Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Let's Study English Using Our Respective Idiolects

The above is a title of a "teach yourself English" type of book I found once at a bookstore here. I was rather bothered by this title: first, it's not exactly the catchiest of phrases, and one rather wonders what less-than-savvy marketer let it get past (I mean, it's not as if LSEUORI even makes a memorable acronym!), and second, do we really want everyone studying English using their respective idiolects? I think not. What would English be like if we just, willy-nilly, continued to let me egregiously mispronounce "caricature"? What if no one stopped Alea from misinterpreting basic English syntax? Just imagine the chaos!

In any case, I've seen plenty of examples of English around here that put the "idio" in "idiolect." This is to be expected in a non English-speaking country; Egypt had some great examples, such as my personal favorite, a T-shirt that read "I'M NOT GOING TO PROCLAIM VICTORY OVER THE GREAT SATA SIMLPLY BECAUSE MY GEEK CORPS MANAGED TO MADOC THE NASDAQ SYSTEM." (Yes, those capital letters were on the T-shirt.) So far I've been amused by such gems as misspelled dirty words on supposed "hardcore" T-shirts and bumper stickers, strange phrases on notebooks ("I Love Pig"), and trendy little teen lit novels called "I'm Not Bitch!" and "Vagina's Dilemma." (This last, upon further investigation, turned out to be a nickname for the novel's heroine, Varah Ghita Nabila.)

Yesterday, though, took the cake (so far). Wednesday is my day off, and yesterday I spent it lazing about the house of an Indonesian friend. She picked me up early in the morning and drove me to her house, where we then chatted, ate food, watched her young nephew run crazily around the house, ate some more food, and...well, you get the picture. To combat the real heat of the day, we spread pillows on the floor and collapsed to watch a movie. The film du jour, apparently, was a pirated version of "The Da Vinci Code," with a dark, fuzzy picture, poor quality sound, and terrible English subtitles. I couldn't really understand what the characters were saying, and couldn't even rely on the subtitles to fill me in. They included such dubious renderings as "shoot go!" for "fire away" and "so correct your liver" for "your heart is true," and, even more bizarrely, "I in shoot, and I is soybean cake bleed" for "I have been shot, and I am bleeding." I don't know what English word sounded like "soybean cake" to that poor subtitler, but I have to admit it certainly spiced up the film.

(I'm sorry, Ron Howard, but that's a sad commentary on your film. Not even Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, and Paul Bettany, some of my favorites, could salvage it. I think you would have been better off just sticking with "And now the story of a mysterious family that lost everything, and the one professor that had no choice but to put it all soybean cake together.*")

*Props, as always, to Misaneroth.


Tolkien Boy said...

I am currently disgracing myself by laughing in the incredibly ornate University of Washington library.

And sucks to Ron Howard. Sucks to him.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful nickname! I'll have to think about changing my blogonym.



Anonymous said...

(Actually, the truth is that I don't like to even say that word.)

Petra said...

Dear Master Fob,

Your mom doesn't like to say that word.