Monday, January 30, 2012

Bad Language

Did I hear Newt Gingrich correctly? Did he really say that Mitt Romney is not a suitable presidential candidate because he speaks French? I think he did you know. It's just as well that poor old Mitt doesn't speak Russian or he'd be rounded up with the other commies and shoved back under the bed where Mr McCarthy found them in the 1950s. Funny isn't it? Mr Gingrich himself speaks passable Spanish, but that's obviously okay. He must have a subversion rating for languages and Spanish is obviously somewhere near the bottom. I bet I know which language is at the top. It starts with Arab and ends with ic. My guess is that if Newt is ever elected President his first act will be to ban all teaching of foreign languages in school. At least the top five most subversive languages.

My female staff had a few interesting times back in the nineteen eighties when she visited America. One nice lady asked where she was from and when my female staff said that she was from Australia she said "Oh my goodness, but you speak such good English." Pretty cute eh? Neither of my staff speak a foreign language, though my male staff has a smattering of gibberish when he's had half a bottle of wine or so. (Gibberish is not the language of the people of Gibraltar by the way.) Humans who speak English tend to be lazy with languages anyway because they assume that everyone speaks their language, and the British have long known that to make a foreigner understand what you're saying you simply have to English. In any case, if they didn't speak English they just pinched their country until they did.

A few years ago my staff were on holiday in Spain. In a remote village in Andalusia's Sierra Nevada mountains they stopped for a refreshing cup of coffee. My male staff, being an adventurous soul decided to try out his Spanish on the swarthy gent behind the bar of the cafe.
 "Dos cafe con leche por favor." He said in what he thought was an Andalusian accent.
 "Two white coffee's wiv milk coming up." Replied the bartender in a broad cockney accent. "Do you want sugar?" My crestfallen male staff returned to his table clutching two cups of white coffee muttering about "bloody students and their stupid holiday jobs."

Remember my staff's friend Auntie Jan? She's the one that tried to undertake a series of experiments on me to try to determine my level of intelligence. You may recall that she gave up having learned that I was too intelligent to take part in her stupid experiments. I just sat there and stared at her contemptuously as she tried to get me to do all manner of un-cavy like things. Like fetch and sit and play dead. Anyway, she's a university educated English lady and is very cultured except when it comes to Chinese people or people from South East Asia. She always reverts to a kind of pidgin English in the mistaken belief that adding a Y to the end of a word makes it easier for Chinese people to understand.
 "Please you telly me where me findy posty office." and "Me likey buy cup of tea. Please you telly me where I buy cup of tea." You get the idea. It's very embarrassing to witness.

On the other hand my male staff who is also English, but about as cultured as a Pakistani army latrine has travelled widely in his capacity as a reverse people smuggler
(See back then I called male staff Pea and female staff Chook.) but the only words he's picked up are the naughty ones. He can swear fluently in several languages. He can also say beer in many languages, mainly because it's more often than not "beer." He studied Japanese in business college and has never used it since. One phrase has stuck in his mind however. "Kono sakana wa shinsen des ne?" He says he thinks it means "Is this fish fresh?" But it could equally mean "I think your mother is a lobster's bottom." So he's reluctant to use it.

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