Everybody’s Talking …

English is a wonderful language.  It can be as precise as a surgeon’s scalpel or as broad as a two-handed claymore.  It can describe anything or leave everything to your imagination.  In fact, English is so kickass we can say things without ever actually even saying them!  For example, when your wife/girlfriend says, “Are you going to wear that?” you know she’s really saying, “There is no way in Hell you’re leaving this house dressed like that.”  It’s a beautiful bit of linguistic gymnastics that people use all the time.  Here are a few more examples.  (With translations.)

“Sorry I’m late.”
Translation — I hate these morning meeting, I hate this job and I hate you.  The only reason I even dragged my sorry ass out of bed is I’ve got a car payment and a massive student loan hanging over my head.

“I know I’m only going to be gone for a couple of days, but I’m really going to miss you.”
Translation — Any chance of having sex before I leave?

“No offence …”
Translation — I’m going to offend you.

“… no offence.”
Translation — I’m covering my ass just in case I’ve already offended you.

“I’m vegan.”
Translation — I want to talk about me.

“I don’t judge.”
Translation — What you just told me is totally weird, and it caught me completely off guard.  So, rather than saying something unfortunate and sounding like an insensitive jerk, I’m going to shut up now and hope you change the subject.

“Do you need any help?”
Translation — Please, please, please, please, for the love of God, please– say no.

“Do these jeans make me look fat?”
Translation — I’ve spent all day dealing with perky salesgirls, women’s sizes are works of fiction, nobody has any decent colours and my bra is cutting me in half.  The least you could do is take 5 seconds and tell me I’m sexy.

“It’s really not that bad.”
Translation – Wow!  Are you ever screwed!

“That’s okay: I’m a good listener.”
Translation — This is the longest sob story in history.  Now I know how Mandela felt.

“My children are my whole life.”
Translation — Five minutes!  All I want is five minutes.  I haven’t even gone to the toilet in peace in 2 years.  Five minutes!  Is that too much to ask?

“I’ll remember that.”
Translation — I’m too busy/lazy to write this down, and I’m going to kick myself in a couple of days.

“We’ve put together a pretty solid financial plan that will get us out of debt in a couple of years.”
Translation — The grandparents haven’t died yet.

“Have you lost weight?”
Translation — Call me scum, but I’m so glad you’re fatter than I am.

“I’m a people person.”
Translation — I don’t have any marketable skills.

And finally one of the most common ones:

“We need to get together/do lunch/go for drinks, soon/more often/sometime in the vague future.”
Translation — We’re connected by circumstances and you seem like a nice person, so let’s play pretend for a few minutes — until we can go back to our real lives.

Definitions For Our Time!

Aside from fire and Velcro, language is the most useful tool humans have ever produced.  Once we went beyond grunting and growling, we were able to communicate complex ideas with a precision that made us the dominant species on this planet.  Unfortunately, these days we’re not playing nice with our words, and they’re losing their effectiveness.  We’ve taken to manipulating the language to try and give words extra meaning that they don’t deserve – and it’s failing miserably.  Here are a few contemporary words (we’ve all heard thousands of times – a day) that are supposed to carry a connotative punch – but they don’t – because we all know what they really mean.

1 — White Privilege – A bunch of privileged white people calling other white people “privileged” as if they did it on purpose just to be assholes.

2 — Twitter – A virtual stick that we beat people with until they agree not to disagree.

3 — Instagram – An historical record of just how culturally shallow we are in the 21st century.

4 – Facebook – Instagram for old people.

5 — Woke – “I live on a higher plane of consciousness than you do.”

6 — Virtue Signaling – This is how you know I live on a higher plane of consciousness than you do.

7 — Hate – Criticism you don’t like. “She said these jeans make me look fat.  She’s always been a hater!”

8 — Support – Criticism you do like.  “She said these jeans made me look curvy.  She’s always been supportive!”

9 — Brave – We’ve been using this word for everything from telling our daughters we’re gay to wearing pink chiffon, yoga pants and a hoodie.  Essentially, we’ve devalued the currency of this term so completely nobody even hears it anymore. (Remember what happened to “hero”?)

10 — Clicktivist – There is no IRL equivalent to this made-up cyberword.  The closest I can find is smug.

11 — Gluten Free – What we’ve been doing to safeguard our health — instead of finding a cure for cancer.

12 — Content Warning – The latest lame-ass attempt to keep the cybermob quiet.  We use it because — in the great tennis match between the eagerly offended and the immediately placated — the offended crowd upped the ante and declared that “trigger warning” itself was actually a trigger.  Go figure!

