Is there anybody out there? We don’t even know if anyone will read Language Insight’s latest blog post, as today (December 21st) could mark the end of the world! At least, that’s what the ancient Mayan prophecy is reported to say. However, if you remember the blog we posted back in October, there probably isn’t any reason to worry – the whole myth is based on a mistranslation!

As we explained back then, although the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar comes to an end today, it simply marks the date at which the Mayan civilisation believed that the current age would end and a new era would begin. It is no different to turning the last page on your 2012 calendar and then throwing it away to replace it with a 2013 one.

Some historical interpreters who have studied the ancient calendar believe another possibility could be that today is the day the Mayans thought one of their gods would come to Earth. However, making any sense out of it at all is tricky, as the tablet of stone which contains the information all of these theories are based on is cracked. Imagine trying to translate a novel where half a chapter has been ripped out, and you can see why this damage might cause so many difficulties for translators.

Even if the stone was not cracked, anyone attempting to interpret it would need to have extensive knowledge of a civilisation that peaked in around 250 to 900 AD, and that had a complicated philosophical and cultural social system we have little comprehension of today. It really is no wonder the calendar has been interpreted in so many different ways.

But if any of you are still feeling a bit worried that a comet is about to strike, or a black hole is set to swallow us up, take comfort from the words of esteemed physicist Brian Cox. Last week he tweeted: “If anybody else asks me about End of the World, Nibru[sic] or photon belts I will…” (Unfortunately we have had to cut it here to protect our more sensitive readers, but you get the gist – Professor Cox is fed up with all this nonsense!)

So, we hope we have managed to calm your fears. And as the end of the world is not nigh, you have no excuse not to sort out your Christmas transcription and translation cover with us!