument is anthropocentric, tired, and tiring. Back pain is a consistent feature of human life, and lumbar herniation in one form or another occurs when humans, particularly men, hit their forties. We were not designed to walk upright, at least where the L4, L5, and S1 vertebrae are concerned.

And given the many competing gods, were these intelligent designers therefore also in competition, and if so why is the comparative anatomy of a Sunni eye identical to the Christian one?

I can get more sense out of an octopus, so I’ll focus (sorry) on that. The octopus does not focus like us, i.e. by making the lens fatter or thinner, but by moving the lens back and forward, just like a camera. And the nerves that process the light-sensitive cells are located at the back of the retina, not between it and the lens.

The octopus, unlike the creationist, does not have a blind spot.

The Swahili word for mother is mama. As a diminutive or not, that’s also the case in English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.  And many more languages, including Chinese.

The four tones in Mandarin Chinese. From top and left: level, rising, departing, entering

The four tones in Mandarin Chinese. From top and left: level, rising, departing, entering

In Mandarin you do have to worry about tones: Mama is ma(1) ma, where the first tone is a level one. You can abbreviate to only the first character, but keep that level tone—if you use ma(3), the departing tone, you’ll be calling momma a horse.

Mama is the mainstay of the family, the person who holds it together when everything around is collapsing. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa, where any report that involves teen crises brings forth a mother who may be angry, defiant, or just plain desperate—the father’s gone to the shabeen, or perhaps he’s just gone.

The single parent statistics in South Africa indicate only thirty-three percent of kids live with both parents. Out of the other sixty-seven percent, 39% live with their mama, ten times more than the percentage that live with dad.

I plotted some data from the U.S. National Kids Count, and curiously, African American families also have a sixty-seven percent one parent rate.

Proportion of single parent families by race in the United States.

Proportion of single parent families by race in the United States.

The difference between the two is that while the black population of the U.S. is thirteen percent of the whole, in South Africa it’s above ninety percent.

In Mandarin, the word for family is jia (level tone), meaning home. In the Orient, the family name comes before the given name—”In China, family more important,” I have been repeatedly informed. Maybe that explains why so few single parent families in the U.S., at least in relative terms, are from the Asian racial group. I’d bet that numbers from the Chinese community in the U.S. are way lower still.

In the days of the Caliphate, during the occupation of Iberia by the Moors, women were considered as ‘receptacles of semen.’ This allowed the caliphs to maintain a harem that included girls from as far north as Finland, kidnapped and sold by the Vikings. These slave girls bore blond, blue-eyed boys that later became part of the ruling class.

By contrast, the Christian rulers of the time, while being notorious philanderers for the most part, had to contend with the stigma of birth out of wedlock—the suffix lock makes that plain enough. A good example was the struggle of the Perfect Prince to place his bastard son Jorge on the throne, after his legitimate son Afonso died in a horse-riding accident—although Afonso’s Spanish widow, daughter of the Reyes Católicos, was convinced the death was due to a spell cast by the Jewish astronomers and physicians that surrounded King John.

Allegedly, Charles once told Diana, when confronted about his relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles, that he couldn’t be the first Prince of Wales in the history of Britain who didn’t have a mistress.

Once again this week I heard mama, again, and again, this time crying out in Soweto.The baby’s plight? The children of the rainbow nation are falling to a drug called nyaope, or whoonga, actually a cocktail of dagga (pot) sprinkled with heroin. Not your top grade powder, you understand, reserved for rock stars and the like—this is low grade smack, apparently cut with rat poison, and crushed HIV pills.

The icing on the cake, so to speak, makes smoking a joint highly addictive, and this cocktail is destroying communities—as usual, the slums, euphemistically termed informal housing in South Africa, are the worst hit.

Although whoonga is pitched as novelty, the combination is not new. Opiated hash has been around for centuries, coming out of Afhganistan, Nepal, and north India. Witness this rather sad question posed by a teenage boy (I’m speculating on both) on one of the many dope forums out there.

I recently smoked some opiated hash (hash with opium added to it, as i understand it). It totally blew my mind saw some trippy things, i know the basics about opium like that it’s from the poppys used to make heroin, anyways just wanted to know what the risks of using opium are and any useful info about it.

cheers & happy new year!

This poor kid definitely needs to talk to Momma.

The Atlantic has an interesting story on whoonga, that traces its origins to something called krokodil, a street drug from Russia. A ‘development’ from that is sisa, the so-called ‘austerity’ drug popular these days in Greece. Funnily enough it’s the name of an old Portuguese property tax, responsible for the resignation of not a few politicians back in the day.

Krokodil is no laughing matter—if you have the stomach watch the documentary, embedded in the same article that tells us sisa is crystal meth cut with battery acid, engine oil, and shampoo. Apparently this concotion turns users into ‘violent sex-crazed lunatics’.

The additives are so bizarre that if it weren’t such a tragedy I’d be tempted to remark that at least they start easily, and are clean and well lubricated. But the whole story is such a heartbreak that any smile would just be a moment between the tears.

When confronted with these drug questions in a township (another great euphemism) outside Jo’burg, one guy spells out the difference between whoonga and sisa:

“This is not an austerity drug. Nyaope is part of everyday culture in the townships. We’re not in austerity, we’re in poverty.”

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones.


One Response to “Mama”

  1. Laura Says:

    In Finnish and Estonian, “mother” doesn’t sound anything like mama; in Finnish it is “äiti” and in Estonian “ema”. A reliable-looking web source says that the word “äiti” is a loan from germanic languages (“aithi”), a word that was later forgotten and replaced by the latin “mater”. The Estonian “ema” is closer to the original fenno-ugric word, which still is preserved in Finnish as “emä” and “emo”, meaning mother when speaking of animals.

    Finnish mothers also hear the word “äiti” in their babies gurgling – I guess it’s universal to hear what you want to hear. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: