Re: [Czechlist] Re: (narodni) pr'irodni rezervace, pr'irodni pamatka
- Dear Rachel
This is the first time I've ever engaged in any kind website or chat room
conversation, either by email or direct. My feelings about it are mixed: on
one hand, it's nice to be in contact with all you nice colleagues out
there - otherwise I may never have "met" you. But it bugs me that I can't
see your face and you can't see mine, so we can't judge the reaction of the
other person, nor really know with whom we are talking. Next time I have a
trip to Prague, which should be sometime this spring or summer, I would like
to join as many of you as possible for that Friday night beer!
The can of worms is, of course, the differences between British and American
English. That's one of my hot buttons, I admit, for a long list of reasons,
some that might be unearthed by a psycologist, others by a social or
political scientist, some perfectly understandable. During the ten years
I've been here, and earlier when I taught English in Spain, I have had some
very difficult experiences with some people on this topic. Some people feel
free to treat their complexes with this medicine, and perhaps because it's
kind of "all in the family" (the Anglophones), they know no restraint or
respect. Examples and long stories can wait for the pub, because that's the
best place to dispose of that kind of baggage - I won't fill up space and
take a lot of time here with it.
This perturbs me about conducting this conversation by mail - I don't want
to offend you or anybody, or push anyone else's ire buttons. The little
smiley face :-) helps, but it's not enough!
Just this: no to language hegemony.
OK, OK, here's some of the baggage.
It was bad that time in '92, when I returned to Brno after summer break
having been promised a job teaching by the owner of the school, only to find
that in the meantime he had hired a British school director who evidently
thought that the most obscure British dialect was more legitimate than
standard North American. So the kids had to listen to various mumblers from
Manchester, and I had to find work as an "externista" rather than teach full
time as I had been invited back to do. It's upsetting to find oneself out of
a job for that kind of arbitrary reason. In the end I stayed and he went,
but it took a year, and in the meantime I ate less, and the students...
It does seem to me that the average Brit is better prepared when they come
over here to teach than the average American I've encountered, but there's a
lot of variation within that range, so as to make broad conclusions like
"We've had bad experiences with American teachers" sound pretty sinister to
Another piece of lost luggage - Last year I translated about 200 pages of
historical documents, and my editor (from Canada) decided to change all the
spellings to British. Didn't ask or consult with me at all. After a mild
protest, I decided to be a good sport about it - and I didn't want to get
the professor stuck in the middle of a pointless argument between an
American and a Canadian. But I must admit it bothered me. What difference
does it make if it's in British English? None, really, I suppose the world
can live with it, even though the project was sponsored by Americans for the
archives there. But then, what difference does it make if the spellings stay
American? Because the fellow never took the time to call me or communicate
with me in any way, I still don't know why, I just got the implied message
that American English is, for this guy at least, something substandard.
Maybe he didn't mean it that way at all. But it's funny to see my name at
the foot of a text where there's "programme" and "theatre" and "colour".
Maybe he just doesn't know how to change the settings on his spellchecker,
otherwise why would he take the time to correct it all? Anyway, my feelings
were slightly bruised - the spelling changes were pointless.
So, as you can see, I've got a few complexes about that. For defensive
purposes only, I carry around a cudgel studded up with all kinds of (equally
false and chauvanistic) arguments about the legitimacy or even superiority
of Standard North American. But fortunately I never have to use it down here
in Valtice, since the only Anglophone with whom I have regular contact, the
English Tim, is a fine bloke.
By the way, could it be that a village green really is just a British thing?
Maybe there's something specific about it that we really don't have over
My idea of a helpful and enjoyable exchange on the topic is finding out
those funny differences, or a particularly apt phrase, that colors the
language. I do not know where "can of worms" comes from, unfortunately. Let
each one use the common language as he or she knows how! and share it with
And now that I've spent half the day again writing you, I will now get back
to work. Dang it, Melvyn, this website is a damn sight too interesting!
Kind regards, and apologies to those I may have offended
From: Rachel Thompson <rachelandsimon@...>
To: Czechlist@onelist.com <Czechlist@onelist.com>
Date: 1. dubna 2000 20:31
Subject: [Czechlist] Re: (narodni) pr'irodni rezervace, pr'irodni pamatka
>> So, I always translate the word "památka" as "monument", when used as
>> part of an official designation (Narodní kulturní pamatka, Pamatkový
>> Městská pamatková reservace), for the sake of standardization of terms,
>> long-established practice at the Pamatkový ústav and their international
>> When it's not a matter of official designation, I feel more free to
>> descriptive and go for meaning: a national heritage site, a nature
>> a memorial, a historical landmark, etc.
>> Does the phrase "can of worms" have meaning in Britain?
>"You've opened up a real can of worms there" = "you've brought to light
>something unpleasant that's going to be really messy to sort out, something
>that we'd rather have kept the lid on," etc., etc. We certainly know it -
>was it American originally? I've no idea of its origin (can somebody
>enlighten me?). It is in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (defined
>more concisely as "a complicated problem"). Why do you ask?
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