Living Language

A friend recently wrote that the day was “dank.” The kind of day she liked, good for thinking. But what is the definition of dank?

Webster’s Dictionary:

dank

Adjective, | dæŋk

Definition of DANK

:unpleasantly cool and humid

a dank cellar

dank rain forests

 

Urban Dictionary:

dank

an expression frequently used by stoners and hippies for something of high quality.

That borritos was dank, man.
or… That borritos was the dankness

 

As with so many words, usage changes meaning.

  • “Gay” used to mean happy. I have a cousin named Gay. Imagine how calling out to her now would sound to others.
  • “Fag” was a cigarette.
  • “Friend” and “pirate” were nouns.
  • “Tweet” was a sound birds made.
  • “Cloud” was condensed vapor up in the sky.
  • “I hear ya” used to mean I heard you, now it’s an expression of empathy

And new words constantly add themselves to our language: twerk, memes … and eventually many of them are listed in official dictionaries.

Perhaps, though, it is hyperbole that is the most disconcerting. We so often hear, especially from sports announcers it seems, “He gave 110% in that game.” No, he didn’t. What you saw was his 100%. To give more would not be humanly possible.

Our language will continue to grow and transform. Meanwhile communicating without insulting someone or saying something ridiculous can be like crossing a minefield. So tread carefully.

 

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Emoji Expansion Speeds Up Demise of the English Languag

emojis

 

From: Brian Feinblum – http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.ca/

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We already know, thanks to the Internet, email, and social media that our language is becoming bastardized.  Technology has not aided the preservation of the English language, even if it’s greatly increased the amount of communication that transpires over the digital transom.  We now have sunk even lower with the expansion of emojis.

There’s even an official body to oversee the modern-day hieroglyphics, The Unicode Consortium.  They will unveil the 72 new symbols in June.  Six dozen more images will come to express emotions, gestures, sports, foods, animals and other things that we used to apply the task of having real words label or describe.

Will we turn into the Chinese, using hundreds of characters to convey a thought, its meaning dependent on just slight inflections of the voice or a juxtaposition on paper?

I don’t like where this is going.  I get the happy face, sad face imagery.  It’s pretty clear cut what they mean.  The rest is all bullshit.  Why must we continue to make up words that formulate Netspeak?  Why must we remove grammar and proper spelling just because the communication is texted?  Why do we shorten words, reducing some to one letter?  R U following me?  Thnx.

The emojis, if we keep expanding the roster into the hundreds or thousands, could threaten our digital communications to the point we will defeat the purpose of correspondence, which is to actually understand each other.

Emojis make us lazy and continued mass-scale use will leave people with weakened writing skills. Our vocabularies will suffer.  As we fail to communicate in detail, tone and depth – with emojis and not words – we make our world seem smaller, if not simpler.  Emojis lack texture, context, and description. Sure a picture is worth a thousand words, but emojis can’t accurately reflect nor inspire deep thoughts, raw feelings, nor reflect well-developed ideas.

Emojis are nothing more than the graffiti of today’s tech-savvy but relationship-deficient generation.  Do I heart emojiis?  Do they make me smile or frown? They leave me feeling crappy.  Oh, wait there’s an emoji for that.  Here you go – see, I wasted words trying to tell you how I feel when I could’ve just clicked on this singular image.  Maybe I’m the deficient one.  Sorry, no emoji to represent that concept or state of being.  Not yet, anyway.

We’re in the ugly era of OMG, LMAO, and TMI.  If you don’t know what those mean, you are screwed.  But the truth is, we’re all going to pay a heavy price if we keep replacing the English language with abbreviations, images and net slang.

It was announced recently that someone had transcribed the Bible into a version that is filled only with emojis.  Yes, a whole book, one that is challenging enough to live by, let alone understand and interpret, is now in full emoji form. Will this be repeated for other classics?  Instead of “reading Shakespeare” we will piece his works together as if we’re playing Pictionary.

Maybe we’ll save money on the education system and just have all of the classes removed that teach language, vocabulary or reading. We can replace them with a robot-led tutorial on the use of emojis.

 

Ugly Tourists

tourists

WE’VE ALL ENCOUNTERED THEM, the tourists who don’t speak the language and keep repeating themselves at ever increasing volume when the waiter or clerk doesn’t understand. We’ve seen these tourists try speaking slower, enunciating every word and then turn to their companions and complain about the stupidity of the waiter before they yell, “Checko!”

Then there are the ones who don’t try to communicate verbally. Instead they pick up their empty coffee mug, rap the bus boy on the arm with it and hold it up for a fill. Yep that’s the way to make yourself look good.

Tourists are obnoxious in other surprising ways. We arrive at our place in Mexico and begin setting up for the winter which entails many repairs (tropical climates are harsh in their own way), and setting up the satellite, etc. In the process we discover that our Internet isn’t working properly.

Our caretaker/manager tells us that last year a guy staying next door told her that the owners of the house were friends of ours and that we said he could hook into our wi-fi, which he did because our caretaker took him at his word. When my husband saw the man, he set him straight and asked, “Would you do that in Canada?” to which, he answered no? So what is it about being away from home that gives some people permission to cross lines?

