Posts Tagged ‘the English language’

DAVID CRYSTAL: THE FUTURE OF ENGLISHES

May 3, 2018

backpagedavidcrystalThe YouTube address is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MqqlSb9uGUQ&t=1248s

This time, David Crystal speaks to members of the Belgian Full Circle Club. “Full Circle refreshes the parts that other clubs do not reach. How many do you recognize that allusion?” he asks.   Older club members remember that it was a slogan of Heineken in the 1970s – the longest-running advertising slogan in English advertising history. The original one was “Heineken refreshes the parts that other beers do not reach.” The idea was that their beer refreshes the parts of the body that other beers do not reach. In this form the slogan lasted for about 20 years . But in the 1990s it came back in a slightly different form. It started with a situational comedy. The advertising was presented in three posters: 1. A guy is looking glumly at his garden overgrown with weeds 2. The guy is pouring the lager into the lawn-mower. 3. The lawn-mower mows the lawn by itself. The former slogan was re-interpreted meaning that the Heineken beer reaches the PARTS OF THE LAWN-MOWER other beers cannot reach. The next stage: the company looked for words that could replace the word “parts.” This time, the hero of “Treasure Island” Long John Silver was presented in three posters having become quite a “restored” pirate  in the third poster after he had drunk the lager: with two (!) wooden legs, two eye-patches – not one as before, both crutches made right (in the first poster he had one crutch and that was broken), a hook for each (!) hand, and the parrot on his shoulder turned into a vulture. The slogan now was: “Heineken refreshes the PIRATES other beers do not reach.” The company, says David Crystal, went on punning on the word “part.” A little later, the parrot drank the lager. The slogan altered to “Heineken refreshes the PARROTS other beers do not reach.” Later a person who drove an aeroplane and got into trouble started drinking the lager, and the slogan was “Heineken refreshes the PILOTS other beers do not reach.” David Crystal’s favorite was the slogan when a person in the commercial remembers the lines from William Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils” only after drinking the lager (“Heineken refreshes the POETS”).

David Crystal fast-forwards his reminiscences to the time, when he, with a group of Japanese teachers of English, was going out in the streets of London looking for “authentic English.” The Japanese couldn’t understand an advertising poster with the “beer that refreshes the PARROTS…” because they didn’t know the cultural background of the advertisement. In a nutshell, the story of the future of English, says Crystal, is a “Heineken story”, which means that General English will diverse culturally. The matter is that as soon as the English language arrives in a particular place, people adopt it and immediately adapt it to their own cultural needs, and when you travel around the English-speaking world, you see the Heineken problem writ large.

Another interesting example is the “yeah, right” campaign the lecturer witnessed in New Zealand. The expression “yeah, right” is used (with the corresponding intonation) to express doubt about what has just been said. The campaign in New Zealand was directed against all sorts of fatuous information in the media, to which the only answer could be “yeah, right” (Ukrainian equivalent may be “Кажи, кажи. Ляпай язиком. Так тобі й повірив”). One of the billboards ran: “Let Paul fly you there – Yeah, right.” Paul Holmes was a well-known TV anchorman who was rich enough to buy two private aircraft and to crush each of them surviving after each crash. Not knowing who “Paul” was and having no idea of Paul’s survival record, David Crystal felt like his Japanese students in London – though he, Crystal, was a native English speaker and he was reading the billboard in English, his native language. In New Zealand bookstores, a two-volume collection of “yeah, right” cases was on sale, of which David Crystal understood only about half. The other half was culturally specific for New Zealand.

In South Africa, the word “robot” stands for “a traffic light.” Humorously, the lecturer says that when he heard the phrase “three robots ahead,” he thought, “Have they (extra-terrestials, little green men) landed?” The Dictionary of South African English contains about 10,000 words and idioms and that dictionary is one of dozens of such dictionaries in the English-speaking world. The Dictionary of Jamaican English contains 15,000 local expressions that are part of everyday life in the Caribbean.

While breakfasting in a U.S. hotel restaurant, David Crystal asked for some eggs. In turn, the waiter asked him, “How do you like your eggs?” Mr. Crystal had no idea what to say. It wasn’t a British question. “Cooked,” he stuttered. The egg-dishes were named differently depending on many ways of preparation (“sunny-side up”, etc, etc).   There were not so many recipes in the U.K. for cooking/frying eggs at that time.

On the other hand, people in England use their own culturally loaded units which may be confusing to those who don’t share the British cultural background (“Oh, jee, it was like Clapham Junction in there,” meaning “chaotic, messy.” Clapham Junction is a railway station in South London, which is one of the most complicated railway stations in the history of British Rail, with lots of platform, railway lines, etc). OR: “This watch is more Portobello Road than Bond Street” (about the poor quality of the watch).

Speaking Czech English you may be confused by the house numbering in the streets. In the Czech Republic the house number depends on when the house was built and registered, not on where it is situated. So, houses numbered 302 and 300 may be in opposite ends of the same street.

English hasn’t been the global language all the time. In the 16th century English was being given no future at all. Richard Mulcaster, the head teacher of the merchant school in London, wrote in 1582, “There is no reason for anybody in the world to know English, which has no use beyond our shores. It has no literature.” – “A bad year for such a prediction”, says David Crystal. “In 1582 Walter Raleigh was planning the first expedition across the Atlantic. In 1582, a young man from Stratford-upon-Avon arrived in London to be an actor there, but since the theatres were closed because of plague, he started writing poems.” The result? There is a variant of English called ESP (English for Shakespearean purposes) – an in-joke for English teachers. Four hundred years on, the situation has changed dramatically. With 400 million native English speakers, and about 60 countries in the world where English is an official language, and about a billion people (according to the British Council data) speaking English as a foreign language – all that makes about 2 billion English speakers. For every one native speaker there are now five non-native speakers. The center of gravity has shifted in the last 50 years from English as a native language to English as a second/foreign language. The variants of English develop with the development of the former colonies of Britain (Nigeria is one of examples), which make English THEIR English now. It is clearly seen in the vocabulary of local cuisine or in the political vocabulary.

In phonetics the shift from native patterns to non-native ones is particularly seen in the change of rhythm. Traditionally, English has a stress-timed rhythm (in speech, stressed syllables come after roughly regular intervals). This is the heart-beat of English poetry, by the way. In many other languages there’s a syllable-timed rhythm, which is now often on the “English lips” of those for whom English is their first language. And this kind of staccato rhythm is becoming the norm in many places of the English-speaking world. So, in 50-100 years the “music of English” may sound very, very different.

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DAVID CRYSTAL: DYNAMIC ENGLISH

April 30, 2018

backpagedavidcrystalA few days ago I posted a British Council video featuring David Crystal’s views on the role of the English language in the modern world and on its development. David Crystal is a well-known linguist making his ideas popular even amongst those who have never been involved in the science of language. David Crystal’s son Ben has also co-authored several books with his father.

I. Since I have two fundamental books by David Crystal in my home library, as well as quite a number of downloads of the father and son’s writings and interviews, I think it would be interesting for professionals to have a more or less systematic presentation of how David Crystal sees the English language and its future. Here’s a précis of the video I mentioned, with some more summaries to follow later.During his meeting with Serbian students of English, David Crystal was asked about the future of English as he saw it. We can speak only about a short-time future, the scholar said. To say something about a longer perspective would be “madness-like.” Who would have predicted one thousand years ago that Latin would be spoken by hardly anybody? Yes, there are people who use Latin on certain levels, but it wouldn’t be normal education to be “fluent in Latin.” Asking about the future of language, you should ask about the future of society. A language can be global for one reason only – because of the power of the people who use it. There is no other reason for people to speak a language other than to improve their quality of life or influence others in some way. The English language became global due to:

  1. the power of the British Empire,
  2. the power of American imperialism,
  3. the power of the industrial revolution,
  4. the 19th century power of money (international banking was concentrated in the UK and the USA, which were the most productive nations at the time),
  5. the 20th century cultural and technological influence (pop songs, advertising, air-traffic control, the development of radio and television, the Internet.

English will remain a global language as long as Britain and America retain that kind of power, and also until other nations want to be like them and want to interact with them.

We can imagine another scenario when Spanish (the fastest growing language in the world) is in the forefront (for one, Spanish is becoming more and more widely used in the USA) Another scenario is that Arabic becomes global – for reasons perfectly obvious to anybody who looks at the world.

 

However, at the moment, there are no signs of diminution in the prestige of English. The figures are going up and up every year, with two billion people speaking English all over the world. There has never been such a number of people speaking one language before, and there is no slackening off in that progress. So, for the long-term future of English: no idea, for the short-term: no change.

II.What kind of English will there be in the future? It looks like American English will dominate all other varieties. We see this impact in British English already – for example, in spelling. What was before “encyclopaedia” (with “ae” in the middle of the word, British English) is now “encyclopedia” (“e” in the middle, which was ONLY American English before). Incidentally, American English spelling, grammar and vocabulary became “legal” after the USA gained independence from Britain in the 18th century. Noah Webster, amongst others, said, “We need American English for the American identity.” What had happened to English in America, happened later (and is happening now) to the whole English-language world. You can be American, if you like, but we, in India (400,000 speaker of English) want to have Indian English. The official status is also given to Australian English, Canadian English, South African English, and the number of such “Englishes” is growing (My observation: though it may be too early to speak about Ukrainian English, but the words like “maidan”, “Rada,” ‘titushki,” etc. are widely used to describe the events in Ukraine). Can English of the future be a sort of amalgam with bits of Australian, British, Indian English? Who knows. Every nation can put something into the melting pot of English. The channels are business meetings, international conferences, the Internet, tourism, etc. English can become a “lingua franca English,” which is culturally not identifiable with any one place because it’s a mixture of everything. Probably, that’s the way it’s going to go, says David Crystal.

VALENTINE’S DAY Quiz

February 13, 2018

Valentine's Day

Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary

  1. A coquette is “a woman who likes to win the attention or admiration of men but does not have serious feelings for them”; what is the word for her male counterpart?

 

  1. coq au vin
  2. quahog
  3. cloque
  4. flirt

Coquette and coquet are both from French, and are diminutives for the French word for rooster.

  1. What is the meaning of curtain lecture?

 

  1. a lecture given by a priest to an engaged couple
  2. a lecture on the selection of proper drapes
  3. a private lecture by a wife to her husband
  4. an early form of sexual education in American public schools

These lectures were often delivered in bed, and took their name from beds of yore often being surrounded with curtains.

 

  1. What is the definition of lasslorn?

 

  1. married three times
  2. the male equivalent of a spinster
  3. forsaken by one’s sweetheart
  4. confined to a convent

This word has been in occasional use since at least the early 17th century, when Shakespeare used it in The Tempest: “To make cold nymphs chaste crowns; and thy broom-groves, Whose shadow the dismissed bachelor loves, being lass-lorn.”

 

  1. Which word used to mean sweetheartor darling?

 

  1. drip
  2. bully
  3. creep
  4. philosopher

This sense of bully is currently the earliest recorded one, beginning more than a century before the word began to be used to mean “meanie.”

 

  1. The word “unlove” means “to cease to love.”

 

  1. false
  2. true

We have been falling out of love (or at least had a word for it) since the 14th century.

 

  1. The word dulcineameans “sweetheart” or “mistress.” Which book is it from?

 

  1. Lord of the Flies_
  2. Romeo and Juliet_
  3. Dante’s _Inferno_
  4. _Don Quixote de la Mancha_

Dulcinea del Toboso was the name of Don Quixote’s beloved.

  1. Which word may be defined as “a marriage with a person of inferior social position”?

 

  1. rum-bargain
  2. tendresse
  3. mésalliance
  4. thwartage

 

  1. In Henry Cockeram’s 1623 English Dictionary, which word did he define as “the comfort which one hath of his wife”?

 

  1. predicament
  2. levament
  3. judgment
  4. testament

This word, useful though it might be, is exceedingly rare.

 

  1. What is the meaning of oscular?

 

  1. a type of weasel which uses regurgitated flower petals in a courtship ritual
  2. the feeling of excitement mixed with nervousness
  3. of, relating to, or concerned with kissing
  4. in ancient Rome, an official who would mediate lovers quarrels

Oscular comes from the Latin osculum, which means “kiss” or “little mouth.”

 

  1. Which of the following words has the meaning of “of, relating to, or expressing sexual love”?

 

  1. amaurotic
  2. professorial
  3. amatorial
  4. philosophical

This word, now fairly obscure, is one of a number of words dealing with love that come from the Latin word amare (“to love”).

 

  1. Where does the word “sweetheart” come from?

 

  1. from an Arabic word for _betrothal_
  2. from the Old English words for _sweat_ and _innards_
  3. exactly where you’d think, from mixing _sweet_ and _heart_
  4. no one knows

Sweetheart has been functioning as a noun for more than 700 years, but in the 20th century it took on an addition sense as an adjective, meaning “arranged in private for the benefit of a few at the expense of many,” as in “a sweetheart business deal.”

 

Answers: 1-4, 2-3, 3-3, 4-2, 5-2, 6-4, 7-3, 8-2, 9-3, 10-3, 11-3

P.S. The original variant “coquet”, which was suggested by Merriam-Webster as the right answer to Question 1 (1-4), has been replaced by “a flirt” after a remark made by a native speaker. Thanks, Matthew!

STUMBLING BLOCKS AS STEPPING STONES-5

February 7, 2018

The idea of this column is to help readers avoid errors made in speech (out of ignorance or inadvertently), and – by knowing now what is the right variant – become more confident linguistically.

cat-among-pigeons

AMONG-BETWEEN: Fanatical quibblers incorrectly maintain that among is used to compare more than two items, and between is for relations between two things only. But between describes any relation of two or more parties that is individual and distinct <negotiations between the five front-line nations>, <a discussion between two opponents and a supporter>, <between you and me, and the fly on the wall>, while among refers to a more general relationship with an unspecified number of others: <I wanted to be among the French speakers>

IMMORAL-AMORAL-UNMORAL:The adjective immoral means contrary to established moral principles. Immoral actions are corrupt, unethical, sinful, or just wrong. Amoral means (1) neither moral nor immoral, or (2) lacking moral sensibility. So while immoral and amoral might share a little common ground, there is a clear distinction: immoral things are bad, and amoral things are either neutral from a moral perspective or simply removed from moral considerations.

A third adjective, unmoral, means unrelated to moral considerations. The line between amoral and unmoral is blurry as well, but unmoral things (usually animals or objects) are even further removed from moral concerns than amoral things, which merely ignore morality. Unmoral often appears where immoral would make more sense.

Here are a couple of examples from English-language periodicals:

  • There’s little point in a morality tale that turns to be flatly amoral
  • He is currently detained under degrading and inhumane conditions that are illegal and immoral
  • During the Taliban regime, buzkashi was banned, as were most sports, because it was considered immoral
  • Cocky and arrogant, the character thinks he’s got it all under control until a smarter, richer and truly amoral villain enters the frame.
  • After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.

 

SYNONYMS-5

February 7, 2018

HEAR

HEAR, LISTEN, etc

The essence of modern approach to foreign language teaching is expressed in the formula: HEAR it – SAY it – READ it – WRITE it. I’m going to use the key words of this methodological motto to dwell on synonyms in several of my next posts. This time, the object of analysis will be the first word – the verb HEAR.

