Monday, November 14, 2011

Romulan Tangerine Lamps

So there are four tangerines that my mother got. Now if you're like me your first thought on hearing this is... well truthfully it's probably, “I like tangerines and haven't had them in a while.” But your second thought is probably that you can make lamps with them. If not, it's got to be in the top five.

I learned that you could make lamps out of tangerines from the Official Star Trek Cooking Manual, which is not where you'd expect to find directions on making a lamp but it is made out of fruit and … well, theoretically olive oil, but I didn't have any so I made a substitution. I've had some limited success in the past with clementines.

So far my results with actual tangerines have been... Well, that depends on how you look at it. The two that I've peeled so far have utterly failed as lamps (one of them I couldn't even make a wick, on the other one the wick burned up) but they're really nice candle holders.

The reason for the difference in color between the two is that I oiled one of them. Oiling lets more light get through and, since it's supposed to be an oil lamp, the bottom half tends to get oiled anyway. The one I couldn't form a wick in I never bothered oiling. It looks more interesting that way, I think. (Though is obviously less useful as a light source.)

The pictures aren't of the best quality probably mostly because I have no idea what the best way to photograph a light source is. Especially something that glows instead of shines. If it's in a well lit place then you can't really see it's glowing. If it's in a poorly lit place, as in the case of the first picture, quality drops and the glowing isn't as clear as it might be, if it's in a not at all lit place... well you can really see the glow, but it's not exactly a crisp image.

The technical term for the lamps is Romulan Lucernae*, because Romulans, being Romanish, speak Latin. The next time you have tangerines, or clementines for that matter, if you're wondering what to do with the peel afterward you might consider making a lamp.


* Singular would be Lucerna. It's a simple first declension noun. My brain almost broke down when I went to verify that because I was looking at forms I had never seen before and very confused. Then I realized that I'd accidentally looked at the declension of the noun as it exists in Hungarian. As with most first declension nouns, it is feminine.

Hungarian is, based on things I've recently heard from Pthalo and Hannah, a very cool language. It just happens to be a very strange thing to see when you're expecting Latin.


  1. I'm in awe. I understand this not at all, but it is lovely. Plus, I'm in awe at the term 'declension'. I thought I was okay at grammar, but you are a whole 'nother level, Chris.

  2. I understand this not at all

    Lets see.

    Tangerines, and clementines, are so easy to peel that you can get the peels off in two pieces if you make a cut around the center. They are not so easy to peel that this is an easy process, but it's doable. cut a hole in the top piece, light something in the bottom piece, you've got yourself a lamp.

    The wick is supposed to be made of of the pithy strands. You twist them together, add oil, and you've got an oil lamp. That didn't work out for me this time so I have small candles in them instead.

    Declension is something we've only got the tiniest bits of in English. We have cases for subject (I, we, he, she, they, who, you, thou), possessive (my, our, his, her, their, whose, your, thy), and object (me, us, him, her, them, whom, you, thee) but only for the pronouns. Well, "Ana's" is, I would say, a possessive.

    In Latin there are five main cases and a few less commonly used ones. (In Greek there are four main cases.)

    In, "The lamp shines," lamp would be nominitve.
    In, "The light of the lamp..." lamp would be genitive
    In, "The oil for the lamp..." lamp would be dative
    In, "I lit the lamp," lamp would be accusative
    In, "The room was lit by means of the lamp," lamp would be ablative.

    That's somewhat oversimplifying things (there are many uses of the ablative other than means, for example), but those are the cases. Unlike the random way cases are in English, most Latin words follow one of five patterns, the patterns are called declensions.

    (Also, to decline a word is to list its cases, so writing out "I, my, me; We, our, us" would be declining "I".)

    And finally, the Official Star Trek Cooking Manual is older than I am. Our copy had a damaged front cover and some kind of bug ate a hole in some of the pages (it was kind enough not not to eat any words.) We mostly only use two recipes in it. One is apple omelets, which we thought were pancakes for the longest time, the other is Captain Kirk's chicken sandwich, which has a lot more to it than just chicken.

  3. Photographing light sources: that's another time to play with the exposure level, usually so that the camera thinks the photo is over-exposed. Some cameras will auto-bracket: take three photos in a row at different exposure levels, so that you can pick the one you like best (or if you want to get clever you can combine them).

  4. Those look cool. Now I want to eat a tangerine and make a little lampy.

    I will decline lamp for you in Hungarian, but it might scare you. Please don't be too scared. I'm just giving you a lot of legoes at once. Once you know them, you can use them for all Hungarian words. And you'll readily see what I meant about patterns.

