Dialects - variations of English

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Posted by Ed Kiser on May 15, 2005 at 06:11:29 from user Kisered.

In Reply to: Re: Seed Cake posted by Peter H on May 13, 2005 at 21:49:08:

"British passion for irony and black humour" (Peter H)

These little differences make up a big part of the delights in exploring these Ransome stories. The language itself has its differences. The customs are not what I am accustomed to. The time is a period some 70 years ago, with the technology corresponding to that era. It is not that I am wanting to find any fault, as there is no fault, only those differences that make the adventure exciting. To find out about some other country, it is not enough to read a National Geographic about that land, but one must live according to that society, and become immersed in their way of doing things. Not having the opportunity to actually GO to that distant land, my visiting must be of the more vicarious sort, and that is what I get as I share in these adventures of the SA&D friends. It is with wonderment that I dig into these differences, not to fault them, but to try to understand them.

In addition to my reading of Ransome's works, I have found great delight in reading another author's writings also of that island nation. Indeed, he is a master of his language, not relying so much on those seldom used words trying to impress his readers with his own erudition, but weaving the thread with quite simple ordinary words in such a marvelous way that makes it take on a beauty quite his own. I speak here of Sir Winston Churchill and his writings. As as for that "British Passion for irony..." there comes to mind his reference to the entire Second World War, in all its horror, using a fantastic description that only an Englishman could come up with, when he called that period of history as being "the Recent Unpleasantness."

Language is a never a constant, but is continuously evolving. There is some cross-breeding from one culture to another. I am sure the presence of many soldiers from the USA being placed in England in preparation for the Normandy Invasion certain caused a great mixing of the two cultures, and indeed, a mixing of the languages, for we do not speak the same language, merely similar languages in many respects, yet in other ways, quite unique to our own way of saying things. As time goes on, these two great cultures of English speaking peoples will continue to diversify, and in time would find that we have evolved separately into a pair of unique languages. It might be a problem as to which group will insist that the language that group uses is indeed the true English Language, and I guess the English do have first bid on that name, so perhaps we here in the USA may have to come to realize that we speak a different brand, that must be called some other name, such as "'Merican." But that is for the future.

Let us enjoy these times that we speak hopefully with enough similarity to continue to understand each other, and not let little trivial differences get us all hung up. So there are differences, but hopefully not enough to completely separate us. But by attempting to understand these differences, perchance we can remain a "common people, separated only by our different languages."

There are times that language differences can be a bit scary perhaps. There was that one time that I was sent to London by IBM on business for an all too brief stay to attend a conference and deliver a presentation to IBM representatives from many European nations. Of course, I made my delivery in my own USA dialect, hoping that the others who have English not as their primary language could still understand. After the presentation, we had a Q&A session. Several stood and asked their question, to which I hopefully gave an adequate answer. Then I was faced with the representative from the UK, who stood and asked his question. I did not comprehend one single word of whatever he said. I asked if he could please repeat his question, but only heard that same strange noise that made no sense. The fellow next to him, who happened to be a German, stood and patted the UK fellow on the head, and said, in perfectly understandable ENGLISH, "What my distinguishe collegue is trying to say is..." and he translated the UK's question into English for me. Now that I was able finally to understand, but the entire group found a degree of humor in the realization that the only person I could not understand was the fellow who spoke English (his own version of course) as his primary native language. It was a bit of an embarrassment to me that I was not able to understand what he was saying, but I must say he took the resultant ribbing in all good humor, and seemed to appreciate it very well, taking no offense at this situation. It did make me wonder just how much of my presentation did he actually understand, since our own versions of English were obviously quite different.

This language difference is perhaps going to become quite apparent, as in a vew months, I have the wonderful opportunity of vicariously attending a Ransome conference in the Harwich area by means of a TV phone line hook up. I will be in South Florida watching them on a TV, and facing a camera, and they will be seeing me on their TV. The interesting part of all this is the differences in dialect again. After I make my initial presentation to them, there will be a less formal give and take conversation back and forth for a bit. I do hope they can understand me, and that I will be able to understand them, for I greatly fear that they will not have a friendly German there with them to interpret for me. Let us hope that conversation will not totally break down into a series of "What? I don't understand..." Perhaps I should do a bit of homework, and listen to my cassette tape recordings of Mr. Gabriel Woolf reading aloud many of these Ransome stories. I should practice getting my ear in tune to the way he speaks, and perhaps then, the voices I hear from that video conference will not sound so strange to me.

I still don't know if the GA's name is "MAR-EE-AH" or "MAH-RYE-UH" or just what it might be.

Mr. Woolf called a BUOY a "BOY" and that surprised me, as there for a while I though some young fellow was swimming in the tide. I would have said something more like "BOO-ey". There is that QUAY that sounded like KEY - I thought it was Kuh-WAY. There was also the surprise of the name HARWICH. I thought, looking at the spelling, that it would be HARR-WICH, but what he said sounded more like HAIR'ridch, almost as a single syllable. Of course, spelling dialects is not all that accurate, although Ransome took a shot at spelling phonetically certain dialects, as... "Girt auld hen 'at wants to be cock o' t' midden." (American translation: "The old bag wants to be the boss of everybody.")

WORE-CHESTER-SHIRE sauce, I would have said. By the time the American tongue tries to imitate the UK version of that word's pronunciation, we are apt to come up with something like "ROOSTER-SH_T" (fill in the blank - doesn't take much imagination). It does not pay to try to imitate another's accent, as it comes out rather poorly at best.

It will not do at all for me to attempt to partipate in that TV-Phone conference hook up with me speaking in what I think is a UK accent, as such would probably lead to a total lack of any communication whatsoever. Just hope they understand "'Merican".

It all comes down to the joy of truly appreciating the delights in digging through and trying to understand "ALL THINGS RANSOME." It has been a great education.

Thank you all for being such a big part of my education.

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