13 — Conversation – As in “We need to have a conversation about that.”  And it means: I’ll do the talking, and if you don’t shut up and agree, I’ll go Twitter (see Item #2) on your ass.  Not to be confused with “dialogue” which is too yesterday to be taken seriously.

14 — Issues – Problems that can’t possibly be solved.  A handy way to maintain perpetual victim status.

15 – Giving Back – The stuff rich people do when they are a) “woke” (see item #5) b) “virtue signaling (see item #6) and c) have some time on their hands.

16 – Awareness – Wasting time stating the obvious.  Does anybody know anybody who isn’t aware of inequality?

17 — Authentic – Social media sincerity that takes a ton of careful planning.

18 — Shaming – No, I’m not going to go there.

19 – Toxic – I don’t like this, and I’ve decided that nobody else should like it either.

And finally the one that demonstrates just exactly how easily the language can be manipulated:

20 – ‘Splaining – Add any prefix you want (man, age, size, eco, etc.) and you can get pissed off about it.

The Prankster And The Plural

english

Ever since I learned to read, English has been my renegade lover.  She is a rapiered pirate with a pistol in her belt and a stiletto on her sleeve.  She moves like a tango, cool-eyed and serious — the scent of the Trade Winds tangled in her hair and the salt of the sea still lingers on her lips.  But when she speaks you must listen carefully – her words are full of wit and unexpected – because she is a prankster, a trickster, a conjurer of jests that make her giggle and clap and crinkle her eyes.

“Would you like some more?” she says, the temptress not even hidden in her voice.
“It’s very easy,” she says, sly as the fox.
“All you have to do,” she says, looking away, “Is add an ‘S’ and you will have two, four, ten, even a thousand — if you like.”

And then you try it, and she has you trapped because it’s her game and she made the rules.

We all know the plural of house is houses, but what about mouse — cuz the plural ain’t mouses.  It’s mice, like lice is the plural of louse.  And it works the same way with a word such as noose.  Though the plural is nooses, you can’t do that with tooth, cuz more than one tooth is never called toothes. They’re teeth just like geese is the plural of goose.  Then it all goes to hell when there’s more than one moose!

But let’s get serious.  No, moose doesn’t get a plural.  Why?  Who knows?  But they’re like several other animals – sheep, swine, deer, bison, shrimp, etc.  One sheep, two sheep, ‘nother sheep, ‘nother sheep; it just doesn’t change.  It’s as if these particular animals were bad or something.  My theory is they pissed Noah off when they were late for the Ark, and he lobbed off their ‘S’ as punishment.  Either way, it’s clear: the “add an ‘S’ rule” doesn’t always work.  Especially since some singular words sound like plurals right from the beginning, and nobody bats an eye.  Look at scissors, pliers and binoculars.  They all get the extra ‘S’ before they even need it.  And some of those singular plurals start off as pairs.  Not like a pair of socks (which is two) but like a pair of pants — which is only one.  And I’m not even going to speculate how we arrived at a pair of pajamas.

Then there are other badass words that don’t care if they’re singular or not.  They just use the plural and strut around like a bunch of linguistic anarchists — words like criteria, media, data and our old favourite, graffiti.  This crew has been wrong for so long everybody thinks they’re right.

Plus there are some pretentious words that don’t bother with the ‘S’ and choose to use an ‘I’ instead because – OOWW! — they’re from the Latin, dontcha know!  These are words like fungus and focus and octopus and cactus.  Personally, I avoid these words because anyone who drops “foci” or “cacti” into a conversation might as well wear a sign that says “Pompous Ass.”  FYI: for all the other pompous asses in the neighbourhood, the plural of hippopotamus is NOT hippopotamiHippopotamus is a Greek word, so the Latin rules don’t apply.  On the other hand, the octopus (also a Greek word) is a smart little cephalopod and snuck into the Latin section when no one was looking.

And from here it just goes nuts.  It’s as if the English language got totally wasted one night on Jamaican rum and was dancing around, naming things.  The plural of dice is die.  The plural of thief is thieves.  The plural of aircraft is – heh, heh, heh – you don’t get one.  More than one child is children — figure that one out – although it happens again with ox and oxenMan becomes men and women don’t get a choice.  Then, just as she collapses on the sofa, laughing, she says, “Oh yeah!  And the plural of person is people.”

So, if you’re studying English as a second language and she’s sitting slumped in a chair with her boots on the table, cleaning her fingernails with a dagger — just do as you’re told!  It’s easier that way.