Friday, May 05, 2006

Inglish is a funy languej

Ask any teacher of English. She will boast of the beauty of the language. Tell it to a common man and he'll laugh his lungs out mocking at it.
This Anglo-Saxon language has upgraded itself (or corrupted, depending on how one looks at it) by accepting phrases and words from other languages without much ado. The British may not have liked it, but they had no choice. After all, Her Majesty's colonialist ambitions forced them to convert English from a symbol of culture to a global medium of communication. Mutation is inevitable.
We find other European phrases aplenty in the language, though we can say the same in English very well. We can, for example, simply say, "the converse", but we are more used to saying vice versa. Or, we can say "thereby" instead of ipso facto.
The more we learn English, the greater is the number of foreign phrases that we use to make our communication more impressive and harder.
The worst are the doctors. They use only Greek and Latin. They ensure that the common man does not understand what their diagnosis is and say it in "foreign English". Thus, they talk of colitis instead of inflammation of the colon; they treat pulmonary oedema for fluid accumulation in the lungs. A simple burst of a vein in the brain is complicated by cerebral thrombosis, while an improper bone development in your lower spine could be spina bifida. Coupled with their handwriting, a doctor's report can be read only by Him!
Lawyers are a different lot, reveling in their own world of complicated language. I was taught at school that it is bad English to start a sentence with a conjunction. But, every agreement starts with "WHEREAS". Try leaving it out and the sentence will still convey the meaning perfectly. Thus, perhaps, they ensure that their profession is always needed to decipher the law that is worded in the silliest manner, all over the world. I am yet to come across a judgment in any country that chides the government for not phrasing the law in a manner that a common man understands. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that the judges themselves are lawyers by profession. Fish can't tell good water from bad.
Economists are a crazy lot. (Yours sincerely included) They try to make the simple subject as complex as possible by using foreign phrases. If you have any doubt, try reading any of the books or articles. A few examples are given below:
"Ceteris paribus, more will be demanded at lower prices than at higher prices" (Marshall`s Law of Demand). The special phrase simply means, "everything else remaining the same".
Ipso facto, post facto, per sé, prima facie, a priori, ex-ante, ex-post, sine quo non, quid pro quo are some more phrases which are used frequently by the economists to make themselves appear knowledgeable. You may even come across post hoc ergo propter hoc logic in economics.
There is a joke about the teachers of English. It goes as follows:
A person died, went up and knocked at the Pearly Gates.
St.Peter asked, "Who`s it?"
Reply came, "It is I".
"Oh, damn," cursed St.Peter, "One more teacher of English grammar."
It makes sense when a teacher of English is obsessed with the language. After all, it is her profession. But, it is hardly understandable why doctors, lawyers and economists should complicate it, unless it is to hide the hollow inside.
I shouldn't sound totally unfair to all these professionals. After all, English language does cause problems. There are lots of inconsistencies in it. Take the following examples:
Plural of foot is feet; but of boot is not beet.
Past of do is did; but of woo is not wid.
We write "women" with a "o" but we don't write "foar" for fear.
Feminine gender of God is Godess but that of cod is not codess.
So is the case of tigress and lioness but not dogess and catess.
A goose weds a gander; but a moose doesn't marry a mander.
The craziest happens in chess, where a queen checks and mates a king! You don't mate your enemy, do you? (Well, honestly, it is wrong to divide them into two phrases. It is checkmate, a special term coined for the game).
And, think of all those fine legs, short legs, square legs and long legs in cricket…only the English could have invented such pretty positions.
If you fear a bear, do you fare a bare? Or, do you feer a beer?
There is an anecdote about spellings:
A boy and a girl were sitting in a park. Suddenly, the boy said, "Aren`t those roses beautiful, honey?"
"They are not roses, silly," said the girl, "they are Chrysanthemum"
"Chris-what?" asked the boy.
"Chry-san-the-mum", pronounced the girl.
"How do you spell it?" queried the boy.
"C-h-r-i..." started the girl, "no,, no, no, no, c-h-r-y...I think you are right. Those roses are beautiful."
But, there are also some beautiful (why can't this be simply butiful?) rules like "i before e except after c" for correct spelling involving "i & e". Thus, one can spell confidently, receive, conceive, deceive, believe, relieve etc.
The English people have a sense of humour too. Some of the words and phrases in English are indeed hilarious. Consider the following:
The woe of a man is called WOMAN
One kicks the bucket to die.
A ship is a feminine gender, probably because of her weight and large bottom.
Assassination is spelt with two ass, may be because it relates to politicians. (Recently, I came across a Santa Singh joke where he teaches his pupils how to spell this word: gadha, gadha ke peeche gadha, gadhe ke peeche mein, mere peeche saara desh )
A spicy stuff that's hottest on your palate is called chilli.
George Bernard Shaw was very critical of English language as much as of the English people. He once said,
"The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it...It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth, without making some other Englishman despise him." (PYGMALION, Preface)
He did not spare the Americans either. See this: "England and America are two countries separated by the same language."
His famous mockery was about the spelling of the word "FISH". He wrote "GHOTI" and insisted that it should be, according to English, pronounced "fish" because of the following examples:
"GH" from couGH or lauGH, sounds "f"
"O" from wOmen, sounds "i"
"TI" from naTIon, poTIon or noTIon, sounds "sh".
He was logical, though the English hated him. That is why John Osborne scoffed at Shaw saying, "He writes like a Pakistani who has learned English when he was twelve years old in order to become a chartered accountant." I am not sure if the Pakistanis would have liked it. But, I am very much sure that the CAs have a sound case to sue Osborne.
The Queen's English has its own set of stories too. Read this:
Once, the Prince of Wales visited a hospital. He met a man lying in a bed with some bandages around his hip.
The prince asked him, "What have you been admitted here for?"
The patient replied, "I got boils all over my botty." The prince smiled and went off.
The nurses and the maids reprimanded the patient for using such a slang before the Prince and cautioned him about the language.
A week later, the Queen visited the hospital. And, she asked him, "What have you been admitted here for?"
The patient replied, "I got boils all over my back."
"Oh," the Queen queried, "It seems to have spread upwards after my son's visit, hasn't it?"
As to the spellings in English, there are many difficulties, too. Telifon, dokter, laf, cof, cou, bul, caf etc., sound the same but simple. The English revel in complicating it. There seems to be some attempts to simplify the language, going by the following e-mail I got from a friend I received in 1999. (Alas, Shabnam Minwalla recently published this piece in Sunday Times dated 3rd Feb-2002. I missed yet another chance to make a few quick bucks! Sigh!)
The European Commission have just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU, rather than German, which was the other possibility.
As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty`s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five year phase in plan that would be known as "EuroEnglish".
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump for joy.
The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k". This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 letter less.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with the "f". This will make words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.
Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e"s in the language is disgraseful, and they should go away.
By the 4th year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v". Ze zebras may not lyk it, but ze cuvs vil velkum it.
During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan bi dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors bi aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
After zis fifz year, ve vil hav a realy sensibl riten styl. zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi to understand each ozer.
Ze dream vil finali kum tru! Zen, if I cal Inglish a funi languaj, it vil no mor bi funi. Ryt?
If you have some more funny aspects of English, do post it.


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