Hear” is a Germanic word, though Webster’s Etymological Dictionary traces it to Greek and Latin roots. The related word in Latin is cavere, which means “to be on guard.”

One of the difference between “hear” and “listen” (which is, probably, the closest in this meaning) is that the component “with attention” is more strongly expressed in the meaning of “hear” than in “listen.” Hence, another synonym of the word “hear”: HEED. The focus on attentive apprehension gave a start to the development of the meaning “to gain information”: (“I heard that…”), which makes the word “hear” synonymic to LEARN, FIND OUT, etc. One of recent developments is the meaning “to entertain the idea” (used in the negative): <I wouldn’t hear of it> The latest meaning that I registered is “to feel (with)”, like in the dialogue:

Man, I’m so tired!  —  I hear you, bud. We worked out pretty hard today!

Roget’s Dictionary gives the following synonymic groups:

Catch // listen // lip-read // listen in, tune in, tune to // overhear, eavesdrop, listen at keyholes, keep one’s ears open // bug, tap // hark, hearken, list // lend an ear, give an ear, bend an ear, be all ears, give audience to, give hearing, attend to, hang on the lips of, lap up // strain one’s ears, prick up one’s ears, listen with both ears // hear it said, hear it on or through the grapevine.

I’d like to draw the readers’ attention to another colloquial synonym: “lap up” (“to hear and accept the information with enthusiasm”): <Of course, they believed it. They just lapped it up>, or <They lapped up the lies without questioning anything>. Nowadays, in the epoch of fake news, one should take any info with a pinch of salt, and not lap it up  🙂

 

 

100 MOST FREQUENT WORDS: USAGE NOTES-5

February 6, 2018

good-better-best

GOOD

According to statistics, the most frequent adjective in English is “good.” This Indo-European word has historical “relatives” (officially termed  “cognates”) in many other tongues, among them – in Slavonic languages. In Czech “hod” means “feast, banquet,”  in Sorbian “hody” is “Christmas.” In Ukrainian there are words «годитися»  (to be good for), «негодящий» (poor in health),  “негідник», (evil person), «негода» (bad weather). The word “good” in English developed its meanings from Proto-Germanic *godaz “fitting, suitable” (source also of Old Norse goðr, Dutch goed, Old High German guot, German gut, Gothic goþs) through the senses ”kind, benevolent”  and also “skilled, expert” (late Old English). The modern phrase “to be good AT…” had the form “to be good OF …” or “to be good TO …”in late Old English. In Early New English the meanings “well-behaved” (e.g. “a good child) and “great, long” (about time and distance, like “a good mile” or “a good three years” ) appeared.

In Modern English there developed such meanings as “reliable”, “able”, and  also “effective, operative” : <a good Republican/Democrat>, <Is she good for the money that you lent her? = Can she return the debt?>, <Being very tired, he was still good for a laugh>, <a driver’s license is still good>. “Good” as an intensifier is functioning in modern colloquial English: <I’ll do it when I’m good and ready>. Compare: <good and angry/ good and mad>,  <Good heavens!>. The word “goodish” (= pretty much) was formed through suffixation and “the good” (= decent people) is a result of substantivization.

The point of instability is the usage of “good” (an adjective) and “well” (an adverb) after the link verbs be, seem, appear, smell, taste, look, feel. Classical grammars categorically say that only “good” must be used after these verbs, whereas “well” should be used after all other verbs (“The dress looks good”, but “The cars run well” – not “…good”).  However, some other linguists admit that both “good” and “well” can be used in such cases with a slight difference: “good” after “look” or “feel” may refer both to SPIRITS and HEALTH. “Well” after “feel”, “look” and other linking words refers mostly to HEALTH: <You are looking well; we missed you when you were at hospital>.

As for the verb “do”, the word “good” is common after it only in informal speech <He did good on the test>. In formal speech or in edited writing the word “well” is used instead: <He did well on the test>.

