R. Christian’s Enigmatic Stones, 1980

When a man commissioned a strange structure to be built on behalf of a mysterious group, it left stone masons scratching their heads. But that structure, since dubbed ‘Georgia’s Doomsday Stonehenge’, still stands today. Find out what is inscribed on it and why it is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories.

In June 1979, a man using the pseudonym Robert C. Christian approached the Elberton Granite Finishing Company on behalf of “a small group of loyal Americans” which intended to remain anonymous and commissioned a structure.

Christian delivered a scale model of what he wanted with ten pages of specifications. He explained that it would function as a compass, calendar and clock, and should be capable of withstanding catastrophic events.

Joe Fendley of Elberton Granite assumed that Christian was a ‘nut’ and attempted to discourage him by giving a quote several times higher than any project the company had taken, explaining that the Guidestones would require additional tools and consultants, but Christian happily accepted the quote.

The finished product was unveiled on March 22, 1980.

That structure is called the Georgia Guidestones, a granite monument in Elbert County, Georgia, in the United States. It has been carefully crafted with astronomical features, with the four outer stones being oriented to mark the limits of the 18.6-year lunar declination cycle for example.

A set of ten guidelines is also inscribed on the structure in eight modern languages:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.
The Guidestones seem to advocate population control, eugenics, and internationalism (wired.com)

The fact that the Guidestones’ authors are anonymous and they apparently advocate population control, eugenics, and internationalism has made them a target for controversy and conspiracy theories.

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The Most Baffling Book Ever Written- The Voynich Manuscript, 1400s

The Voynich Manuscript has professional code breakers scratching their heads even now trying to decipher its meaning, filled as it is with exquisite illustrations and an unknown language.

The Voynich Manuscript is possibly written in a proto-Romance language (newatlas.com)

A book was once written that’s had everyone from cryptographers to professional code breakers scratching their heads in bemusement. Who wrote it, What does it mean, or even, what language is it written in? No one really knows.

The Voynich Manuscript, named after a Pole who purchased it in 1912, has been carbon-dated from the early 15th Century. It’s a fantastic piece of craftsmanship — too good to be some prank. It’s over 240 pages long and written in a language which no one’s been able to identify and crammed with 6 types of exquisitely drawn illustrations:

  • Plant/herbal — none of which have been clearly identified.
  • Astronomical/Astrological — includes suns, stars, moons, some symbols of zodiac signs and female figures arranged in concentric bands.
  • Balneological — dense text interspersed with images of small nude women.
  • Cosmological — circular diagrams, includes a 6 page foldout with a possible map of islands or ‘rosettes’ connected by ‘causeways’ with castles and a possible volcano.
  • Pharmaceutical — many labelled drawings of plant parts ranging from the mundane to the fantastical.
  • There’s also a recipe section.

Very weird. The best guess for its purpose is that it was a kind of medieval technical manual to cover medieval or early modern medicine. 

Experts speculate that the Voynich Manuscript contains a meaningful text in some European language that has been hidden in the VM ‘alphabet’ through a cypher of some sort; this was the working hypothesis for most 20th-century deciphering attempts, including an informal team of NSA cryptographers led by William F. Friedman in the early 1950s.

In recent years, further research by a scholar at the University of Bristol, England has revealed the book is possibly written in a proto-Romance language that was spoken centuries ago and is the forerunner of modern languages like Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese. And the scholar theorises that Dominican nuns compiled the manuscript as a reference book for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon—Catherine of Aragon’s great-aunt.

As of 2019, however, this research is also far from conclusive and the mystery of the Manuscript remains, for now.

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How Native English Speakers can Communicate Better with Non-Native English Speakers in Business

Here are five ways to help your international business contacts avoid misunderstandings that could cost you dearly.

Assuming you’re a Briton, American or another native English speaker (NES), imagine you are holding a video conference with half a dozen proficient non-native English speakers (NNES), say some departmental managers of a manufacturing firm in Spain.

Because the meeting is in English would you assume that you are the easiest to understand in the ‘room’? If so, you’d be wrong.

I’ll explain why and ways you can help your international business contacts avoid misunderstandings that could cost you dearly.

Particularly across the European Union (EU), there is a heck of a lot of business dealings and liaison. In an economic bloc that counts 24 official languages, a lingua franca is needed and invariably that is English.

Yet in a room full of reasonably proficient NNESs it is often the NES in the room who is hardest to understand. Why is that so?

The European Union average showed that 56% of people speak at least one foreign language. In contrast just 38% of Britons speak at least one foreign language. As a Brit myself I’m surprised it is even that high.

For Americans, it is just 20% who can converse in two or more languages.

The result? It is not just that we anglospherics are ignorant of foreign languages, we’re ignorant of how hard our language is to translate and learn, especially for those who lack the aptitude for languages to learn intuitively.

So, does your business do a lot of cross border trade? Ever been in a meeting where every NNES seems to nod and smile at what you are saying but looks blank, anxious or uncomfortable?

Ever been in a meeting where everyone seems to nod and smile at what you are saying but looks blank, anxious or uncomfortable? (forbes.com)

As an ex English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) teacher, let me highlight five mistakes NESs may be making and how you can rectify them.

Phrasal Verbs

They. Are. A. Nightmare. We use them so much yet they make little logical sense.

What’s a phrasal verb? A two word combination of a verb followed by an adverb or a preposition, e.g: keep off, lock up and turn down.

If you were a beginner English student, you could easily grasp what ‘look’ and ‘up’ mean. The minefield becomes apparent when you see the differences in meaning between:

Look upSearch someone’s name or a piece of information

Look up (at) — See something above

Look up (to) — Admire someone

That is why they’re so confusing. The solution is to find simple synonyms to replace the phrasal verbs, e.g:

Turn downReject

Lay offRemove staff from company

Bring upMention topic/issue

Back upSupport

Break downStop working

Idioms

Another nightmare. These are groups of words the meaning of which is completely unrelated to the meaning of the individual words. Examples being: ‘Caught red handed’, ‘Pull the wool over someone’s eyes’, and ‘move the goalposts’.

Again, used frequently.

So many NESs simply assume NNESs are familiar with the terms.

Again the solution is to replace them, e.g:

Move the goalpostsChange the rules

Catch red-handedSee someone doing something banned/illegal

Don’t touch with a bargepoleDon’t get involved with something

Vocabulary

This applies to the vocabulary you use. Of course many terms are industry-specific and, in technical fields, only long, fancy words will do. Still, if you are quite verbose, then be mindful of finding simpler synonyms without patronising the NNES who is on the receiving end.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been lost in the past due to vocabulary misunderstandings.

DelegateGive tasks to junior team members

MaintainKeep something working well

TurnoverMoney taken by a business; number of staff which have started and finished working for a company

GuidanceAdvice

Acronyms

OOO’, ‘FYI’, ‘RSVP’ ‘BTW

Do you know what all these mean? You can bet your bottom dollar some of your NNES email recipients certainly won’t. The simple solution is to be mindful of their use and stop using them.

Accents

A more well-known consideration yet one so often overlooked by NESs with no experience of learning foreign languages. Even on the small island of Great Britain there is a dizzying array of regional accents, and it is hard enough for a Brit from the north to understand a Brit from the south. So, imagine how bad it is for someone not even born in the UK!

(youtube.com)

Again be mindful of your audience and make the effort to enunciate, slow down and cut up the flow of sentences a bit. Again don’t go overboard so far that you patronise your audience.

Conclusion

If you’ve been struggling to get the results you’ve desired from your dealings with foreign English speakers, bear these points in mind and you may find they make a big difference!

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