Proof that language is organic and not naturally logical

spock

Language is often inefficient. Even in the most common and used phrases, often the negative and positive can sound very similar, making it difficult to understand the meaning sometimes unless you understand the context. For example, in French:

C’est plus propre – It’s cleaner (more clean)
Ce n’est plus propre – It’s no longer clean
BUT also it’s common to omit the n’ when speaking quickly so in effect the second sentence can sound identical to the first sentence – and they are pretty much opposite in meaning!

In English:
I can do it
I can’t do it. (In standard English we hear the difference in vowel sound in “can” and “can’t”)
But there’s often a problem when someone’s accent doesn’t differentiate between the two vowels. Because there are many second language speakers now of English through business, tourism and migration, it’s getting harder to hear this difference in vowels. There are possibly some native speakers with different accents who also pronounce these two words similarly – and it’s common for the final “t” to be almost silent.

There are other examples, will think!

But just to say, when opposites in a language sound very similar, that’s not very logical, is it?

I swear

swear jar

Strange isn’t it how the verb “to swear” makes us think of two almost opposite things: to say bad, socially unacceptable words in the moment of passion, anger, irritation or enthusiasm; or to promise an eternal allegiance with God, a complete commitment or devotion to a cause.

Apologize

sorry

I remember a few years ago watching Supernanny, seeing how child expert Jo Frost would go into problem families and help parents deal with and solve their children’s difficult behaviour.
Now I’m bringing up my own child there are moments that remind me of a particular aspect of her programme, when she asks the young child (or asks the parent to ask the child) to apologize. I thought then, and I do now, that it’s a lot for a child to process when they’ve just learnt the basic of speech. You’re asking them first to acknowledge they’ve done something wrong, then understand they’re going to say a word that will somehow negate or forgive (quite religious!) what they’ve done. And then when they’ve understood that, they need to say a word which sounds completely different from the word “Apologize”… “Sorry!”

I think what makes children learn language and culture so quickly is that they’re expected to pick up so many subtleties at a great pace… necessity is not only the mother of invention but also of learning!

Americanisms

Trying to add language and concepts that we in the UK have adopted from the USA in the past 20 years or so…

You Guys
Time Out
Show and Tell
“Have you got…?” “Yes I do.” “No, I don’t got”
Do the math(s)
Awesome
High Five
Baby Shower
How’s that working out for you?
So + noun

Graeme Norton commentary again exemplifies the lazy prejudices of trans-Atlantic anglophone TV media

norton-wogan

During the Eurovision song contest last week, Graham Norton carried on the tradition of his late predecessor Terry Wogan to be disdainful, dismissive and to poke fun at funny foreigners who don’t speak English.

It’s ironic isn’t it, that both Norton and Wogan are/were Irish, a nationality that has been victimised a lot by the British – but there they go, acting as honorary Brits, peddling the same prejudices for a job.

To make jokes about how bad the music is is fine, because let’s face it, most of it isn’t great music, but that’s not the point. Norton displayed a wilful ignorance of major figures in the Portuguese speaking world who were involved in the event this year. You would think with the amount he is paid, Norton would have done a bit of research about the professional artists performing while votes were being counted. Caetano Veloso is a grand figure of Brazilian music spoken in the same breath as Gilberto Gil, Chico Buarque and Vinicius de Moraes. Sara Tavares who appeared with Branko, is also an established Portuguese singer. She mixes influences of Cape Verde (islands off West Africa where her family is from), Portuguese and jazz in her music.

Norton gave a token reference to Caetano Veloso that he was a controversial figure (he probably just read the first line of his Wiki entry) but didn’t follow it up with any more information. And as for Tavares’ performance, he just said, boring, glad that’s over. He demonstrates the same behaviour many British tourists display when holidaying in the Algarve. Take the surroundings for granted and show utter disinterest for any local culture. The same attitude many Brits have in the Costa del Sol, Spain.

Norton excels in chatting with the US stars who come over the Atlantic to promote their products on Saturday nights. He is one of those beacons who stands their promoting that “special relationship” between the UK and the USA. In a way, I think that fuels his outward prejudice of the factors that don’t fit into that cosy worldview. Perhaps also, because his livelihood and identity has now formed around those dynamics, he can’t pull away from such limited behaviour. Perhaps behind that boisterous figure, there is a depressed comic who doesn’t like the things he says?

Just a thought!