    Lamp is startling one of the very very few cognates Hungarian has with English. The nominative is lámpa, and you'd pronounce that as "lamb puh." The a is an "uh" sound like in "hut" and the á is an ah sound like in "lamp" Another letter we'll need if I'm going to do possessive plural, which I think I just might, is "i" which is pronounced ee as in cheese. You won't come across any other ambiguous letters.

    basics (singular, non possessive)

    lámpa - nominative. (The lamp is pretty)
    lámpát - accusative. (Chris made a lamp)
    lámpának - dative & genitive (The light of the lamp is pretty.)
    lámpával - instrumental (Chris played with the lamps)
    lámpáért - causal-finalis (Chris went to the store for the purpose of [buying] a lamp)
    lámpává - translative (Chris transformed the tangerine into a lamp)
    lámpáig - terminative (Chris walked as far as the lamp and then stopped.)
    lámpáként - essive (Chris used the tangerine as a lamp)
    lámpába - illative (Chris put a candle into the lamp)
    lámpában - inessive (There is a candle in the lamp)
    lámpából - elative (Chris took the candle out of the lamp)
    lámpára - sublative (Chris put the cover onto the lamp)
    lámpán - superessive (The cover is on the lamp)
    lámpáról - delative (Chris took the cover off of the lamp)
    lámpához - allative (Chris walked towards the lamp)
    lámpánál - adessive (Chris is standing by the lamp)
    lámpától - ablative (Chris walked away from the lamp)
    lámpánként - distributive (There is one candle per lamp)

    There are some other cases that cannot be used with lamps but only with time related words like "day" or "5" to make them into "daily" and "at 5 o'clock"

    but what if you have more than one lamp? Well, the case endings are nearly same for all words (the -val and -vá suffixes change if the word ends in a consonnant. The last consonant of the word is repeated and the v is removed from these case endings), I won't list them as thoroughly as I did above. You'll be able to figure it out from the nominative plural lámpák

    lámpák, lámpákat, lámpáknak, lámpákkal, lámpákért, lámpákká, lámpákig, lámpákként, lámpákba, lámpákban, lámpákból, lámpákra, lámpákon, lámpákról, lámpákhoz, lámpáknál, lámpáktól (and the distributive is only used in the singular, because it means "each lamp" which implies more than one lamp, but even in English we write lamp, not lamps there)

    what if it's possessive? Well, then we want to talk about:

    lámpám - my lamp
    lámpád - your lap
    lámpája - his/her/its lamp
    lámpánk - our lamp
    lámpátok - your (plural) lamp
    lámpájuk - their lamp

    and what if there are cases? "into my lamp" = lámpámba. you /should/ be able to work out what all the words look like. it's just legoes. [lamp]+[possessive]+[case ending]. I'll give a taste with "his/her/its lamp", you should be able to guess what "my lamp" would look like (and could even do it with "find replace" of a single letter in a text editor)

    lámpája, lámpáját, lámpájának, lámpájával, lámpájáért, lámpájává, lámpájáig, lámpájáként, lámpájába, lámpájában, lámpájából, lámpájára, lámpáján, lámpájáról, lámpájához, lámpájánál, lámpájától, lámpájánként (we can do distributive since its singular here: "for each of his lamps").

    (hit comment length limit, breaking this up into two parts)

  5. okay, well, what if we want possessive and plural at the same time?

    Well, with possessive plural, you take the regular possessive suffix and add an "i"

    lámpáim, lámpáid, lámpái, lámpáink, lámpáitok, lámpáik.

    Now then, supposed you wanted to add cases into that mess. Well take the exact same case endings we saw before and add them on:

    nominative: (do nothing)
    accusative: +t
    dative|genitive: +nak
    instrumental: +val (remember that if it ends in a consonant, the v changes, so lámpáimmal, lámpáiddal, lámpáival, lámpáinkkal, lámpáitokkal, lámpáikkal)
    causal-finalis: +ért
    translative: + vá (same rule as for instrumental)
    terminative: +ig
    essive: +ként
    illative: +ba
    inessive: +ban
    elative: +ból
    sublative: +ra
    superessive +some vowel if needed, +n (lámpáimon, lámpáidon, lámpáin, lámpainkon, lámpáitokon, lámpáikon)
    delative: +ról
    allative: +hoz
    adessive: +nál
    ablative: +tól
    no distributive for plurals, but you take the the superessive and add the essive to it, so it usually looks like +[vowel]nként

    Hungarian doesn't like having lots of consonants mushed together, so that's why sometimes you need to add a vowel before the case ending.

    Also, Hungarian has vowel harmony. There are vowels like a, á, o, ó, u, ú (remember the word autó, it has all of them), and then there are the others (e, é, i, í, ö, ő, ü, ű) which are sometimes divided by roundedness (e, é, i, í unrounded vs. ö, ő, ü, ű rounded) as well.

    the vowels in the suffixes need to match the root, except in rare cases where a suffix only has one form (like with -ként).

    For example "-hoz" can also be "-hez" (lemezhez - to the disc) or "-höz" (könyvhöz - to the book)

    Here are the pairs:

    nak - nek
    val - vel
    vá - vé
    ba - be
    ban - ben
    ból - ből
    ra - re
    (superessive is hard, it can be an, on, en, ön and knowing whether to use an or on just requires memorisation)
    ról - ről
    hoz - hez - höt
    nál - nél
    tól - től

    the endings that are only one letter long (-k for plural, -t for accusative, -n for superessive) all often take a vowel if the root ends in a consonant. you do have to memorise which vowel per word, but you only have to remember one of them -- the rest will match for that word.

