A and Lot are two separate words that many a times are put together like conjoined twins. One might write something like, “I get bored alot”. This is the time a reader might actually picture the person having a conversation with his pet ‘Alot’. I bet people really love their Alots and talking to them. Sometimes I read things like, ” Nowadays it snows alot” or ” I am angry alot” then that Alot better run because angry people are unpredictable. What surprises us readers is that it is normally a one sided conversation. The writer never informs us of the alot’s response to these declarations. On the other hand maybe the reader is supposed to deduce that alot are two separate words, ‘a lot’.
“How was it?,” I would ask my daughter whenever she came from somewhere, she would answer ” It was super cool!”. She would say things like,” My teacher today was super annoyed…” and I would try to imagine all these ‘supers’ describing different words daily. It seems when one uses the word to describe everything, we just deal with extremities nothing in between. Another word she likes using is ‘a bunch’, like ” We had a bunch of fun.” Then I would just picture these little tied up bundles of fun all heaped up into a huge pile, where they would all be rolling having ‘super’ fun.
Kenya has 47 languages of these, English is the official language of business and Swahili is the national language. I guess in this case national just means that it is a language of the people, by the people, for the people 🙂
My mother tongue is ‘Luo’, we are known as the people from the lake…this is due to the fact that our ancestors hailed from Sudan and settled around the area of Lake Victoria. This was in their search for greener pastures, in this case literary greener pastures. There being so many languages it is not easy to be fluent in all of them but definitely after being around the others, one does begin to understand a couple of words here and there. Back to the luo tribe we do not have the sound ‘sh’ in our language. Therefore it is very difficult for us to pronounce it during a conversation. So for words like ‘shut up’ I would find myself unconsciously saying ‘sut up’ lol. Do not get me wrong we can pronounce it, it is just that during a conversation I find my tongue just slipping.
My son when he first learnt how to speak he used to say,’ Yesh’ instead of ‘yes’, yet he didn’t know how to speak in Luo. He still doesn’t know nor does he comprehend a word of it. Sometimes I wonder why he was born with the ‘sh’ problem could such a thing be in one’s genes?
The school bus arrived right on time, its yellow color glimmering in the fog as though assuring the world that the sun would rise again. Her older daughter quickly raced to the bus leaving her younger sister behind as the younger one eagerly raised her arms for a hug. Still standing by the roadside she watched the large stop sign on the bus slowly swing back and the bus meandered away into the traffic. She hoped her children would be safe for the next seven hours away from her sight. As she turned to walk back home the white tennis shoe raised its moist nose up from the grass in greeting. The grass had engulfed the heel like a snake in the midst of swallowing its prey. She wondered who the owner was, was the shoe thrown away on purpose? Did they lose their shoe while running away from danger?
The right side of the shoe had a large crack, an old wound on the otherwise smooth plateau. There were bits of mud and grass stuck on the crack like dried cakes of blood. One end of the shoelace hung dangerously towards the ground holding onto dear life, she wondered where the sister the other end of the lace was. Her eyes roamed aimlessly around trying to find her, only to see her curvy back as she slid into the dark interior of the shoe. She did not blame her for leaving her sister behind knowing that they would always be together like conjoined twins in the middle. The raised top of the heel stood guard like a mother waiting to strike in case of any danger. Lowering her eyes from the mother, she noticed a little pool of stark dirty water gathered inside the shoe. A ripple circled in jest on the surface sending a cold wave down her spine, was there something swimming in there? The dangers out here seemed endless and she wondered if the other shoe had suffered the same fate.
She sighed contentedly knowing that her older daughter would always take care of her younger sister after all is that not what she had always done. The left side of the shoe was intact as though it had survived any scathing from the outside world. Unluckily, treacherous mountains with dark valleys in between had replaced the once smooth plateau this was due to conforming to the wearer’s foot. The dirty water had dripped on the side like stalactites hanging from in a cave. With a heavy heart she reluctantly made her way home, hoping the shoe had served its master well and that perhaps it’s time was up.
Turning the corner the sight of the daffodils greeted her, covered up in their cozy blankets waiting for the sun to rise. She thought about the toddlers all curled up in their bed and a warm smile flashed across her face as she rushed inside to check if they were awake. After all, she was still a mother to them too.
To have an accent in a foreign country can sometimes be a heavy burden to carry, except when people love the accent. As soon as I utter a word I am bombarded with a barrage of questions, “Where are you from and how long have you been speaking English? When did you come to America?” I don’t mind answering such questions but after answering them everyday, after a couple of years it becomes tiresome. Some years back I started a new job at a factory. One of those jobs whereby a bell rings and everyone has to go for break at the same time. So of course the break room was always filled with people talking on the phone, queuing for the microwave, conversing with each other or having a mental calculation of how many hours were left before the shift ended. I definitely joined the last group since I was busy trying to hide my accent.
