Tag Archives: Inception

Walk away from this sentence

A colleague called my attention to the following sentence in the article “Trudeau gives his definition of ‘national interest’: Chris Hall”:

Why is Justin Trudeau investing so much in a single pipeline that his officials met on Friday in Toronto with Kinder Morgan executives, who issued the threat to abandon the project while the prime minister was travelling to a vigil in Humboldt, Saskatchewan, for the hockey players and others killed in that tragic bus accident, and who can still walk away from it on May 31 if they aren’t satisfied?

If you’re left reeling and trying to figure out if it’s saying the hockey players killed in the bus accident can still walk away from it, you’re not alone. And yet the sentence is perfectly grammatical and makes sense – once you take it apart and set the pieces on the table. Which is not to say it should have been published as it was.

Let’s start by making it a fun exercise in field-stripping a sentence. Continue reading

exclave

No, I’m not doing this one just because it sounds kind of like sex slave and exclaim and autoclave (which is what you use to sterilize the tools you use to make your sex slave exclaim, but no this is not about that, no no no). Nor am I doing it just because of the [kskl̥] in its heart – those two crisp voiceless velar stops, the hissy fricative [s] and that voiceless liquid [l̥] (so mystical-sounding!) isolating the second [k] even as it spreads its aspiration onto the /l/ after it… Nor am I doing it even because of the lovely play of shapes in it, the xcl cross curve line ensemble and the half-echoing shape v, all between the squinchy eyes of the e and e, with just the normal a in the heart allowing it to salute you with ave. (Yes, ave sclavussclavus being the source of English slave and Italian ciao, ciao being the modern equivalent of ave and coming from an utterance signifying ‘I am your slave’ – but not sex slave.)

No, I am doing it because of Dahala Khagrabari and, metaphorically, because of Vulcan Point Island. I am doing it because of matryoshka dolls.

Here is what is what. You may know what an enclave is: a country or piece of a country (or other political entity: state, city) that is surrounded on all sides by another country (or same-level political entity). The Vatican is one such, a whole country that is an enclave. There are many enclaves that are pieces of another country, little flecks of territory, administrative spatter over the border. You have to pass through another country to get to them. There may be geographic barriers involved, or it may simply be vagaries of boundaries. Kaliningrad (belonging to Russia) is thought of as one such, although you can also pass across the sea to get to it rather than having to pass through another country per se. There are little exclaves of Germany and Italy in Switzerland.

An exclave is to an enclave as an emigrant is to an immigrant. Broadly, an enclave is an exclave viewed from the surrounding country; an exclave is an enclave viewed from the country from which it is separated. Loan a book to someone else and you could say it becomes an exclave of your property on their bookshelf. Exclaves are not enslaved, but they are not exactly free either. An exclave may be surrounded by more than one country, but it is not in touch with the rest of its own country.

So imagine an exclave of one country in a neighbouring country: a district that belongs to country A but is separated from it in country B. Now imagine that in that exclave of country A there is an exclave of country B. Like a pool of vinegar in the pool of oil floating on your pool of vinegar. Got that? Now imagine an exclave of country A in the exclave of country B in the exclave of country A in country B.

Does that matryoshka-doll-like arrangement sound like Dr. Seuss? It’s not. Country A is India and country B is Bangladesh. And the exclave in an exclave in an exclave is called Dahala Khagrabari #51. It’s not all that large – 7000 square metres – and is not inhabited (it’s a farm field). It’s not separated from the rest of the Indian enclave by much, but it is separated by an exclave of Bangladesh inside an exclave of India in Bangladesh. I do not think there are border guards. It is owned by a Bangladeshi, but it belongs to the country of India. I don’t know why, but the separation of Bangladesh from India was not one of the tidiest things ever to happen. When you rip things apart, sometimes there are rough edges and shreds.

When you look at these things on maps, they sort of look like lakes of one country inside land of another country. So Dahala Kagrabari #51 would be like a lake in an island in a lake. Which can make one think of islands as exclaves of the mainland in the sea, and lakes as like exclaves of the sea in the land (ignoring the river connections and the different salinity).

So now imagine an island in a lake in an island in a lake in an island.

It’s called Vulcan Point Island.

It’s in the Philippines. Try the cosmic-zoom-style view.

Exclave, sex slave, schmexlave. This is more like Inception.

In fact, ask yourself: How do you know your wakefulness today is not an exclave of yesterday’s wakefulness inside last night’s dream? And how do you know last night’s dream was not an exclave of the previous night’s dream inside the wakefulness of yesterday, which was an exclave of the day before, which was…

Or, on the other hand, maybe we start life in an exclave of wakefulness in an exclave of dream and so on, tens of thousands of levels down, and when you finally break through all the shells in this matryoshka doll of reality, you exit to eternity.

Something to think about as you fall into sleep… or rise out of wakefulness.