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Posts Tagged ‘language’

I was watching Spelling Champs on ESPN yesterday. As I was watching the Indian version of the Spelling Bee, one thing occurred to me. Actually two things. One, and that of philosophical, perhaps even ontogenetic  importance, just how bored does one have to be to watch that?

Yesterday was one of my busiest days and yet I managed to finished everything and still catch Spelling Champs. Contrast that with days when I only have to buy potatoes before the cook comes in and yet, I manage to mess that up. Has to be some sort of Murphy’s Law of Useless Pursuits or something.

The other thing that occurred to me was, boy, those kids are bright! Cochleae, Gingivitis, Acciaccatura, no matter what you throw at them, they get it right. And I need my computer to spell occasion and convenient! I used to be good at spelling but Word has made me lazy. Besides, I figure, who uses words like derailleur (French origin: mechanism for changing gears) and piccalilli (A kind of pickle)?

The only mistakes the kids made were because of poor pronunciation by the host, Rajat Kapoor. Man, they need a better host than him. The poor kids had to periodically keep looking at the ‘experts’ for verification. The experts being some gora named Andrew and one BBCD (as in the European counterpart of ABCD), Rana.

However, those kids need some serious phonetics lessons. All of them pronounced H as etch. All of them! The only exceptions being two south Indian kids who pronounced it as hetch. People, it is pronounced aitch.

On an aside, I found this joke and it’s hilarious. Like, seriously funny.

Welcome to the Psychiatric Hotline;

If you are obsessive-compulsive, please press 1 repeatedly.
If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2.
If you have multiple personalities, please press 3, 4, 5, and 6.
If you are paranoid-delusional, we know who you are and what you want. Just stay on the line so we can trace the call.
If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell you which number to press.
If you are depressed, it doesn’t matter which number you press. No one will answer.
If you are delusional and occasionally hallucinate, please be aware that the thing you are holding on the side of your head is alive and about to bite off your ear.

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“The Chinese are a communal people,” someone said to me the other day in context of the Beijing Olympics.

I was confused. Communal? Had I missed something about a religious genocide perpretrated by China? So I clarified, “Surely you mean communist? They are communists.”  

This person waves his hand dismissively. “Communal, communist, same thing. You know what I mean.”

“I didn’t. And that’s why I had to clarify,” I replied.

“You writers are all the same. Nitpicking on words, on grammar.”

That got my goat for two reasons. One, that people are too lazy to learn to communicate well and when rebuked, gently mind you, assume an air of disdain and exclaim writers! Good, effective communication is the not the sole purview of writers. And two, I DO NOT NITPICK. But that’s beside the point.

But taking up the first grouse, I wonder why people think language is not important. Even in school, which were the courses that were considered important for our future and which were the ones that were considered irksome?

Remember the groaning “Oh God, why I have to study English?” Sure, we all groaned the same way about math and science also. But there was a difference. There we meant “Oh God! I’m not prepared enough.” Or “Omigod! I’m going to fail and the spend the rest of my life as an auto mechanic,” whereas in the case of language we meant, “Oh God, why do I have to waste my time studying active and passive verbs when I could be studying math and avoiding that very future?”

Language falls under the purview of art. And you know what the popular perception about art is. It’s good if you have a talent for it but not the end of the world if you don’t.

I say, the exact converse is true. When I was in college pursuing a graduate degree in economics, one of our teachers told us, “Learn language first. If you are not articulate, you can be the best economist but it won’t matter because you will not be able to put your ideas across.”

A word of advice I’ve never forgotten.

Here’s an interesting article I came across on the subject. You might want to give it a peek.

PS: I don’t agree with arts not being important either. Sure science and math are the building blocks of a hunger-free, disease-free world. But what good is a developed, modern world if there is no music, no theatre, no literature to beautify it?

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