*Very* OT: Adventures in linguistics
- Dear All,
As many of you know, I went on the World Harmony Run in 2005, for a few weeks. The team ran through Missouri. Actually, I spent only one or two days in Missouri, because that's where I met up with the team, and they had already run through most of the state. But I do remember stopping at a gas station to buy some gator-aid and cheez-its (my favorite snack foods on the road). I saw some big young men in overalls and boots talking in the corner. One of them saw me waiting in line at the register and asked me, "Where ya'll from?"
I told him that I came from Philadelphia, but, pointing to my World Harmony Run shirt, was currently traveling across the country with an international team of relay runners to promote global understanding and peace.
The thing is, I noticed how differently we spoke. As a hearing impaired person, I tend to enunciate my words very carefully. I was taught to do that so I would be better understood. Also, I like using very correct grammar and pronunciation. Correct, of course, by the standards of modern East Coast American English.
My very brief interaction with these farmers made me feel about as much a part of their community as Gondar-5 from the planet Zorkon would feel.
For the rest of the day, I practised my ya'lls and my come-back-now-ya'lls and yeehas and soon I was ready to put on a straw hat and start rooting for my favorite competitor in the local jumping-frog contest. I'm just kidding of course. My own regional metathesis (transposition of sounds within a word) makes itself known in lots of ridiculous ways.
For example, I know how `comfortable' is spelled. But, by no means, and by no power under the sun will I ever pronounce it in any other way but `comfterble'. People might laugh, and that's fine. Let them. But I would feel like I was trying to put on airs if I pronounced it `properly'. The same thing goes for `literature'. I say `liderature', because `literature' sounds insufferably upper-class and snooty. I know there's an `n' in the middle of `transcendental', but I never say it any other way but `transcedental'. Once again, I would feel it as an affectation if I did otherwise.
Sometimes, though, I wish I could be British for a day. Then I could say the supremely satisfying phrase "you're mad!" and have it mean something besides "you're really upset, aren't you?" Or "I shan't, I tell you, I shan't!"
By the way, do people from the British Isles really use the word `shan't' anymore? Without meaning any offense at all, it sounds a little musty and obsolete to my ears. Let me know.
A blooming American bloke
I've been trying for the past week to think of something suitably witty in reply. But, alas the comic muse deserted.
I love accents and the variety of English dialects, though it must be tough on those learning English as a foreign language. When I, a native speaker, struggle to understand my Gaelic brothers, what hope would a non-English speaker have?
Now, as to 'Shan't' - the word certainly gives no joy. Let us dive into the wonderful world of P.G.Wodehouse and the Inimitable Jeeves and Wooster.
Jeeves: Am I to infer sir that you might be offering yourself for election?
Bertie: Your inference is as always slap on the button and leading by a length in the final furlong, Jeeves.
Now just imagine if Bertie Wooster had said. "Yes, I shall or No, I shan't"...
**Some Other Memorable Quotes from the Wit of P.G.Wodehouse**
Wooster: "If you ask me Jeeves, art is responsible for most of the trouble in the world."
Jeeves: "It's an interesting theory, Sir. Would you care to expatiate upon it?"
Wooster: "As a matter of fact, no Jeeves. No The thought just occurs to me, you know, as thoughts do."
Jeeves: Travel is highly educational, Sir.
Bertie: I cannot do with any more education, Jeeves. I was full up years ago!
To make sense of Jeeves and Wooster.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tj7P4KtB7s - Jeeves and Wooster arrive in NY.
An aspirant of good English.