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An Open Letter to Jared Diamond:

Emailed to his address at UCLA, May 18, 2011

Dear Professor Diamond:

I am writing you because I have a theory about language that I have been working on for two
years, and I was hoping you could suggest an open-minded anthropologist/linguist with whom I
could get a Ph.D. I am a published author, I have a masters, and my husband is a working scien-
My theory is that the components of all written languages (letters, Chinese characters,
Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, cuneiform, etc.) reflect what was important to the culture at the
time that the writing was invented. For example, fertility and procreation were paramount 5,000
years ago, so this can be seen in the scripts of many languages. I am digging through ancient
lexicons much like an anthropologist would examine bones in order to better understand human
nature. You can find papers that I have written concerning this theory at http://www.originofal-
I have just finished reading my 64th book since having this idea, and the third one I've
read of yours, The Third Chimpanzee. (I also read Guns, Germs, and Steel and Why is Sex Fun?)

You wrote:

"Asymmetric adultery laws...genital mutilation of women: these behaviors are unique to

the human species, defining humanity as does the invention of the alphabet."
— The Third Chimpanzee, page 96

So I ask you, wouldn't the alphabet reflect this behavior then?

Linguists say our "B" comes from "house." But Chinese has a "B," and it means
"breasts": nai3 乃 ("Er nai" is a term for concubine or "second breast.") " "House" is really a
euphemism. House is where you put the “B/Vs” because "B" swaps with "V" in many languages
(Hebrew, Latin, Greek, and Spanish; in Russian the alphabet goes, "A, B, V.") Why do we not
know this? Because we are in denial. You wrote this yourself: "[G]enocide is such a painful
subject that either we'd rather not think about it at all, or else we'd like to believe that nice people
don't commit genocide, only Nazis do," (The Third Chimpanzee, page 277). Denial is why the
restaurant chain Hooter's can claim that its name refers to owls. The human ability to analogize,
to make metaphors, to use euphemism allows us to forget we could all be evil under the right cir-
cumstances, but this same capacity for frame-shifting is why we can read. Letters seem to have
no inherent meaning, but these underpinnings have a deeper significance than linguists—who
mostly deal with the sounds of words—will acknowledge. Is it really reasonable to equate the
word "house" with a character that has been honed for 4,000 years? I think "B" has more com-
plexity than a one-word synopsis.
If "B" is "breasts," can you guess what "V" is and why they swap? V is at the low-rent
end of the alphabet for a reason. Linguists say there's no hierarchy to the alphabet, but anything

Talk An Open Letter to Jared Diamond: - Jennifer Ball © May 26, 2011 26 May 2011 5:33 PM - Page 1
with an order has a top and bottom. The end of the alphabet is where the unknowns are: x, y, and
z. No surprise that letters that signify for women—t, u, v, and w—are nearby.
I am looking at language with the eye of a scientist because I have lived with one for 26
years. I am comparing cuneiform, hieroglyphs and Chinese script, while analyzing definitions
from the respective dictionaries (Pennsylvania Sumerian Dictionary, UCLA's Cuneiform Digital
Library Initiative, Chinese Text Project, Mandarin Online Tools, and Hebrew and Greek Lexi-
cons at www.searchgodsword.com, just to name a few; my bibliography is published at Scribd,
which you can reach via my website). There is coherence across languages in many capaci-
ties; for example, the consistency of using meaning-sound composites is common in Sumerian,
Ancient Egyptian, and Chinese, which means that a "word" consists of a radical or determina-
tive which gives the ballpark concept (revered animal, for example), plus a phonetic component
which allows the reader to triangulate the meaning (miao1 for example) similar to plotting an
x,y coordinate on a graph. The resultant written character mao1 equals "cat." Is it amazing that
three disparate cultures would use this strategy without seeming to have copied each other? Or
are humans so alike that the same strategies occur to us?

I live in the Bay Area currently, but I would be willing to move to almost anywhere in order to
pursue this research. However, my first preference would be California. Thank you for any help
or advice you can give. Your books have really helped me solidify this idea. I appreciate that
very much.


Jennifer Ball

Page 2 - 26 May 2011 5:33 PM An Open Letter to Jared Diamond: - Jennifer Ball © May 26, 2011