Here’s a guest post from my Big Show colleague Nina Porzucki…
Second century graffito depicting a man worshiping a crucified donkey. The inscription translates as “Alexamenos respects God.” It may be mocking a Christian soldier. (Photo: Palatine Museum, Rome/Wikipedia)
The Chinese teen who scrawled some graffiti on an ancient relic in Egypt caused an uproar last month.
While Chinese officials and netizens gave the kid a really hard time, turns out the boy might have simply been channeling ancient Egyptian habits.
Remember that scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian”? Brian is marking up a wall, and is caught by a Roman soldier who corrects his grammar. Well, that bit may contain more truth than you know.
In ancient times, graffiti didn’t connote vandalism as it does today.
Turns out graffiti was something done by the elite and well educated as a way, you might say, to show off good spelling.
Anchor Marco Werman speaks with Oxford University Egyptologist Chloé Ragazzoli about contemporary attitudes to ancient graffiti.
Crusader Graffiti in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem (Victorgrigas/Wikimedia Commons)
As Barack Obama enters the second year of his presidency, he’s dropped some expressions — among them, war on terror, associated of course mainly with George W. Bush and AfPak, a conflation of Afghanstan and Pakistan, which didn’t go down too well in Pakistan. In his State of Union speech, Obama didn’t even mention the Middle East. His administration has invented a few phrases too: remotely piloted aircraft (drones) and overseas contingency operations (wars). Also, a count of his favorite State of the Union words done by The Guardian kicks up some surprises: Obama really likes the word I. Other presidents liked America (George W. Bush), government (Ronald Reagan. I don’t think he was being complimentary) and new (Lyndon Johnson).
Next, it’s to Quito, Ecuador, and a special screening of Avatar.
The 3-D screening was for a couple of Ecuador’s indigenous groups, the Shuar and the Achuar. Both are struggling to maintain control of their land in the face of attempts to exploit it by Ecuadorean and multinational corporations. Avatar, of course, is about much the same thing, albeit with a future setting on a far-away planet inhabited by tall blue creatures who speak a language called Na’vi. (See my previous post on Na’vi, the new Klingon.) We have a report on the screening, and some language-related comments from Alejandro Mayaprua, an Achuar leader, and Mayra Vega, president of the Women’s Association of the Shuar Nation of Ecuador. That’s them below. Also, check out this video on the screening from reporter Melaina Spitzer.
After that, there’s a piece from Beijing correspondent Mary Kay Magistad on a new online satirical movie that’s all the rage in China. It features a Chinese double-entendre phrase aimed at avoiding government censorship (it didn’t avoid censorship; it was eventually banned). People became aware of the expression here in the U.S. after the New York Times ran a story on it. The movie also includes a fantastic “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” rant, which you can hear in all its glory in the pod. Or you can watch a version of the movie with English subtitles here.
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