Ostensibly, we travel for new experiences, so what’s with the tourists who arrive at their destination and complain bitterly. “The Internet connection is sporadic.” “The Internet connection is slow.” “The …” Lady, did you ever think you’re lucky to have the Internet connection in a country that has much bigger concerns for its citizens. If you want everything to be as it is at home, stay home.

But, wait, there’s worse to come.

While we were in the fruiteria an old male tourist came in asking for snow peas. He waved a scrap of paper that had something written on it at the young lady behind the counter. Not surprisingly, she looked puzzled as I could see the words made no sense in Spanish or English.

When that didn’t work, he made crude gestures of peeing to try to get his message across. What would make him think that the words peas (chícharos) and pee (pis) would be the same in Spanish? And what would make him think his gestures would be acceptable here anymore than at home?

I was furious that he would be so crude with the two young girls working in the store and let him know exactly what I thought of his behavior. I didn’t want to let him get away with it and I wanted the girls to know that I, for one, would defend them.

This particular episode got me to thinking of the times I had witnessed the ugly tourist and hadn’t spoken up. I won’t make that mistake again.

 

 

A young girl goes to the “dark continent”

  Cowboy's lasso

Many years ago a young girl left the safety of Canada for adventure in Africa. This was in a generation when young girls didn’t go anywhere on their own and certainly not to the “dark continent.”

I was that young girl and going to Mali demanded that I adapt to:

  • A different climate. I exchanged the snowy cold of Alberta winters for the arid Harmattan winds of the Sahara. I certainly wasn’t prepared for the force of the heat that pressed on me as I stepped off the airplane. Over the days and weeks that followed I learned how the heat saps your energy until you feel that you can barely drag yourself around. A person who shall remain nameless said that the Africans were lazy. This person lived in an air- conditioned house, drove an air-conditioned car, and worked in an air-conditioned office.
  • A different culture. I very quickly packed away my mini-skirts and wore a pagne, the rectangle of cloth that women wrapped around themselves to be a skirt. I hired a house-boy – sounds degrading, but the $8 a month I paid him supported a family of seven. (My salary was about $140 a month and that was ample to live on.) I learned the proper greetings that came before any exchange whether it be buying a stamp or fruit at the market. I learned to bargain. The list goes on.
  • A different language. I spoke French, but not fluently so I had to work at perfecting that. I also tried to learn a little Bambara, the most common local language. My students put me to shame. They could speak four or five local languages, had learned French (the official language of the country), and were studying English (I was their teacher) and German in school.

But above all, I had to adapt to time travel, for most Malians lived the way they always had. Modern conveniences consisted of basic items such as kerosene lanterns and little else.

I brought home with me a love for Mali, the Sahara, and Malians that burns as brightly now as it did then.

It was the plight of Malians that inspired my novel series. Since I couldn’t wave a magic wand to make life better in Mali, I chose to do that fictitiously. I wrote my books to entertain, but also with the hope that readers would see the world in a broader perspective. I hope that doesn’t make my books sound preachy, because they’re not intended to be, but I don’t think I could have written them in any other way given my experiences in Mali. The wide warm smiles of Malians stay with me always. I hope that warmth and positive outlook is conveyed in my stories.

Travel Tips

Take sunscreen. Don’t forget your toothbrush. Have you got your passport? Inoculations are in order if you want to visit country x or y or z.

Don’t get me wrong, that’s all good advice, but travel tips never seem to tell you what you really need to know.

“La madame n’a pas était gentille?” My hostess is mystified. “I do not understand. Madame is always so very polite.”

“Well,” I say. “She pretty much ignored me when I went into her little shop. She had lovely things. I wanted to buy, but …” I shrug.

“May I ask … that is, please do not think I am rude … but, what did you say when you entered the shop?”

What did I say? My turn to be mystified. “Nothing.”

“Ah! C’est ça le problème. You must always greet the salesperson when you enter a shop. Always. To say nothing is…” She raises her hands. “And never,” she says, “touch the fruit. Just tell the owner what you want and they will pick the best ones for you.”

I laughed remembering the time we tried to buy the most delicious looking oranges I had ever seen. “For juice?” the shop attendant had asked.

“No, we want to eat them.”

“Non! Imposible!” She packed a bag of “eating” oranges for us and we forever lamented missing out on those plump oranges from Spain that made our mouths water just looking at them.

And it’s not just with words that you can inadvertently offend.

In Mali, if you gesture for someone to come over using the “waggle one finger in the air” Canadian method you have just invited the person to partake in a compromising act usually performed in a bed. The correct way to ask someone to come over is to hold your hand, palm down, and partially close your fingers into a fist in a repetitive fashion.

But an experience in Turkey was even more embarrassing. We were having a most amazing dessert in a pastry shop. I understood from the waiter’s gestures that he wanted to know if I liked it. I didn’t just like it, I loved it and I wanted to let him know. I held up my hand, forming my thumb and first finger in a circle and holding up the other three fingers. Means “A-One,” right?

Not so. Means a four letter word followed by the word “you.” Wish someone had told me that. Could have avoided getting thrown out into the street.