Re: Wade's hammer

From: Grant Callaghan (
Date: Tue Jan 08 2002 - 20:21:04 GMT

  • Next message: Wade Smith: "Re: playing at suicide"

    Received: by id UAA03256 (8.6.9/5.3[ref] for from; Tue, 8 Jan 2002 20:25:38 GMT
    X-Originating-IP: []
    From: "Grant Callaghan" <>
    Subject: Re: Wade's hammer
    Date: Tue, 08 Jan 2002 12:21:04 -0800
    Content-Type: text/plain; format=flowed
    Message-ID: <>
    X-OriginalArrivalTime: 08 Jan 2002 20:21:05.0232 (UTC) FILETIME=[FFC3F500:01C19881]
    Precedence: bulk

    >On Tuesday, January 8, 2002, at 10:52 , Grant Callaghan wrote:
    >>Most people now agree that American culture and English culture
    >>are two different cultures.
    >Indeed, separated by a common language....
    >It may be useless to talk of the evolution or speciation of
    >cultures, and to attempt, however fitfully, to discern the
    >instances of distribution of fads and the like, as distinct
    >memetic markers.
    We still haven't quite worked out the ways in which the Lamarkian evolution
    of memetics resembles the Darwinian evolution of plants and animals. A lot
    of the metaphors we toss about are not approapriate to the divisions we use
    to divide up the elements of culture. What we do know is that there is a
    process that causes change in culture that in some ways resembles the
    changes species. It would be a mistake to call them the same thing exactly.

    >I would tend to dismiss as unfounded claims that english and
    >usanian cultures are unique species, or even 'different'.
    >And all I have to do to come to this conclusion is say, Harry Potter.
    >Who is now very popular in Japan, as I understand....
    >What's going on there?
    >Any memetic guesses?
    >- Wade
    Having spent a great deal of time in the Far East teaching English as a
    second language, I can tell you from experience that What they pick up from
    the movie is no doubt much different from what we do. And then there's the
    translation problem. I remember watching a movie in which a man walks up to
    a farm house in rural England and asks how far it is to the next town.

    "Nigh on to a mile," replied the farmer.

    "Nine miles" read the Chinese translantion at the bottom of the screen.

    I used to help some teachers who moonlighted as translaters for English and
    American movies. Although their English skills were at university level,
    they were totally in the dark about the meaning of English and American
    slang. "I'm going to take a butcher's." had something to do with meat
    processing as far as they were concerned.

    And most of our profanity was totally meaningless to them. The worst thing
    you could call someone in Taiwan when I was there was a turtle egg (Wang ba
    dan) but I found myself totally unfazed by it. But if you said it to
    someone on the street, you'd better be ready to fight.

    So the Japanese and Chinese may enjoy Harry Potter but the memes they pick
    up from it will not be the same ones we thought we were sending over there
    with the movie. If you sit in the theater with them, you'll no doubt find
    them laughing in all the wrong places. Magic in the Far East is based on
    entirely different beliefs and principles than those in the West. Most
    magic over there is Taoist in nature with a tinge of Buddhist tradition
    backing it up. The magic in Harry Potter has pseudo-Celtic antecedents and
    comes from European traditions. I don't think it will translate all that

    When I first went over there, it took at least a year in each country before
    I really began to understand what was going on in the culture around me.
    Most of what I saw and heard I interpreted in terms of my own culture and
    experience. Even today my Chinese wife and I have a large number of
    misunderstandings based on language and cultural differences. Our belief
    systems don't mesh at all. Although we share the same house, we live in
    different worlds.


    Join the world’s largest e-mail service with MSN Hotmail.

    This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
    Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
    For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Jan 08 2002 - 20:32:10 GMT