Tag Archive | English

WHO’S ASKING WHO?

I’d laugh until my sides hurt.

Hans was undoubtedly the smartest person I ever knew. He was also so funny, he’d have me laughing out loud until my sides hurt.


In going through my papers and throwing out thousands (honestly) I came across this poem of his and couldn’t resist sharing it with you.


Hans came from Vienna as a young adult, where he spoke German and another local dialect. He said other languages were easy because he’d studied Latin at school and Latin is the root of so many languages. But I think it was much more than that. I hope you enjoy this playful poem he wrote about English.

WHO’S ASKING WHO?

by Hans Muller

Hans could and did read several languages

All of us languish
with speech induced anguish
and parsing our sentences
gives rise to repentences.
Hence using the vernacular
looms as positively Dracular.

Much joy to many gives
The usage of genitives
and even a native
can have fun with a dative.
Then why do brains turn into sieves
when confronted with accusatives?

Hans on one of our ‘motor’ trips which we thoroughly enjoyed

Is it HE or HIM, is it ME or I,
WE or US, SHE or HER — and why?
Is REGARDLESS wrong, IRREGARDLESS right
or are they the same — no, not quite.
When I go to bed, do I LAY or LIE?
Did they LEARN me wrong
or should it be TEACH?
I’ve got doctorates in English and Speech.

Aren’t the schools rich
in certified rules which
prescribe things grammatical?
Do I seem fanatical
if I declare that I’m aghast
finding ignorance so deep, so vast.

English???

If the abusive
of mother-tongue usage
prevails incontestably
and quite indigestibly.
I’m asking with unceasing awe:
Ain’t lingocide against the law?

I get jittery and tlnglish
speaking so-called good English,
The King’s, the Queen’s or the Bard’s
For me that is not in the cards.
What the heck — WHOM or WHO,
why don’t I just do
what Tom and Dick and Harry can,
talking simple North American.

Honesty? Is it the best policy?

Muriel from BlogI’ve been agonizing over whether I should have an honest, open talk with a dear, dear friend. It’s a difficult decision to make. You want to know your thoughts will be received in the way they are intended and, your friend needs to really trust you.

Fortunately, I have a close friend whom I know will always be absolutely honest with me and I treasure her. I know I can share any thought with her and can always ask her opinion when I am at a loss myself. I love her and trust her completely. I am grateful for all my friends, but am particularly grateful for her.

Nonetheless, at times other people may ask for an “honest” opinion about something they are doing, but I’ve learned to be careful about that. Many don’t want an honest opinion at all. Often they are hoping for us to say that whatever they are doing is absolutely wonderful — and nothing else. If you suspect this to be the case, run away from it as fast as you can!

Years ago I was employed by a man who knew I had extensive experience in his field. He welcomed me into his firm warmly, said how delighted he was to have me, and asked me to be sure to let him know if there was anything he was doing that could be improved. I believed him. When I did see his business was losing thousands of dollars by a most cumbersome, delayed billing practice, I said so. His response?

"How dare you suggest you know better?"

“How dare you suggest you know better?”

“How dare you suggest that after my running this business for 35 years you know better than I do?” He was furious! Obviously, he just wanted me to tell him he was a brilliant business-man who did everything perfectly right. I did see other wasteful and costly methods within his organization afterwards, but had learned my lesson. I kept quiet about it.

The author believes the work to be excellent....

The author believes the work to be excellent….

As a writer, time and again I have been asked to read someone’s book, memoir, play, etc. Invariably, the author believes the work to be excellent, that it could never be improved in any way, shape or form, and the whole world is breathlessly awaiting his/her masterpiece. No matter how diplomatic I have tried to be, my comments, or suggestions were most often met with sometimes repressed, but evident resentment. I don’t do it anymore.

If you are asked for your opinion in such matters and want to make (and keep) friends and influence people, decline, decline, decline! Say no! Say you have no time, that you are going up into space on the next mission and are therefore busy with astronautical training or something — anything, but get out of it. Once I understood just what was expected, I no longer agreed to do it. I now refuse all such requests, so don’t ask.

What they really want is to hit you on the head with an umbrella..

What they really want is to hit you on the head with an umbrella..

Honesty….how to explain the word? Sometimes those who say they will be honest with you don’t have good intentions at all. Sometimes what they really want to do is hit you on the head — hard, with an umbrella or a bat, but since physical violence is not acceptable, they’ll hurt you instead with devastating “honest” words. This kind of “honesty” can cut to the core.

The subject of honesty is a terribly complex one. We teach our children not to lie. We punish them if we catch them at it. Our society frowns on compulsive liars and those who are chronically dishonest, and rightly so. Yet, the naked truth can be so hurtful and damaging in some people’s hands, it can be used as a knife with which to pierce the heart. How to deal with the whole confusing concept?

We teach our children not to lie.

We teach our children not to lie.

