Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Words! And running around!

There was an April Fools Day thing going around that suggested that the German definite article (der, die, das, etc) was going to stop having its variety and switch to one form “dot”, to make it easier for foreigners to learn the language. The next idea should be getting rid of adjective agreement in all those “difficult” European languages.

Some people cheered at the idea. Serious language learners and teachers expressed their sorrow at losing some of the fun of German lessons. I think I am with the latter group. Part of the challenge of language learning is that code breaking element.

My Italian friend holds up her hands in amazement that we have no real institution to regulate changes in the English language. Most European countries have an official body, like the Académie Française in France, which tries to keep the language as pure as possible. We just have the Oxford English Dictionary which regularly updates itself and accepts or rejects new words and expressions.

And so we get odd things added like the Scottish “sitooterie”, a splendid word meaning “a place in which to sit out” and dating apparently from the 1920s. Or there is a “bidie-in” for a live-in lover. I read that the dictionary launched its Words Where You Are appeal to the public last year to mark the 90th anniversary of the completion of its first edition. The regional vocabulary suggestions which have poured in from readers ever since span the globe, from the Welsh English term for spring onions, “jibbons”, to the name for the regional dialect heard in New Orleans, “Yat”, which is derived from the greeting: “Where y’at?”

I was reminded of a character in the TV series Breaking Bad who greets people with “Sup”, derived from “What’s up?” which I think is becoming a fairly standard greeting among some young people.

There you go. Aren’t languages fun?

I am taking a break from a run around day to write this. My normally very efficient daughter has been having a crisis. About to go on holiday she has just discovered that her son’s passport expired in February. So I was drummed into service: up early to catch a bus to Oldham to get forms from the post office. For once public transport served me well: bus to Oldham, visit to the post office, the fruit stall at the indoor market, a cash machine, straight onto a bus to Uppermill, visit to the bakery and the fishman on the Wednesday street market, straight onto a bus back to Delph in time for a late breakfast. Amazing!

In about half an hour I have to and collect the passport-expired grandson from school and march him off to get passport photos. Then on Friday I am off to Durham, the nearest passport office with an available slot for fast track passports, in the hope of getting the passport sorted in time! Such chaos!! 

I have never been to Durham. I have only admired it from the train to Newcastle. Therefore I shall take advantage of the trip to visit the cathedral and admire the city and possible meet the friend I normally visit in Gateshead. Perhaps a bit of serendipity is working for me.

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