Cryptolects are secret languages spoken by a specific subculture that are designed to exclude people when you need absolute privacy. This level of privacy might be necessary to help the subculture overcome oppression or bullying from outsiders.
Several groups have their own cryptolect:
Polari: a language spoken by gay men in London
Shelta: a language used by Irish Travellers [a nomadic ethnic group]
Caló: a Mexican rhyming slang
One of the most fascinating is Nushu. In this example, you can see how the slender, elegant shapes appear to be inspired by – yet very distinct from – traditional Chinese:
Historically in China, women weren’t always allowed to receive an education, so many were illiterate. Legend has it that a concubine developed Nushu – a script for writing the local Chinese dialect – as a way to write about her life and overcome the crippling forces that attempted to keep women and men segregated.
Nushu was used exclusively by women in China’s Jiangyong and was discovered by the outside world in the 1980s. Nushu is also a lot more efficient than the traditional and more complex Chinese logosyllabic system: in the women’s phonetic writing system, a single symbol represents a syllable and there are no radicals.
Nushu is the only confirmed example of a women’s-only language or writing system that I could find.
But I wonder if the Voynich manuscript could be another. For centuries, this mysterious document has defied code breakers and historians:
Filled with images of plants, herbs, womanoid creatures, and human women, it is obviously some kind of medical text, most probably focused on women’s concerns. But who wrote the beautifully curly, elegant script and what does it say? To me it appears to be something a midwife would have written. Maybe it’s another example of a Nushu-like women’s-only writing system.
Long ago, the world was harsh with jagged peaks and steep hills. Nothing could grow among the rocks. But hidden between the cliffs was a beautiful valley where it was always summer.
The valley was a deathless paradise: animals didn’t hurt each other because the abundant trees and berries of all kinds were all they needed, and no one aged.
Once the Great Spirit created the valley, he fashioned something new. He made this new being similar to himself: two legs, dark hair and eyes. He gave her a dress made of galax leaves.
He placed her in the valley, saying, “You are First Woman. Welcome to your new home. Here you will have everything you need to live and rule.” And then he disappeared, leaving her to live as she wanted.
For a long time, First Woman was content in her valley. When she needed shelter from the shimmery summer rains, she hunkered in caves. When she was hungry, she ate her fill of yellow pawpaws, persimmons, tart gooseberries, and honey. When she was bored, she raced with beavers in the river. But humans need their own kind; First Woman’s boredom became loneliness.
One day, as First Woman sat in her cave, she saw a butterfly floating on the breeze. Its wings were like rubies. She had never seen such a creature before. Struck by its beauty, she followed it.
The butterfly led her across the valley, deep into a ravine, and up a steep cliff. She struggled to keep up with it. But the butterfly vanished in a field of white yarrow flowers. First Woman strained her eyes to find the shining red wings. Disappointed, she almost gave up – but she spotted it again at the edge of the field near a roaring waterfall.
She dashed to her quarry only to have it disappear again. Nighttime cascaded over the valley and with it, a skin-numbing cold. She decided to turn around, but nothing looked familiar; she had taken the wrong path. The trail evanescenced into brambles and thorns. Weary and frightened, First Woman curled up on the ground and tried to sleep.
She awoke at dawn. Something stood over her. It wasn’t a panther or any kind of creature she knew. It looked like her, but bigger, fiercer, with leggings made of cloud. But she was the only human in the world.
“Wh-What are you?” she asked.
“I’m Sky Man,” he said, one hand outstretched to help her up. “I was on my way from the evening star to the morning star. When I looked down, I saw you here, lost in the valley. I came down to your world to help you find your way…but the Great Spirit will be angry.”
“Oh no,” said First Woman. “Why?”
“He has ordered the People Above to stay out of this world. But I would rather stay down here with you.”
First Woman smiled. “I finally have someone to share the valley with!” She took his hand and showed him around her home.
They lived peacefully in the comfort of the valley and in time First Woman birthed a child. Only then did they begin to worry about the future. The valley provided for them now, but what would happen when their children and their children’s children began to overflow the valley?
“The world beyond the valley is harsh,” said First Woman. “How can we protect our descendants?”
“I’m not sure,” said Sky Man, “and I’m afraid of the Great Spirit’s wrath. This must have been why he forbid the People Above from coming into the valley.”
Together they prayed to the Great Spirit for forgiveness and guidance. In the World Above, the Great Spirit heard and knew that their hearts were good. With his hands he churned the wind to move the mountains, forming new valleys and new prairies. In this way, the Great Spirit made the whole planet beautiful.
The Great Spirit leaned down from the World Above and said, “All the world is now yours. But you have disobeyed me, so now you must work for your food. The valley won’t be summer forever anymore. It will die in the winter and be reborn in the spring. In the same way, you too will eventually grow old and die.”
Holding each other’s hands, First Woman and Sky Man looked out at the world, at their child, and still they were glad.
