Columns LaFayette Sun


There’s a fat chance you’re slim in America
I never learned this language
We should feel smart for learning English at all

Try making a list detailing the good things about getting old. It’s as short as my memory. But as a writer who has lived a long life, the good thing is I have plenty of material to re-run. As I sit in Arbor Springs, I amuse myself by reading some of my previous articles. Hopefully you’ll do the same with the following ramble I wrote a couple of years ago.
Have you ever tried to learn another language? It’s one of those things I wish I had done along the way, but I was too busy chasing La Females. Two of my daughters studied French in college for what reason I will never know. Perhaps they were hoping their Dad would send them to France for some additional training, but I only had enough denaros to send one of them to Montreal, North America’s cheap version of Paris. Anyway, I enjoyed hearing them speak in another language from time to time as they seemed to pick it up fairly easily.
In my later years, I regret not taking advantage of a situation that would have benefitted me in my work and personal life. I spent several years in the Air Force (Kelly Field in San Antonio) as an accountant assistant. Almost all my fellow workers had a Hispanic background and spoke fluent Spanish. I learned a few sentences, but I regret that I did not learn to speak Spanish as I had the resources and the spare time to learn. I will always remember the staff at the Finance Office; they were wonderful colleagues.
I remember my co-workers saying that English was a much harder language to pick up relative to other languages. Apparently, English has so many variations that it becomes difficult to follow. Imagine going to the Gulf Coast and trying to learn the English words for things. “The tide’s coming in” sounds like the TIIIIIDE’s coming in. Alabama fans put so many “I’s” in their Roll Tide that it actually sounds like a different word. And when I go by Cooter Allen’s hardware store, it takes EVEN ME a minute to understand when he asks if I want a Diet Coke with EISS.
Whereas Southern accents get a little confusing compared to the rest of the country, Brits and Americans seem like they’re speaking in different tongues at times. It is amazing how different the sounds of words are in the Queen’s English compared to the colonies. For example, look at the word vitamin. Americans pronounce it VITE-a-min; the British pronounce it VIT-a-min. Another case is the word mobile. We say MO-bul but the British say mo-BILE. If you have ever watched a British show, you probably turn up the volume and frequently turn to your fellow watcher and ask, “What did she just say?”. My grandkids like to watch this program called “The Great British Baking Show”. A couple of weeks ago Paul Hollywood (that’s his real name!) kept talking about “skons”. Turns out he was saying “scones”. Well no matter how you say it, they’re better with American farm-style jelly than with Mary Berry’s clotted cream. (That’s her real name too!)
I thought every language had a lot of silly phrases, but after googling for an evening, it seems that the English language contains far too many. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there are some sayings that even WE don’t know exactly what they mean. Here are a few off the top of my head: Hot To Trot, Flip Flop, Tooty Fruity, It Is A Piece Of Cake, Lock Stock & Barrel, Wrapped Around Her Finger, It Doesn’t Amount to a Hill of Beans, I reckon, I’m fixin to, and something my relatives said but I never did…”Well I S’wanee”. Come to think about it, I bet even folks in NYC don’t understand Southerners. But they’re not visiting around here much, so that works out.
Let me provide just a few examples of how frustrating our language can be:
*I NEVER SAID SHE STOLE MY MONEY. This sentence has 7 different meanings depending on the stressed word.
*The word ELEVEN has three different E sounds.

  • TEAR and TIER are pronounced the same, but TEAR and TEAR are pronounced differently.
    I have great respect for those who come to America and try to learn the language. We are all created in the image of God, and one of the greatest commands is to love our neighbor. Every tribe and nation will be represented in heaven. Hmmm, I wonder what the language will be?

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