Finally, here are some set expressions with “good” which I like:

  1. “Good” is good, but “better” carries it” (similar to “Best” is the enemy of “good”), 2. “To be in good with other people” (to have good relationship), 3. “All in good time” (= in due course but without haste). And also: “Good broth may be made in an old pot”. This last proverb may be applied to a situation when you use an old textbook like that of Hornby or Eckersley to learn/teach English as a Second Language. Yes, topics worked on in these manuals may be outdated and exercises not so “playful”, but the general methodology is excellent for attaining the basics.

ATTITUDES THROUGH IDIOMS-10

February 6, 2018

Extracts from the book by Thomas W. Adams and Susan R.Kuder

Two men in a canoe rowing against each other.

COOPERATION

WHAT IT MEANS…

  1. If Mary joins forces with Paul, it means she works with him so that they both achieve what they want.
  2. If Dick is a loner, it means that he avoids company of others and prefers to work by himself.
  3. If Jan brainstorms with Al, it means she confers with him to solve a problem.
  4. If Randy wants to go it alone, it means he wants to do something by himself.
  5. If Dave lends Tom a hand, it means he helps him.
  6. If Karen pools her resources with others, it means she combines her strengths with them.
  7. If Kathy pitches in, it means she helps someone with something.
  8. If Ken and Gene put their heads together, it means they work as a team to solve a problem.
  9. If Larry strikes off on his own, it means he leaves others in order to do something by himself.
  10. If Barb works with Jean because two heads are better than one, it means that by working together they can achieve more than if they work separately.

Exercises for ESL teaching :

Using lists A and B, write appropriate endings of the following sentences:

  1. Is a loner/ lent a hand/ two heads are better than one /put their heads together/ to go it alone
  2. Sandy and Alice decided to study together because…………………………………….
  3. Sue saw that Ann was having trouble carrying her heavy suitcase, so she…………………..
  4. Mark does not have any friends and he spends most of his time by himself because he ………
  5. Joe often works with others, but this time he decided ……………………………………………..
  6. Neither Bob nor John could do their algebra homework alone, but they had better luck when they ………………………………………….
  7. Pitched in/ pooled their resources/ strike off on her own/ joins forces with someone/ brainstorm with each other
  8. Sally sometimes would work by herself, so no one was surprised when she said she wanted to…
  9. Ken has been working for an hour on a physics problem and he does not think he will ever find the answer unless he…………………..
  10. Steve has the money and Mary has the business experience. Together they could open a restaurant if they ……………………………
  11. Karen figured it would take three hours for her to clean up the house, but it would take only thirty minutes if her roommates…………………………
  12. Ben and Phil are sure they will have a better chance of passing the exam if they…………………..

Discussion:

  1. In addition to meaning “help someone,” pitch in also means “throw in.” On many trash cans across the United States, PITCH IN is written. Explain why both definitions are appropriate.
  2. United we stand; divided we fall” was said by Americans fighting for their independence from England. The Americans knew that if they didn’t cooperate with each other, they would not win the war. The expression has survived to the present day and is used in many contexts. Give your example of when this expression could be used.
  3. Are there times when you like to GO IT ALONE, that is, to do something by yourself? When are they?

 

PETE’S IDIOMS-10

February 6, 2018

flat-tire (1)

On the eve of their finals, four sophomores made a quick getaway (= escaped) from the campus to an off-the-map (= remote) place for a picnic. They enjoyed their time: they ate, danced, drank, cooked roast turkey and all etceteras (= and many other similar things). They weren’t top students. When they applied for admission a year before, the university was scraping the barrel with (= using something of extremely poor quality) applicants, and those four were the best the admission board could get. During seminars the students’ work was scarcely up to scratch (= not up to the required standard): they were rather happy-go-lucky (= took nothing seriously), but they reckoned themselves (= thought high of themselves) and were even kind of uppish ((=conceited): they were sure they would prepare for the finals in next-to-no time.“(= very quickly). It doesn’t take much doing,” (= it’s not difficult at all) they said. However, the rich meal and drinks took it out of them (made them exhausted) and they had to stay at the dorm to hang-over the first day of the finals.

