This week’s chat is the third in the series about this unfathomable language – English. It’s a potpourri of the pungent, the piquant and the downright unpalatable. How it evolved into the world’s most prolific tongue defies logic.
Apart from it being a linguistic gemors, some folks make it worse by continually misusing certain words. Over the years, for example, I’ve learnt that the word ‘so’ means a couple of things.
In the Queen’s English, it can mean ‘therefore’, as in: I felt sick so I went to bed. All well and good, nè? It can also mean a degree of severity: I felt so sick that I went to bed. No questioning that one either, as with a few other legitimate uses.
However, one misuse of ‘so’ has somehow crept into the lexicon and become accepted as regular English, although the Queen is/are not amused. You hear it constantly on radio and TV, and it drives me insane every time. I suspect that after becoming aware, it’ll do the same to you.
I’m referring to how it has recently become almost standard to answer any question by starting with the totally inappropriate word, ‘so’.
“Where did you learn to surf?”
“So, I grew up in Durban,” or
“What are tonight’s specials?”
“So, we’ve got mielies…”
It’s used everywhere by everyone – from politicians to pole-dancers. Keep an ear out for it, and you’ll be aware of it forever. Sorry about that.
But, moving on to a more flavourable ingredient on the potpourri menu, there is the fascination with analogs. It appears there are linguists and wordsmiths with alphabet soup sloshing about in their brains, who scramble the letters of words, phrases or sentences around to see what pops up, while still retaining the same meaning!
On their days off from the archives, a couple of the Explanation of Everything elves – especially Thong – love trying their luck at this ‘alphabet roulette’, and sometimes hit the jackpot. Each to his own, I suppose, but to me it’s a skull-numbing exercise, like doing a jigsaw puzzle blindfolded, or receiving a circular one without the picture. This is how strokes happen.
Anyway, Thong, we have recently learned, is a female elf, because she’s a bit pregnant and apparently male elves don’t get pregnant – not even a bit. Thong is the one busy writing those kiddies’ bedtime poems and stories for her book called Jou Ma Se Poems, and despite being slightly pregnant, she has hatched a few gems.
Somehow, she mangled the letters of the morse code into here come dots, which is true. The favourable odds programmed into any self-respecting slot machine converts to cash lost in me, and according to her, a decimal point is an anagram of I’m a dot in place. Fascinating.
She also came out with the fact that snooze alarms indicate alas no more z’s, and in cases of extreme desperation, she suggests a rope ends it. Cheerful little bundle of fluff, our Thong, isn’t she?
Another elf called Dong – a male, I think – suggested that mother-in-law anagrammed into woman Hitler. He also observed that an astronomer was nothing more than a moon starer. And how about the mind-boggling deduction that eleven plus two equals twelve plus one?
But let’s plunge briefly into another murky English quagmire – puns.
Puns were probably quite funny when you were eleven, but as adults they should be avoided on most occasions, unless extremely subtle. The worst is when they’re spoken with emphasis or written in italics, like using a rasp when a nail file would do. It gives even a good pun a bad rap.
Sadly, the elves came up with a few (not very good) ones, but they threatened a walk-out if left unpublished. Dong reckoned that reading while sunbathing makes you well red, which barely passes muster, but he’s still young. Thong, on the other hand suggested Dijon vu was the same mustard as before. Not bad for a slightly pregnant elf.
She’s also made a sign for the Duck ’n Fiddle’s pub: WE DON’T SERVE WOMEN. YOU MUST BRING YOU OWN.