Learning English — Good Luck!

Several years ago I spent some time in Italy and when I got back to North America I was hit with a bad case of reverse culture shock.  North American streets were too wide, too clean and too new.  The food was too much and too fast.  And the language was too quick and colloquial.  After hearing a lot of English spoken as a second language, I realized that it’s a damn good thing I was born with English because there’s no way I could ever learn its nuances second hand.  And honestly, I applaud anybody who can, because they’re tons smarter than I’ll ever be.

Check it out:

In English, we “take” things.  I think it comes from our marauding imperious past.
We “take” a bus.
We “take” a taxi.
And we “take” the train.
Of course, we give them back when we’re done with them, but there are other things we “take” and just devour, like:
We “take” a look.
We “take” a vacation.
We “take” a nap.

However, we can’t simply “take” everything in life because (thank God) a lot of stuff we just “get” like some kind of all-inclusive gift package.
We “get” an education.
We “get” a job.
We “get” married.
But when we “get” married we don’t automatically “get” children.  They’re not a gift.  We “have” children.  It’s as if they were some pre-ordained possession, like:
“having” friends,
or “having” an attitude,
or “having” dinner.

Unfortunately, once again though, we can’t just “have” everything.  Sometimes, we must become active participants and “make” it first.  For example, unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you need to “make” dinner before you can “have” dinner.  It’s a curious thought, but we “make” all kinds of things.
We “make” mistakes (by screwing up.)
We “make” progress (by not screwing up.)
We “make” money (although, strictly speaking, that’s illegal: we should “earn” it — like trust or good credit.)
And we also “make” love.
Although this is actually changing and most people don’t “make” love anymore, they just “have” sex and if that doesn’t say a bunch about contemporary society’s willingness to active participate in romance, I don’t know what does.

And now that you’re hopelessly confused, there’s the other side of the coin.  Not only do we “take,” “get,” “have” and “make,” we can also “lose” things.
We “lose” our keys.
We “lose” our patience.
We “lose” our tempers.
These are all things we can find again if we try hard enough.  However, there are other things that we can never get back.  Sometimes, when we “lose” our temper, we “get” into an argument, and if we “lose” that — well — it’s gone forever.  Kinda like “losing” your virginity — which, as we all know, can only happen if we “make” love, “have” sex or get “wasted at a sophomore kegger” — a phrase that’s impossible to translate into any other language — although most people understand the reference.

So to all those people who endured my terrible Spantalian (Spanish/Italian) and spoke to me in my language because I couldn’t really speak to them in theirs: I’m still in awe at your linguistic skill because — take it from a native speaker — the intricacies of English must be a bitch to learn.

A Different Dictionary

English is a wonderful language.  It works like a river, flowing along, constantly changing and always finding its own level.  Words appear and disappear.  Definitions change.  Meanings mutate.  And, yet, we all kinda understand each other.  To that end, here are a few definitions that might not appear in any dictionary, but I’m sure you’ll recognize them, all the same.

Tomorrow – A place where all human activity and productivity is stored.

Calories – Nasty little creatures who live in your closet and eat the sizes off your clothes.

Avoidance Behaviour – The somewhat boring stuff we do when we have more important boring stuff to do.

Internet – An essential tool of avoidance behaviour.

Pockets – Those things that fashion designers have been denying women for centuries.

Leftovers – Food that lives in the refrigerator for a while – before you throw it out.

Selfies – Photographs of people who have no friends.

Full-length Mirror – A rather useful item when you have clothes on that turns remarkably evil when you’re naked.

Shower – A place to hold imaginary arguments and sing songs that were popular when you were a teenager.

Bae – A stupid, made-up, millennial word that doesn’t mean anything.

Wikipedia – The arbitrator of all arguments.

Exercise – Sometimes pronounced “extra fries,” depending on your self-esteem that day.

Man Bun – A one-size-fits-all way to look ridiculous.

Junk Food – Stuff that everybody eats but nobody admits it.

4 In The Morning – An elusive place where the truth lives.

Twitter – An alternative reality where miserable people go to be angry.

Family – People who know too much about you to be your friends.

Lottery Tickets – A tax on people who can’t do math.

YouTube – Moving pictures that eat time.

And my favourite:

Vegans – People who announce the menu when nobody’s even thinking about food.

I Have A Lover

I love language, and because English is the lover I grew up with, I love her best.  She’s subtle and sensible in slingback Louboutins and knee-torn Levis.  She can dance all night, gliding like a princess or grinding the stage burlesque or rustling between the trees like a black wind witch.  Because she is a witch — with conjures that — in magic — change her words to whatever she wants, whenever she wants them.  Yet she prefers straight talk — prepositions and modifiers that let you know exactly where and what and when — even if it isn’t now.

And my lover is a thief, stealing without remorse.  A freebooting pirate who, with cutlass in hand, takes the words she needs — and more — just because she can, gloried by the theft.

She’s an inventor.  Eagerly seduced, she will abandon herself to satisfy whatever necessity desires.

She is a mechanical engineer who fits strange words together with invisible nano-weld precision, producing new tools that exactly fit their employment.

But she’s also a glutton who dines at her sisters’ banquets, selecting the most delicate morsels to claim as her own, licking the tips of her fingers and never tiring of the feast.

Yet my lover remains lean and strong, hunting with the predators, hair flying, howling with the chase, sure-footed and agile.  

And she can be angry, too.  Her voice as fierce as cracked open thunder, her eyes black with homicide.

But she is always a flirt, tempting, enticing, inviting the wanton need to touch and hold and caress the words she speaks.

And she is always beautiful: sometimes drowsy as the sleeping mists of fog on the dawn forest floor; sometimes sad as a puppy’s tears, sometimes quiet as a spider’s abandoned threads and sometimes gauze angel white in the shimmering starlight.

But mostly, my lover loves me.  She laughs and sings and listens.  She speaks only truth (and the occasional lie.)  She stays with me even when I’m foul with blank page fury.  And when I have no words for her – when I’m on the edge of the wilderness, lost and alone, it is she who comes and finds me, and she takes my hand and whispers, “Let’s go home.”