In the oh-so-successful novel “Memoirs of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden, Sayuri, the protagonist (a beautiful geisha) has just been reminded she is aging — which is true. Her response? ”There are good facts and bad facts. The bad facts are best avoided.” Sayuri, of course, knows how old she is and doesn’t need to be told.

"I never saw any good that came of telling truth" John Dryden (1631-1700)

“I never saw any good that came of telling truth”
John Dryden (1631-1700)

Authors whose work has offended others enough to be banned are particularly interesting,  and John Dryden (1631-1700) whose comedy “The Kind Keeper” was banned during the Restoration, is thus someone I find intriguing. His thoughts on the topic of truth? “I never saw any good that came of telling truth.” I also love what William Blake, (1757-1827) the multi-gifted English poet, painter and engraver, put so well: “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”

"A truth that's told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent." William Blake (1757-1827)

“A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.”
William Blake (1757-1827)

"He would be the best of fellows if he did not always speak the truth." Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

“He would be the best of fellows if he did not always speak the truth.”
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Who can discuss the truth without referring to one of my favorite authors, the incomparable Oscar Wilde, who has given me endless hours of pleasure both at the theatre and curled up with a book. Wilde didn’t much believe in telling the truth at all. He said: “The telling of beautiful untrue things is the proper aim of Art.” (The Decay of Lying) and “He would be the best of fellows if he did not always speak the truth.” (The Sphinx Without a Secret).

We do require another word to replace the word “lie”, when lying is a kindness. What is wrong with being considerate and kind and refraining from hurting others with painful, even if factual, truths? In most cases, the “truth” is known anyway and we don’t need to rub it in. Some of the meanest, deepest and most agonizing hurts are delivered under the pretext of “truth”.

We also can use yet another word for a different meaning of the “truth”. The great American writer and libertarian, Thoreau, said “Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” He was talking about something totally different when he wrote about that oh-so complicated word which has so many different meanings, both positive and negative.

How confusing can this language of ours get????

Inglish? English?

 

Muriel from BlogJust before Valentine’s Day, over breakfast at a local cafe, I noticed a new sign reading “Who Do You Love?” I thought about it for a moment and that it should be “Whom do you love?”, but I didn’t say anything nor check it when I got home.

First of all, I gave my trusty grammar book to a lovely young student who has kindly helped me with computer woes which I have now and then, and although I may be right, I didn’t bother with Google, because somehow it didn’t matter to me. Interesting…..

I used to care a lot about the English language. In a way, I still do. I love it. It is full of possibilities and can be wonderfully expressive and great fun. I enjoy words and playing with them, but something is happening.

Aside from the fact that at times I now find myself searching for words I know I know and want but can’t retrieve, I don’t seem to be as distressed by seeing/hearing what I may consider poor grammar. Am I mellowing?

Years ago, one of my children’s third grade teachers told me “She did good.” It was good news, because this particular child didn’t always do “good”. Even so, my insides cringed with the knowledge that this woman, who was teaching my child, would be so careless with the language. It bothered me so much, I still remember it! However, I’ve now accepted that language is a changing, growing, flexible thing and that’s

This woman was teaching my child. I was distressed she misused the language.

This woman was teaching my child. I was distressed she misused the language.

what makes it so intriguing. Seems I’m rolling with the punches.

Once, I chose to write an anti-gun column. It was reproduced on a pro-gun website, after which I received hundreds of negative emails, some nasty, some even theatening, but mostly from people with terrible spelling. I was more bothered by the poor spelling than the threats and had to resist the urge to

He can shoot. But can he spell????

He can shoot. But can he spell????

correct the first 10 or so and return them to sender. (I gave up on reading the rest and just deleted them unread.) My own readers responded positively.

There are certainly things I would change myself in our language if I had my way, particularly with spelling. After having tutored ESL students, I am very aware of how tricky English spelling can be. For instance, why do we need a “b” in “plumber”, or at the end of “bomb”? Why use “ph” when we mean “f”? On and on it goes — most confusing.

My own new English spelling would look something like this: Wat sens duz it mak to spel thum with a “b” wen we don’t prononz it that way? Why mudle thru speling lik the word “through” wich merly confuzes the ishu?

English spelling is especially tricky for ESL students.

English spelling is especially tricky for ESL students.

I also used to warn my ESL students not to rely on their computer spell-checks. (I don’t know how to use mine.) It wouldn’t catch words that are misused if what you have written happens to correctly spell another word. Thus, I was delighted when a friend sent me the following poem.

Beware of computer spell-checkers.

Beware of computer spell-checkers.

“Spell Checker”.

Eye halve a spelling chequer

It came with my pea sea

It plainly marques four my revue

Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word

And weight four it two say

Weather eye am wrong oar write

It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid

It nose bee fore two long

And eye can put the error rite

Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it

I am shore your pleased two no

Its letter perfect awl the weigh

My chequer tolled me sew.

“Who wrote it?” I asked.

“Sauce unnown.”

P.S. Write me and let me know what brings you to my blog. I’d love that.