I became a vegan at age 16 after a year of being a vegetarian. After reading tons of books and watching several documentaries, I decided veganism was the best choice for me, morally and environmentally, for my health and spirituality.
I had a lot of fun learning new recipes. Veganism is why I learned how to cook and why I educated myself on topics such as nutrition. I shed excess weight and felt better, more energetic. It was great.
But now, ten years later, I don’t know if I want to be a vegan anymore.
No, it didn’t negatively impact my health.
I came to realize that veganism depends on feeling guilty:
feeling guilty for consuming meat, milk, honey, or eggs when just about every creature on earth consumes at least one of those, when every human society throughout history has consumed these things
feeling guilty for not doing enough to save the world
feeling guilty for what other people [slaughter house workers, companies] do
Honestly I now feel like this guilt is especially aimed at women, while at the same time vegan activism seems sexist – just look at this disgusting ad from PETA:
Women already face the brunt of issues such as eating disorders and body image problems. And in some places women are forbidden from eating meat – among a plethora of other foods – after their husband dies. Some places just don’t feed their female children very much at all, in favor of their sons. Furthermore, women are more at risk for diet-related conditions like calcium deficiency and anemia than men. In light of this, I’ve started feeling like veganism places a heavy burden on women.
Veganism also depends on anthropomorphizing animals. Many vegans will say that it doesn’t matter that many animals eat other animals. Now I believe that it DOES matter. Although animals obviously feel pain and some emotions, they don’t suffer in the same way we do and to suggest otherwise harms the animal rights movement because it damages their credibility. I have commonly heard vegans refer to what happens to dairy cows as “rape,” reference the Holocaust in discussions of factory farming, or even refer to keeping pets as slavery. Not only are such comparisons hyperbolic, but they also degrade human victims, downplay human suffering, and numb listeners to the very real violence inflicted on other humans.
But most importantly are my next points:
Naive and idealistic, I had thought I could do my part in lessening in the world’s evils by becoming vegan. Now that just seems arrogant. One person cannot make a difference on a wide scale. The powers that be may want us to believe that – that we have so much power as consumers that we can stop factory farming. But the sooner we realize that as individuals, we are powerless, the sooner actual change can happen. If anything is going to change, it will happen because people work together as a group to boycott, to protest, to write to senators. Going vegan is literally the least thing any of us can do.
And all of that ties into the idea of food justice. I rarely see vegans talk about this issue. But if more people had access to fresh foods – not just crap from gas stations or fast food places – they would pick healthier things. Tackling the issue of food deserts would do a lot more to help animals than the idiotic mental masturbation vegans sometimes engage in.
It is projected that between 50 and 90 percent of all languages spoken today will become extinct by the year 2100.
“What’s the big deal?” some people ask. “It’s not as if minority language speakers will suddenly not be able to communicate. Languages like Spanish or English or Chinese are better economically anyway.”
This line of thought is perplexing to me. Other animals exhibit empathy, tool use, even some elements of culture. Out of the vastness of the universe, only one species has demonstrated the ability to use language. It seems we have an instinct for language, something no other creature possesses. This instinct has pushed us to create something rich, colorful, and infinitely diverse.
And yet there are people who think this amazingly colorful, unique element of humanity is worthless.
Usually indigenous languages die because of racism, imperialism, and related dystopian issues. Communities rarely [if ever?] intentionally give up their languages because language is part of their culture – they are often forced to give up their language. For example, in residential schools, kids were punished for speaking their language and the result was they were afraid to ever speak it, even to their own children when they became adults. Some indigenous groups consider their language sacred, a literal gift from the heavens, so imagine the pain of not being able to speak it, either because you don’t know it or because you will be punished for speaking it.
I think this is one of the major reasons to support language revitalization – to help heal communities.
I think most minority language speakers would rather their children be bilingual than to just let their language die.
For people who speak English as their mothertongue, they may not understand what it is like to speak a language that is closely tied to one’s ethnicity, history, land, or culture. And I think that is why a lot of native English speakers ask questions like “Why not just let minority languages die?”
It is easy to underestimate the power of language.
The silvery orb illumines the sky with myth, magic, and mystery, the same nocturnal ornament known to our ancestors in the depths of the ancient past. They worshiped the moon – and no wonder: mover of waves, light in the dark, tide of women’s blood, regulator of hormones…the moon is humanity’s satellite as much as it is Earth’s.
Its pale light offers a healing reprieve from the ravages of the day.All of us need darkness – like seedlings, like babies in the womb, like caterpillars in metamorphosis – to grow, to heal, to reflect. The moon sees what the sun, in its gaudy brightness, cannot. It illuminates that which we do not need light to see.
Our ancestors are always with us. All of humanity can trace its lineage to a single ancestor: Mitochondrial Eve, a woman who lived in Africa approximately 200,000 years ago. Our ancestors struggled to give us everything we have today. If they could see us, would they be proud?