The next day they made it to (= to appear, to turn up) the examination and explained they hadn’t been able to come the previous day because they had gone from town with the plan to come back in time to study, but, unfortunately, they had a flat tire on the way back, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help for a long time. As a result, they missed the final.

Professor Peterson wasn’t “all dead from neck up.” (= he wasn’t altogether stupid). In his time he was a student too, so he was “all there.” (he understood which was which). But while a student, he (unlike these sophomores) had made the most of his time (used the time effectively) at university. Measuring present-day students by the standards of his younger years, he was willing to give a deserving person a leg-up (= to give support), but practiced a zero tolerance policy against laziness (completely ruled it out).

Still, having no proof that the sophomores were lying, Mr. Peterson didn’t want to take it out on the students (= to punish someone because one is angry) openly and agreed that they could make the final exam. He placed them in separate rooms and handed them a test booklet, and told them to begin. The first problem was worth 5 points, something simple from the course. “Cool,” the students thought. This is going to be easy. No wash-out. (we won’t fail)” Each finished the problem and then turned the page.

On the second page was written (For 95 points): Which tire was flat?

“EXCUSE MY FRENCH…ANGLO-SAXON, I MEAN”

January 12, 2018

Excuse my FrenchWhile speaking about developing countries from which most immigrants come to the U.S.A. nowadays, Mr. Trump used a word that was not in accordance with accepted standards of what is right or proper in polite society. Reportedly, Mr. Trump asked lawmakers, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He was apparently referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. Leaving aside the hotly debated question of the American President’s views, I found it linguistically interesting to trace how the “serious” media across the world translated the improper word into their respective languages. The Ukrainian e-papers translate the word as “dirty holes” giving the original English invariant in brackets. In French, headlines featured “pays de merde”, using the expletive to refer to the countries but without the word “hole.” In Spanish, “países de mierda” was used, similar to the French, as well as “países de porquería”, which means “trash countries.” In German, “Drecksloch,” which literally means “dirt hole” but like the word used by Mr. Trump is considered vulgar. In Dutch, one newspaper used “achterlijk” (“backward, or mentally deranged”) as its headline. In Japanese, a word that translates as “outdoor toilet” was used. In Portuguese, one outlet used a word that translates as ‘pigsty’, while others translated the quote literally. Mr. Trump’s slur was translated into Japanese as “restroom-like countries,” ”unsanitary nations,” “countries not fit to be fertilizer.’ The Chinese (Taiwan and mainland China) preferred “softer” words: “trash countries,” “broken place,” “haunted spot.” Only once a ‘stronger’ expression “manure kingdom” was used.

The whole world is attempting to correct Mr. Trump’s speech manners. And I thought about giants. About George Washington who formulated the articles of the U.S. Constitution, about Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted Gettysburg Address in which he spoke about his country that was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” about J.F. Kennedy addressing his fellow Americans with “ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country,” or Winston Churchill’s “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm,” or Charles de Gaulle’s “The leader must aim high, see big, judge widely, thus setting himself apart form the ordinary people who debate in narrow confines.” I thought about uplifting words that give wings.

EQUILIBRISTIC LINGUISTICS

January 10, 2018

equilibrist-2While rummaging through my archives. I have discovered a joke which is a perfect specimen of Englishmen’s love for their language.

A man is trapped in a room with no windows, no doors and no cracks. How did he get out?

ANSWER: He banged his head on the wall until it was sore, then he used the saw to cut the table in halves, whereupon he put the two halves together to make the whole. He crawled through the hole and started to shout until he was hoarse. Then, he jumped upon the horse and escaped. Voilà!


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