Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Not too many months back (or years or weeks—sometimes the years fly like months these days and the weeks drag like years) I mentioned coming across the idea (I don’t know where) that the British and American peoples will no longer be able to understand one another’s languages in 200 years. Then, in order to join a book group, I recently read The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night by a British author Mark Haddon. I know... I also mentioned that very recently. Anyhow, recalling what I’d said about language differences, I started to jot down some British idioms and words in that novel which might be beginning to stretch the bounds of an illiterate American’s understanding of the Brits. Most of the list I’m about to enter into this blog I still understand but only because I watch and have watched many British films in my life and also still read British literature, classic as well as modern, and, of course, I had the context of each of the following words and phrases. I added two final examples Sunday night that I don’t understand… from a Masterpiece Theater presentation.

The list with my interpretations… (or not):

shift it = get moving
hop it = get moving
“I’m not having you scarping….” = something about stealing
“…go for another wee…” = go take a piss
invigilator = someone who monitors a student’s test
cooker = an outdoor grill
“end of a skip” = this is something (?) parked at a curb a boy was hiding behind
boot = trunk of a car (this, of course, is an old one)
carriageway = a highway (it’s obvious but quaint to our ears)
“get a place to live of our own” = can see a shift in prepositional usage
“got a job on the till” = work as a cash register, also note use of preposition
a plaster = band aid, I think, from its usage
knock you up = come knock on your door, very old
“Hooray Harrys for a knees up” = first half pretty clear, but second …?
curb crawling = cruising for prostitutes

Of course, I think I mentioned that I can still read Shakespeare (500 years ago) and, even, with the help of a dictionary, Chaucer (700 years), but no farther back than that. I took one quarter or two of Old English around 1980, and Old English is very much like a foreign language to modern usage. So perhaps whoever suggested that we’ll soon not understand the Brits was rushing it a bit, but when one realizes that so many young Americans no longer read… well, who knows? Of course young people the world over are developing a chat room language (you know… LOL and OMG?) that I can’t understand at all. Maybe they’ll develop a worldwide language out of that which will be the first truly global language. You know, we elders of the tribe are always seeing the end of the world in every little cultural tremor when, usually, it really is no more than a tremor which workarounds can fix.


Okay, here's a photo from a blog I sometimes visit, a blog that originates in Estonia. Now the young lady who takes these photos can be a bit unusual at times, and I was thrown off by the photo myself. At first I thought it was one very dangerous photo, then, I thought I saw what it really is. Maybe you'll maybe have to ask her what it is. I think she was trying to be suggestive and clever which she most always is... clever, that is.

1 comment:

Bill Chapman said...

Hello from Wales! You were reflecting about "the first truly global language". I think that that language already exists - Esperanto. Take a look at http://www.esperanto.net

Esperanto works! I’ve used it in speech and writing - and sung in it - in a dozen countries over recent years.