Monday, August 11, 2014

Minorities Make Up the Majority and Other Clarifying Statements in English



Soon, and very soon, I may not be able to communicate in English anymore because I don't understand its meaning. That's too bad, because my German stinks, I can only manage about twenty or thirty phrases in Japanese and Latin is a dead language (you should have seen how dead it was in the Latin class I taught...memorize the endings, people).

Sunday's newspaper included a headline that stated "minorities make up the majority." Really? Then the word to describe that first group of people would be m a j o r i t y, not minority. I get the implication, but are we so tied to pointing out the minorities that we make them hang on to that label when they become the majority? Aren't descriptive terms supposed to be used to accurately describe things? If not, what is the point? Just randomly say words.

I'm also getting tired of texted snark, though I do subscribe to some snark, in general. My complaint is the absence of subtlety. Snark is a face-to-face game; you need the face time to be sure of the meaning behind it. It's like the zinger spice of the conversation, and my preference is that we all do it and have fun with it. 

If you're trying to keep your whole texting shtick at a minimum wordwise, give a gal a break. Just saying "great" is not enough for me to figure out whether you are glad you picked up an extra day at work or whether you are ticked that you have to go in for an extra day. Hey, I don't know if you're salaried (great) or hourly (great). I don't know if "great" adequately describes your feeling about being on the job in general. Don't be stingy with the language, peeps.

We keep flipping on some words' meaning, never settling on a consensus. How was the concert? Choose "a" over "the" to proceed the word bomb and the meaning undergoes a drastic change.

Over the years, I picked up quite a few dear friends who speak English as a second language. It's confusing to them, too. If I'd have taken more notes from those discussions, this could be a book instead of a post. We've discussed it that much and they are uniformly disappointed in my explanations or lack there of.  

We could always turn back the clock and pick up some of the words that have fallen to the wayside in years gone by. Then I could just use the excuse that I'm a jargogled jollox. That sounds right.

16 comments:

  1. A bomb, the bomb - that made me laugh.

    I tend to have fewer issues with correctness of language than with accuracy of language, and I do think they're two different things. "Ain't" is fine as long as you use it accurately. "I ain't" is accurate. "You ain't" is not.

    I feel for ESL learners. I used to teach them, too, though it was technically EFL. English is a maddening language. Approximately 20% of words aren't pronounced the way they're spelled. That's 1 in every 5!

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  2. Allow myself to introduce..... (long, awkward pause)..... myself.
    My name is Shady Del Knight and I come in pizza and friendship.

    Hello, Cherdo! The Flipside has been berry berry good to me, my wonderful friend. I know I speak for the great silent majority of your readers when I say that it's "great" to have me back! :)

    I can hear your inner voice saying,
    "Shady's back. (insert smiley face) GREAT!"
    Or maybe it is saying,
    "Shady's back. (insert frowny face) GREAT!"

    I missed you, Cherdo. I want you to know that I cried myself to sleep every night these last three weeks. Curled up in the fetal position, I experienced profuse sweating, shaking and drooling. This morning I Googled my symptoms and, sure enough, there it was described in a recent article published in JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, a condition known as Cherdo Withdrawal. Yessum, it's a thing!

    Your German stinks? Es tut mir leid! As I told you before, I took German in high school and college but remember very little. I also remember only a few words from two years of high school Latin. Here's one word I remember. I saw many "agricolae" in my recent travels. One farmer was truly outstanding in his field! :) I stopped along the road and hollered to him, "How's the cotton pickin'?" He shouted back, "How's the cotton pickin' WHAT?" :)

    I'm glad you got all your serious topics out of the way while I was gone. :) As you can tell (I hope you can tell), I didn't lose my sense of humor. I actually dropped it in Carlsbad Cavern but groped around the dark floor until I found it. Unfortunately, it's now coated with bat guano!

    Have a wonderful day, dear friend Cherdo. Thanks again for the sweet things you and Janie wrote about me in my absence. It's great to have friends like you guys and to be appreciated and missed. (Please let me know if you received my email and understand my new normal. I will do my best to be here as often as possible for you, Janie and my other dear friends.)

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    Replies
    1. S H A D Y !!!! Oh, I could not be happier about your return! I read your private email and I appreciate the update.

      My Shady traffic had become a parking lot (visualize empty lot, solitary lamp post...a coyote howls in the distance, drowning out the sounds of my blog weepery...). Somebody sing a song!! Joni Mitchell appears out of nowhere with a guitar:

      Don't it always seem to go
      That you don't know what you've got
      Till it's gone
      They paved paradise and put up a parking lot

      Rest up, settle in and feel appreciated, Shady! You were missed by all. Glad to have you back! <3 :-) <3

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  3. English has many confusing elements. I've taught ESL students and it's always wonderful when they go a long way, despite the confusions.

    I don't understand the term "minority" if they're no longer not.

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    1. I've always had great respect for journalists - I would have thought someone would have put the hammer on "minorities are the majority." Feels transparently political.

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  4. Someone will probably criticize me for being "politically correct," but I don't think we have minorities anymore. At least being part of a minority isn't such a big deal now. Other than Sarah Palin, aren't we moving toward being one people? I suppose not, but I'd like to think so. I haven't seen the word "minority" used in quite some time.

    Love,
    Janie, who will have Joni Mitchell singing in her head all day and perhaps will sing along, out loud, until the dogs give her dirty looks

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    1. We are, and will ever be, a melting pot.

      A dirty look from a dog is the same as people-snark. Sing, away, Janie!!

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  5. English is a funny language. When you think you understand something, it changes and now does not make sense any more.

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  6. What really bothers me is that we change the dictionary when a word is misused long enough. Case in point: LITERALLY. I was arguing with someone that it isn't meant to just emphasize something. "We're literally screwed." No you AREN'T. Young people are the worst at this--and I think it's made worse by reality TV. Reality stars seem to love to misuse the word "literally." Anyway, the person on the other side of the argument with me looked the word up and what do you know?

    in a literal manner or sense; exactly.
    "the driver took it literally when asked to go straight across the traffic circle"
    (informal) used for emphasis or to express strong feeling while not being literally true.
    "I have received literally thousands of letters"

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    1. If you use it wrong for long enough...it becomes right?

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  7. My mind is more or less blown with the/a bomb. Fine line!

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  8. I took three years of french, but got tired of it so I took a year of Latin to satisfy the language credit I needed to graduate high school. I know it's dead, but it's so useful! Any european language uses it in someway. English is made up of a bit of Latin, and now I'm learning Russian. The grammar in Russian comes straight from Latin, along with quite a few words.

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    1. Latin is pretty useful; it is THE language of science and medicine and the kids always seem to do better on English vocabulary.

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo