Not only Black Friday — November 21, 2018

Not only Black Friday

The first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” was applied not to holiday shopping but to financial crisis: specifically, the crash of the U.S. gold market on September 24, 1869.

Back in the 1950s, police and bus drivers in the city of Philadelphia used the term to describe the heavy traffic that would clog city streets the day after Thanksgiving as shoppers headed to the stores.

However, companies didn’t like the negative tone associated with the Black Friday name. In the early 1980s, a more positive explanation of the name began to circulate.

According to this alternative explanation, Black Friday is the day when retailers finally begin to turn a profit for the year. In accounting terms, operating at a loss (losing money) is called being “in the red” because accountants traditionally used red ink to show negative amounts (losses).

Positive amounts (profits) were usually shown in black ink. Thus, being “in the black” is a good thing because it means stores are operating at a profit (making money).

The recent popularity of Black Friday has created a couple of new shopping holidays: Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. For those who are too busy to shop on Black Friday — or who just don’t want to fight the crowds — the Monday following Black Friday has become known as Cyber Monday for the many online deals that shoppers can take advantage of from the comfort of their homes.  GivingTuesday was established in 2012 as a day of generosity and philanthropy. On the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, individuals, organizations and communities celebrate and encourage giving to charities and those in need. What a wonderful way to celebrate the holidays!

Culture hidden in vocabularies — June 8, 2018

Culture hidden in vocabularies

Every language belongs to a certain culture. This is an indisputable fact which we can notice studying a new language. Sometimes we may feel surprised by the number of words the mother tongues use in different countries to name apparently the same concept.

A common example which shows the situation when the language mirrors the culture is the one of Inuits. They are the native inhabitants of the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Researchers have studied the language of this ethnic group and have discovered that their vocabulary is distinguished from others by the use of terms meaning “snow”. In fact, Inuits keep the notion of snow straight in their minds and name it in plentiful ways. As they live where the snow doesn’t lack, they are used to it and they notice the differences between its kinds, its way of melting, and other phenomena related to it. The research on the language has shown that the Inuit glossary contains more than 400 expressions while English, and other languages, presents a significantly lower number.

The way snow is comprehended by some cultures illustrates how languages work, which means how they adapt to the reality they belong to. Every culture has its own view of the world and it can be easily seen in language. The point is that if a society meets something on the everyday basis, it gives the concept many names making a distinction between its multiple sorts. At the same time, if the same notion doesn’t occur or is a rarity in other societies, the names for it are few. That is why, Hawaiians have 65 terms for fishing nets, 108 for sweet potato, 42 for sugarcane and 47 for bananas. Similarly, Scots describes rainy weather, Somalis camels and the Baniwa tribe living in Brazil uses 29 words to name ants.

As we have seen, languages are inherent to cultures. By studying a new language, you assume a new perspective and you get to know things you were unaware of. Obviously, more the culture is distant from yours, more surprises wait for you.


By Kaja Brąz

La giornata dei bambini — June 1, 2018

La giornata dei bambini

In alcuni paesi del mondo si festeggia la giornata dei bambini. La data varia a seconda del paese: ad esempio in Gran Bretagna i ragazzi hanno festeggiato pochi giorni fa, il 13 maggio, in Polonia invece le celebrazioni hanno luogo oggi, cioè come ogni anno il 1° giugno.

Ma perché si dedica un giorno ai bambini, perché oggi più che mai la Giornata dei bambini è ancor più significativa e infine chi ha il “diritto” di festeggiare questo giorno speciale?

La risposta è molto semplice: dedichiamo un giorno all’anno alle mamme, ai papà, ai nonni, affinché si sentano amati, considerati, importanti, afinchè possano sentire la vicinanza di chi vuol bene loro, perché non fare la stessa cosa con i bambini? Certo ai piccini come ai grandi, piacciono le coccole indipendentemente da un giorno speciale. Ma quando questo giorno speciale arriva, oltre alle coccole ci sono tante sorprese: regali dei genitori e tante attività dedicate alla crescita e al divertimento dei bambini. Nelle scuole si fanno gare dove i ragazzi affrontano delle sfide sportive, nei teatri si rappresentano  spettacoli per i più piccoli e nelle piazze si organizzano diversi giochi e attività ludiche.

Occorre soffermarsi sulle origini della Giornata dei Bambini, come mai la festeggiamo?

Le Nazioni Unite l’hanno creata più di sessant’anni fa come una giornata per trasmettere solidarietà ai bambini di tutto il mondo. Infatti a parte la gioia delle celebrazioni, la Giornata dei Bambini serve a rendere noti i problemi dei ragazzi nei paesi per esempio in cui manca la pace o domina la povertà.

Un’altra ragione che ha spinto verso la celebrazione di questa giornata è la sensibilizzazione dei bambini più fortunati riguardo le condizioni, a volte terribili, in cui alcuni loro coetanei versano e l’incoraggiamento ad apprezzare il benessere nel quale vivono: un piccolo passo per cambiare il mondo.

Non dimentichiamo poi che tutti noi, qualsiasi sia la nostra età, una volta siamo stati bambini. Se ce ne ricorderemo manterremo vivo il nostro entusiasmo per tutto ciò che ci circonda e resteremo giovani per sempre e potremo continuare a scoprire la meraviglia anche nelle piccole, ordinarie cose quotidiane.

By Kaja Brąz