Friday, June 12, 2009

Variations on English

English in different parts of the world... Links and comments are welcome! Because I'm going to England in a month and a few days, I'm reviewing how I could get myself in trouble or seem rude and tacky. This is one of my favorite sites about that:

The Septic's Companion:
A British Slang Dictionary—A dictionary of British slang, written by a Scotsman living in America

It's been linked on my English Oddities page for a long time, and I was one of the contributors before it was a book, so cool! It's more fun that some of the other dictionaries I've seen, though I just love dictionaries and I love stories of words.

Hema Bharadwaj wrote recently that her son, Raghu, is having a hard time in India because the English is so different from what he learned in the U.S. My favorite part of watching "Slumdog Millionaire" was hearing the game show host's English.

I had lunch with my friend Charles Thursday. He's English, and told of a road trip to the Midwest last year or so, and of being in a restaurant with three friends of ours who grew up in New Mexico (one in Texas and New Mexico) who all ordered water and that was fine, but when he tried to order water, the waitress couldn't understand what he wanted at all, no matter how much he repeated it. That's because the main sound in the word "water" in that part of the U.S. is a heavy "r" and Charles has no "r" at all. Plus he pronounced the "t" in the middle of "water" as though it were, well... a "t."

Once I sang in a folk club in England. Maybe at St. Neot's, in a pub. Maybe in a different folk club meeting in a different pub. It was the late 1970's. I sang The Titanic, and showed them the singalong parts, and when they got to their part I laughed because I was used to " the bottom of the the sea" sounding like a southwestern U.S. "boddum" and got that very hard "t" from a group of Brits!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting jokes


That's from Neopets.
It's not important.
If one gets the joke, it's like "passing a test," but if one doesn't get the joke life can still continue, the sun will shine, people will play and eat...

It did remind me of "...To Get More Jokes," though and I should link that with it. Here's a quote about an epiphany-esque moment when I was teaching:

I would be asked "Why do we have to learn this?" Sometimes I gave a serious answer, and sometimes a philosophical answer. Sometimes I made light of it. Sometimes the honest answer was "You don't have to learn this, but I have to try to teach it so I can get paid." Or "Only some of you will need to know it, but they don't know which ones yet, so I have to say it to everybody."

Then one day, the question came phrased a new and better way: "What is this GOOD for?" The answer I gave then changed my life and thinking. I said quickly "So you can get more jokes." I think we were reading a simplified Romeo and Juliet at the time. I could've gone into literature and history and fine arts, but the truth is that the best and most immediate use of most random learning is that it illuminates the world. The more we know, the more jokes we will get.