Tag Archives: words

Where Did I (Gink)Go?

photo credit: olga drach on unsplash

Quick: What ancient Chinese tree is known for its reputation as a memory-enhancing supplement?

If you guessed “GINKO,” you’d be just partially right, because you misspelled it. The word is “GINKGO,” but I’ll forgive you for using only five letters, because you’ve probably been playing too much Wordle.

I’m writing about the ginkgo tree today for three reasons:

  • Their leaves are gorgeous.
  • They’ve managed to survive for thousands of years.
  • I have some photos of ginkgo trees to share with you.

But on a deeper level, my reasons are more complicated. As you may remember if you’ve been taking your ginkgo supplements (just kidding!), my dog Maya and I packed up and moved cross-country last year. You can read about our journey in my previous blog series, “New Latitude.” I stopped blogging temporarily, but now that I’m all settled in, I want to get back to my mission: writing stories inspired by my camera.

Yesterday, I uploaded 24 new photos, and I’ll be writing about each one, starting with GINKGO LEAVES:

And now for some Fascinating Facts about the Ginkgo tree:

  • Its scientific name is Ginkgo biloba.
  • It’s native to China.
  • Although its natural range is a small area of China, it has been cultivated in other parts of the world. (My photos were taken at Highland Park in Rochester, New York.)
  • Fossils in the Ginkgo genus date back to the Middle Jurassic period (about 170 million years ago). It was cultivated early in human history.
  • Its DNA genome is about three times as large as our human genome, which is thought to be why the ginkgo tree has many natural defenses against bacteria and chemicals. In fact, it’s so resistant to environmental assaults that six specimens growing in close proximity to the 1945 atomic blast at Hiroshima, Japan survived and continued to grow as healthy plants. They are still alive today.
  • According to an article by the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, its use as a dietary supplement for the treatment of various diseases is mixed, and more study is needed.
  • It originally was two separate Japanese words pronounced “gin kyo.” Its current spelling dates back to a probable spelling error by a German, Engelbert Kaempfer.
  • It can grow to over 100 feet tall.
  • It’s considered a “living fossil.” Some living specimens are reported to be over 2,500 years old.
  • The ginkgo leaf is the symbol of Tokyo.

I’m glad I thought to take pictures of those pretty ginkgo leaves in Highland Park last summer. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been so inspired to learn more about this admirable tree. I’d love to read about what inspires you. Please leave a note in the Comments section if you’re so inclined.

Before I go, I just want to say it’s (gink)GOOD  to be back!


If you haven’t already done so, please check out my brand new book, “Wordle Poems: A Poem a Day for Wordle Nerds,” on Amazon. It contains 30 original poems inspired by the daily act of Wordling. No spoilers! Reviews are greatly appreciated!

For more of my writing, visit my author page over at Bardsy, as well as my book, “Standing in the Surf,” on Amazon. It’s a photo journal about the Pacific Northwest area known as the Salish Sea, which includes Whidbey Island, Vancouver Island, Stanley Park, Butchart Gardens, and more.

He, She, or It: On Gender in Language

It is widely known that the languages that descended from Latin (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, etc.) utilize gender in their grammatical structure. Nouns are either masculine or feminine, but rarely neutral. But did you know that many other languages also use gender (and other quite different systems) to classify nouns?

According to Wikipedia:

– 76 world languages (including English, Japanese, and Turkish) are gender-neutral
– 39 (including Arabic, Hebrew, Urdu, and Welsh) have a masculine/feminine noun system
– many languages (such as Danish, Hittite, and several Native American) use a classification system of animate vs. inanimate rather than gender to determine grammar rules
– Hawaiian languages use a system based on things you have control over vs. things beyond your control (I’m simplifying a bit here)
– some languages have developed a system of more than three “genders” or classification systems (including Tuyuca, spoken in the eastern Amazon, which is estimated to have between 50 and 140 different noun classes).

In today’s emphasis on gender equality, and sometimes on gender neutrality, are masculine/feminine and other distinctions within nouns still relevant? Or are they destined to go the way of the rotary phone, natural hair color, and the bookstore down the street?

You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up. Well, it has to do with something we discussed in Spanish class last night — something that got the old brain cells spinning once again. (I really like when that happens. It gives me something to blog about.)

The topic of last night’s class was Names, which branched off (as our class discussions often do) into a discussion of titles such as Señor, Señora, and Señorita. We learned from our “maestra” (teacher — and yes, she happens to be a maestra, not a maestro) that the practice of calling a woman Señorita if she’s unmarried (the equivalent of being a virgin in the old days) but Señora if she’s married is going out of style in Mexico and elsewhere.  It’s becoming more popular to just use Señor and Señora. This change is similar to the use of the title “Ms.” in English, although there isn’t a Spanish word for “Ms.” — yet.

I’ve seen some people using an “x” at the end of words that normally indicate gender with an “a” or an “o,” as, for example: Latinx). This might simplify things if you don’t know the gender or don’t want to be sexist, and is similar to our trend in the U.S. of using endings such as “person” (chairperson) or of just dropping the “ess,” “ette” and other unnecessary, diminutive tags that for some reason connote something of lesser substance. (I hate it when I catch myself saying “stewardess,” but why does making something female imply that it is lesser? Just another question to set my brain cells spinning.)

Our “maestra” — should I be calling her “maestrx“? — mentioned that there’s even a movement afoot somewhere to use the @ symbol in place of the -a and -o endings on Spanish nouns that refer to people —  such as changing “amigos” or “amigas” to “amig@s“. That way nobody’s offended. Except that people are offended, she warned — people who feel it insults the Spanish-speaking world. By changing one of the foundational rules of that language, it can be seen as an attack on the culture. I agree with that point of view. You shouldn’t mess with someone’s language. Just look at the harm done when the government banned Native American languages in schools.

As an American whose first language was English, I’m not going to change the word endings in anyone’s language to x or @ or any other symbol unless it’s okay with them. But as for myself, I do like Ms. so much better than Miss or Mrs.

P.S. In Spanish, the word “cheer” (humor) is masculine, but “pepper” (pimiento or pimienta) can be either masculine or feminine, depending on the type of pepper. What type of pepper are you?

(This post is part of a blog challenge for the month of November called “Nano Poblano.” A Cheer Pepper is a member of that group who cheers the others on.)

(Also, thanks to Meg for allowing me to use my photo of her paper zombies!)

Badge 2017