Wednesday, August 09, 2006

For Patricia (*Note, those words that sound like nonsense, are. He uses them to express how certain words his teacher spoke were unintelligible to him):

An excerpt from Me Talk Pretty One Day, the title essay in the book of the same name by David Sedaris.

"When called upon, I delivered an effortless list of things that I detest: blood sausage, intestinal pates, brain pudding. I'd learned these words the hard way. Having given it some thought, I then declared my love for IBM typewriters, the French word for bruise and my electric floor waxer. It was a short list, but still I managed to mispronounce IBM and assign the wrong gender to both the floor waxer and the typewriter. The teacher's reaction led me to believe that these mistakes were capital crimes in the country of France

"Were you always this palicmkrexis?" she asked. "Even a fiuscrzsa ticiwelmun knows that a typewriter is feminine."

I absorbed as much of her abuse as I could understand, thinking--but not saying--that I find it ridiculous to assign a gender to an inanimate object incapable of disrobing and making an occasional fool of itself. Why refer to Lady Crack Pipe or Good Sir Dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?


At 2:40 PM, Blogger freiheit said...

Lady Crack Pipe is a lot of fun at parties.

At 12:39 PM, Blogger Patrushka said...

He he he he! Thank you for this, JordAN. Yes, genders. You don't have any (for things), we have two and Germans have 3. While learning German I understood your difficulty. A young lady, in German, is "neutrum" --> "Das M├Ądchen". And that probably sounds to me as crazy as it is for you that a table, a glass, etc. have a gender.

But, as my friend Ferdinand said in 1921: Language is arbitrary, a code of signs. And language make humans, not the other way.
If your language has genders for things, your mind puts those things into your "gendered brain boxes". If not, you can't even imagine a feminine table.

And also Ferdinand said that language is a group of signs and if one sign disappears, the others have to take its place, then causing a "movement" in meaning.

One example: "if it were..." and "if it was". The was that is taking place in were's is another tense and all but it's becoming its substitute. Now, the question: is subjunctive dissappearing or is 'was' becoming subjunctive now?

Anyway... it's a lot of fun.

And, amazing, Spanish speakers are slowly but steadily leaving subjunctive aside. And for us it's not only 2 words to exchange, there are many differences in both.

Anyway... yes, I'm mad today.



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