One person tried to strike a conversation and I tried to avoid it by just nodding, but he was so determined to draw a word out of my mouth. He succeeded and of course asked where I came from. I replied that I was from Mexico. The eyes almost bulged out of the socket, ” but you are black!” this was my chance to play the race card. “Does it mean that my skin determines where I come from?” end of conversation. I strolled leisurely back to my workstation feeling like a boss.
They say that when it rains it pours. My plan for this semester was to always be ahead, read a chapter ahead in every class, submit blog entries regularly, and not to wait until the last minute to study for exams. But that plan remained in my head it was buried in the deepest vaults of my brain and I probably swallowed the key. So of course none of that happened and I was walking around worried sick to my stomach. I did not have any observational blog entries to enter for one of the classes. Time was flying like a ticking bomb. It is weird but I find it hard to write when there is a deadline, I develop a bloggers block.
All of a sudden I became the Grammar Nazi, I mean a walking, breathing, patrolling police. As I walked to my class I would try to be close to people as possible just in case I heard them say something wrong, or out of the ordinary in English. I was fishing for blogging material and everything was a potential target. Lo! and behold when one is looking for something you cannot find it. I looked everywhere, inside the bus, at the restroom and I even asked for directions just in case I detected something. As I was heading home feeling discouraged, I found a piece of paper stuck on my windscreen with the words, ” Organisation X will be holding it’s annual meeting on….” There it was! the word ‘it’s’ which is a contraction of ‘it is’ had been used instead of the modifier ‘its’.
Some words are specific to a particular region or country. When we first arrived in America on that cold summer, we asked the taxi driver to take us to a hotel. He asked us which one, we just wanted a cheap hotel to start our pursuit of the elusive American dream. He stated that motels were cheaper, we had no idea what a motel was and he had to explain. It sounded like a better option, especially since we had no idea where our daily living would be coming from. I thought our arrival would be better celebrated by tasting and drinking American beer.
A gas station was situated directly across the motel. So my partner and I went in to purchase a couple of drinks. we were surprised at how cheap the American beer was, a huge 2 liters was retailing at 99c. We quickly grabbed a couple and some plastic cups then dashed back to the motel. We were so excited we had finally arrived. I was not at all impressed with how sweet the beer was and could not get over how much sugar the Americans preferred. To top it, after a couple of cups I was still missing that buzzed feeling that comes with alcohol. I asked my partner, “What kind of beer is this, do you feel anything?” “No” he promptly answered. I decided to do a little bit of investigation, I lifted up the now empty bottle and read the label, “Root beer, 0% alcohol.”
Sometimes during downtime (okay not downtime) at my job, we get to browse through the social media sites. I like to visit different forums because it helps release stress. There is this particular site where people mainly share business ideas. One person had put out an idea of how to procure some products and mentioned that they sell the goods mainly in ‘gaylords’. At the mention of that word I quickly minimized my screen and my mind went into overdrive. I began to doubt that site’s authenticity and wondered why they would be promoting pornographic language.
I started wondering how I would be fired, once my boss checked my hard drive. I imagined those gay lords, who were probably pimps for the gay, sitting at some corner peddling their products. Maybe if I lost my job I could become a ‘gaylord’. On the other hand this line of thinking did not tally with the way the conversation had been flowing. I decided to ask instead of jumping to conclusions and also so that I could have an explanation for my boss in case he found out. I quickly logged in and tiptoed to the private message room. I asked the person what a ‘gaylord’ was and begged them not to be explicit as I was using the work computer. All this time I became real jumpy and at one point I thought I even heard one of my colleagues calling my name. The person burst out in a fit of laughter, those fits that involve several laughing tear-filled emojis. I felt stupid and was almost in tears myself. Luckily her reply came promptly explaining that a ‘gaylord’ was actually a large container used by industries to pack or store goods.
Today my daughter gave me a lesson on grammar. I had lost some money and asked, ” Who has seen a 20 dollar note somewhere.” The kids all started that choked annoying giggle like they were trying to hide it. Then Barbara asked what I meant. I told her that I had lost some money. She quickly went and got a paper and proceeded to say,” Mommy, look a note is something you write on a piece of paper like this, money is called a bill not a note. So say twenty dollar bill.” Myself “Get out of here, go look for the money!”. This shows how grammar is fluid and changes, evolves over time. Sometimes this change can be geographical, like the way the ‘Brits’ call money notes while here it is bills, well as long as the speakers are comfortable with whichever version they choose.
Peter Trudgill unmasks the above myth and asserts that language change should not be halted. He further on gives interesting examples of how some words have evolved over time. Such as the word ‘Knee’ whereby the ‘K’ was not silent in earlier times. As language changes and becomes modified over time, it does not necessarily mean some kind of deformity rather these same changes have added to the richness and variety of language. Language change is always happening everyday, as words get exchanged between different speakers. it also changes as people travel and are influenced by others. Language changes also occurs as new things are discovered and named, adding new vocabulary to language.
In conclusion, we have learnt that over time human beings have evolved from primitive states over millions of years ago. In the same manner, language too is evolving.