Hurricanes, and Language Without Politics

Well, I don’t know about you, but with a monster hurricane blowing the through the Caribbean only a week or so after Houston got flooded, with reports last night of a big earthquake in Mexico, and with nuclear sabres rattling around, I having trouble focussing on politics, and so I won’t today.

If you’re even close to the threatened zone from Irma you should probably take the Unit’s advice, after all, he’s lived his life down that away. He’s said this last night.

For anyone following Irma, Mark Sudduth out of North Carolina does about the best job of explaining what to expect from her. I think this link will take one to his site.

Hunker down, guys!

Other than that Bookworm found something interesting.

The English we hear when watching a Shakespeare play is not how Shakespeare spoke. Watch this video and be amazed how familiar he would have sounded.

One of the fascinating things linguists do is trace accents back through history to try to find the “root” accent. I’ve long known that people in Appalachia, Australia, and New Zealand probably speak an English closer to 16th-18th century English than any other English speakers in the world. That’s because they left England during those eras and, being sparsely populated and without a lot of population movement, preserved the English that they brought with them from the “Mother Country.”

Knowing that, though, and actually hearing it are two different things. Here is a short, delightful disquisition about Shakespeare’s English versus the modern “received” version. Incidentally, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find the Shakespearean version easier to understand. Perhaps that’s because I have an American ear for language:

She’s right, I did too. Was that true for you as well? But the English language tells of the journey our people have made, all the way from the island of Frisia, around the world and to the moon. It’s part of us, and it’s become part of all those who have dealt with us, and they too are represented in our language. It’s part of our history of where we’ve been, from the sagamen of the Saxons to the A-OK of the astronauts and well beyond.

And one for us Americans

She does a superb Minnesotan! 🙂

And on if you, like me, struggle to figure out what the natives are talking about in Britain. 🙂

And this might be useful when they tell you to sod off cause you speak better English than they do.

In any case, enjoy the day.



Toffee-Nosed Snobs and Colonial Wogs

FVhF8GUWe’re going to lighten up considerably today, although I do have a point. Toby Young had an article in the Telegraph yesterday. It was in the world news section although it would have fit better in the comic blogs section. Here’s a bit

I sympathise with the people of Birmingham. It must be galling to discover that so little is known about your hometown in America that a “terrorism expert” can appear on national television and describe it as a “totally Muslim” city where “non-Muslims simply don’t go”. That claim was made on Sunday on Fox News by Steve Emerson, self-proclaimed terrorism expert and founder of The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

But Brummies can take some comfort from the fact that at least Emerson had heard of their city and knew it was in England. My wife, who lived in New York for a year in her twenties, got a blank look when she told the man running the boxing class at her gym that she was from London. “Is that in Australia?” he asked.

British visitors to America often report how shocked they are to discover how little is known about their country. It’s not that Americans get their facts wrong, although they often do (more about that later). It’s that they rarely think about Britain at all. For the vast majority of Americans, we’re simply not on their radar.

What do Americans really think it’s like in Britain? – Telegraph.

Well, yeah, it was a pretty stupid comment, and I noticed my British friends on Twitter were having a grand old time, mocking Fox News. Of course, we could likely do the same daily to the Beeb, if they weren’t so afraid of letting us see their work.

And in truth, I know many Americans who completely avoid our cities as well, for much the same reason. In fact,  I tend that way myself, if you don’t know the territory, you can get in trouble pretty fast.

The real problem with his article wasn’t the facts, it was the tone. And it was noticed, by me and by Fr. Dwight Longenecker as well. Here’s some of his response:

[…]Notice the way he drops into the conversation that he was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard….the English snobs just LOVE name dropping. They have this expert way of bragging by assuming that you are in the same social class as they are.

My wife, who is from Sussex in the Southeastern part of England, went to an ordinary state school. She once met one of these folks who the English called “toffee nosed”. The girl had gone to one of the most prestigious private schools in the county of Sussex called Roedean. When she met my wife and learned that she was from Sussex she feigned delight and said, “Roedean?” To really get what was going on you have to understand that the toffee nosed gal knew very well that Alison had not gone to Roedean, and by that one word she asserted her social superiority, rudely put Alison in her place and (this is the real killer) considered herself wonderful for doing so.

When I lived in the damp lands I was always tickled by the way the middle and upper class English would use Americans as their favorite racial minority. For them all Americans went around England on big tour buses. They were all in their fifties and named Fred and Doris. The men chomped on cigars, had big cameras slung around their neck and wore plaid bermuda shorts. The women all had a big boobs, big butt, big jewelry and big hair. They laughed at the Americans stepping off the bus in Parliament Square yelling, “Get the camera Sidney! We’re in Paris France!”

It’s certainly true that many Americans are ignorant, but at least for the most part they are cheerfully so.

I used to point out to the English who were laughing at American tourist stereotypes that perhaps they thought this sort of American was typical because they were the ones who stood out. “It might be,” I opined, “that there are many sensible, intelligent, educated and really quite nice Americans who are also here in your country, but because they are ordinary and the fit in you don’t see them.”

Once I got them going I’d push the envelope, asking if they had, perchance, had any experience of the English tourist abroad. In fact the British in the resorts of Greece and Spain are notorious for their drunkenness, lewd behavior, brawling in the streets, vomiting and copulating in doorways. Then I’d remind them of the scourge of the English football hooligans. If the English team was playing anywhere in Europe the other country would board up their shops, close their bars and have the riot police standing ready. “At least fat American tourists from Long Island or Miami are polite and cheerful even if they’re sometimes a bit stupid. The English abroad combined stupidity and ignorance with drunken rioting in the streets of the country their visiting.

English Snobs and Yobs

And that’s how it struck me as well. It also struck me that if Mr. Young had ever crossed the Hudson or better yet, the Appalachian Mountains, he might have found the real America, where we might not be current on the racial structure of Birmingham (England, not Alabama) but we damned well recognize our relationship with our cousins. And we are damned glad they are there.

So it’s a tempest in a tea err coffeepot.

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