So much strange & crazy

One journalist's musings about the beautiful, bizarre world in which we live

Learning English

“What’s a pay rise? You mean a raise?”

I was editing my friend’s piece on striking workers who wanted more money.

She said, no. It’s a “pay rise.”

Working with people from around the globe, I’m learning a lot about the English language. I never realized (realised) how varied it is.

There’s my American friend who actually says, “You know what I’m sayin’” at the end of some sentences. I thought that only happened in South Park.

I thought my old Spanish teacher was just bitter about English people, when she said they say “Oh reeeeaallie” all the time. A good friend of mine often asks the question – and now I do, too.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of pronunciation. My Scottish friend and I had a conversation recently about how to say “due,” “dew” and “Jew.” He says them all fairly similarly – “dchew” – where as I say “doo,” “dee-oo” and “je-oo.”

With all the time I spend with my Italian colleague, I can’t help but pick up the occasional odd syntax structure, and I’ve noticed that I roll the occasional “r” in his way. (As an interesting sidenote, his first article here also had people who “opined” and “ironized” rather than just people who “said” their quotes.)

Being the only Canadian in the office most times, my “ehs” and “abouts” are met with tinkling laughs and mimics, when they’re caught.

When it comes to writing, most things are similar, but there are some differences that stand out.

Like “Feds.” I tried to put it in a headline, as I have done in Canada. Feds – like federal government representatives, right?

Nope. Feds can also mean “federal police.” I pegged my lack of that knowledge to the fact that in Canada we have the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They’re “Mounties.” Not “Feds.”

Now add Spanish to this linguistic soup, and the occasional French conversation to keep language muscles in shape.

I really can’t help feeling a little lost. I can’t even remember what my original accent was.

Perhaps it was my Bajan upbringing, where I wore rumpfled clothes and there were duppies in the closet, k’dear; where my one brother is a rasclot woe-betide-his-ass and the other was called a three-dollar-bill, cheese you.

I’m just not sure how to talk anymore.

My advancd apologies to those I first speak to upon my return. I will often end with an “Oh reeeallie!” but it’s not because I question the veracity of your story. If I wave my hands in your face, it’s not just to get your attention.

And sarry if you have to ask me to clarify which type of dchew I mean.

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3 comments on “Learning English

  1. Tony Brunjes
    April 3, 2012

    What you are witnessing is the creation of dialect. Until the advent of cheaper, faster, longer-distancing transportation, dialect was always isolated to islands and distances.

    It was said you could tell what street a person lived on in London because of their dialect.. and isolationism.

    If time is anything, it is the great leveler. Ultimately, the first to go would be dialect, just dropping it all in a melting pot and turning it into a basic communication devise. Then language differences may eventually disappear completely.

    Learn Mandarin and Hindi. Maybe even Japanese & German.. The world will be your शुक्ति ! :)

  2. CBrunjes
    April 3, 2012

    I love it ;) I couldn’t stop laughing. You did miss the gypsy part in the bajan talking.. that’s the most important one. ;)

    • allendria
      April 3, 2012

      And that funny, “phfeeeww” noise. You know the one I mean.

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This entry was posted on April 2, 2012 by in Journalist Diary and tagged , , , .
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