  6. Also, for the sake of honesty, I did have to look up the latin names for the Hungarian cases. You don't need to remember what "elative" means to speak Hungarian properly. You just need to remember the usage of it: "out of" = -ból, -ből

  7. Also, also, I want to show you another really cool thing you can do with cases. They can turn into pronouns!

    dative|genitive: nekem (to me), neked (to you), neki (to him/her/it), nekünk (to us), nektek (to you plural), nekik (to them).

    You see the -nek ending that you know from lámpának, and the same (or similar) endings as for possessives: the -m from lámpám, the -d from lámpád, the -nk from lámpánk, the -tek from lámpátok, the -ik from lámpáik (okay 3rd person singular looks different, but the others are the same)

    instrumental (with): velem, veled, vele, velünk, veletek, velük

    causal-finalis (for the sake of): értem, érted, érte, értünk, értetek, értik

    inessive (in): bennem, benned, benne, bennünk, bennetek, bennük

    sublative (onto): rám, rád, rá, ránk, rátok, rájuk

    delative (off of): rólam, rólad, róla, rólunk, rólatok, róluk

    allative (towards): hozzám, hozzád, hozzá, hozzánk, hozzátok, hozzák

    adessive (near, at): nálam, nálad, nála, nálunk, nálatok, náluk

    ablative (away from): tőlem, tőled, tőle, tőlünk, tőletek, tőlük

    the other cases also have pronouns, but they aren't as obvious as those. in short:

    nominative: én, te, ő, mi, ti, ők

    accusative: engem, téged, őt, minket, titeket, őket

    translative: nothing. you don't talk about something turning into you very often. "the magician turned the frog into me" makes little sense (it would have to be a copy of me wouldn't it? are there two me's now?)

    terminative: also nothing. use the 9 locative cases instead :)

    essive: nothing. essive is used for "using something as something else" (using a cave as a house, using a tangerine as a lamp. you don't use things as a them)

    illative (into): these pronouns come from the verbal prefix into, not the case ending which means into. The sentence "Chris put the candle into the lamp" reads like "Chris into-put the candle-t the lamp-into" in Hungarian (Chris beletette a gyertyát a lámpába). into the verbal prefix is "bele", so we have: belém, beléd, belé, belénk, belétek, beléjük

    elative (out of): this resembles the suffix -ból, -ből, it's just somewhat longer: belőlem, belőled, belőle, belőlünk, belőletek, belőlük

    superessive (on): since the case ending is just vowel+n, this isn't surprising. it resembles the "onto" pronouns: rajtam, rajtad, rajta, rajtunk, rajtatok, rajtuk

    and distributive doesn't get pronouns either. it means "per" or "for each". and even if "each of us received" makes sense, "each of I" or "each of him" doesn't. It's common to use the word "head" here: fejenként (each head) kapták (they received), káptunk (we received), kaptatok (you plural received) egy-egy (one-one: it's repeated to show that each got one. you could also say két-két meaning two-two, or any number really) lámpát (lamp).

  8. Hannah, I sit in awe. That is amazing. Thank you for sharing.

  9. you're welcome. I probably erred on the side of flooding you with data, and I am sorry for that. It can be a bit overwhelming to learn that a language you are interested in has 72 pronouns (that's counting the cases) and 210 ways of saying "lamp" where as English just has the four: "lamp", "lamps", "lamp's", and "lamps'"

    but learning to stick "-ban" on the end of the word isn't that much harder than learning the english word "in". I'd just practice with one or two at a time and learn them as you go. Alternatively, you could look at a random text in Hungarian and just try to identify the cases.

    wiktionary has lots of hungarian nouns and declines them all for you, so you could look at them too if you want. There are verbs too.

  10. Today learned a lot. I find it new and interesting to learn.Really, had fun reading the article.Thanks for the share.

  11. This is seriously fascinating -- thank you! Now I want to learn Hungarian in my copious free time just to understand another way of structuring language :)

    /ponders/ So, English has conjugation -- *verbs* change depending on when or under what circumstances they're happening and who's happening them -- I go, she goes, they went, I'll go tomorrow -- but only declines pronouns ("He got the ball" and "the ball got him" being very different things ;)), and so now I'm wondering --

    What languages if any don't decline anything at all? (So that "I ran into the house" and "The car ran into I" are both correct)

    Are there languages that don't change the verb form -- don't conjugate verbs, but show who's doing it when by position in the sentence or by using additional words? (The way English uses "to the" in "I walked to the lamp" instead of having a different form of "lamp" that means "to the lamp")

    In a language that changes the noun instead of using prepositional phrases, what happens in a sentence where (in English) there's more than one prepositional phrase per noun? "I broke the lamp that John gave me for my birthday when I snagged it in my scarf as I walked by on my way to the coat closet." <- goes to see if Google Translate is any help with this at all...