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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why I suck at English!

Please don't let this date me more than I already am, because the medium I about to reference belonged to my parents and Grandparents, I was just the lucky recipient of the experience.
When I was a child growing up in the back woods of Idaho, I would listen to records of comedians.  First off, records are different sizes of vinyl disks with grooves in them and when you placed a needle into the grooves and rotated the disk the proper direction and speed you could hear a recorded message or music from these devices.  They had machines for this function called record players which would rotate these at the appropriate speed (78, 33, or 45) and amplify the sound into speakers for your listening pleasure.
My first experience of Bill Cosby was listening to a record of pieces of his various comic performances, starting with God speaking to Noah.  It was a much more entertaining version than what they provide Sunday school class.  Life was so slow and boring you would listen to these records over and over again until you had most of them memorized.
One of my favorites was a comedian named Shelley Berman, who would sit on a stool and do comedy.  Not like we have today!  He would pretend he was on the phone with somebody and you the audience would sit and revel at just hearing his side of the conversation.  One of his greatest pieces was poking fun at English or the lack of common sense concerning the rules of English.  I really feel that knowing this before my formative years caused a mental block in that English rules didn't work like mathematics so it was all wrong, so why learn it!
Example: (there are many!!!)
one mouse, several mice.  One moose, several meece!  No It's moose's.
One Kleenex several Kleenexese,
One Stewardess, several Stewardi
Several Jacki!
You get the point.
(These examples are what bits and fragments I remember from Mr. Shelley Berman's comedy album.)
I by no means wish to implicate Mr. Berman, Mr. Cosby, or any of the other great comedians I listened to as a child for my lacking in English skills.
That coupled with teachers who were male and strong and heavy in math and science and who probably had the very same deficiencies with English that I do today, didn't help the matter.
My teachers would say to get a dictionary to learn how to spell a word, which after a few unfortunate tries at particular words and attempting to sound them out, you quickly realized the futility of this train of thought.  I don't care how many times you go through the F section of the dictionary you will not find the freaking word PHONE.  Or Photography!  So the whole concept of sounding it out got thrown out with the relevancy of Rules of Grammar at a very young age.  It just didn't hold water with 1 +1 =2.
Today my understanding of mathematics relates more to English Grammar rules as does my understanding of what Quantum Mechanics has done for the hard facts and laws of science.  I think if I understood Mathematics was the same as English when you get much further along I might have been a bit more forgiving to the idiots who decided and made up the rules.
Of course now I understand also that WE idiots by what we use and don't use through time, in total disregard of Strunk and Whites or the Chicago Style guides prescribe is what will be considered proper English in the future which is how we have arrived at the wonderful state of affairs with which we now have to contend with.  I am just glad people still read!
There are many reasons but when it all boils down, it is my own fault I didn't learn it when I was younger.  I can still learn things at my age, my editor has proved this, I am just a little slow on the uptake of new software on such antiquated equipment.  Can't teach an old dog new tricks, HA!
Who would have dreamed that someday this little boy who spent so much time day dreaming because of an over active imagination, who was bored to tears throughout his school years would someday be required to know this illogical, unscientific, useless crap from his childhood because he dreamed of being a writer midway through his life.  I didn't grow up wanting to become a writer.  As a matter of fact I hated English, I knew I sucked at it, and English one and two were the last classes I took in college because I was sure that not passing these two classes would get me thrown out the college.  What was funny, looking back, is that teachers all along said I had the makings of a good writer and I would just laugh, because me as a writer was about as likely as Stevie Wonder being a navigator aboard a Starship or a Tennis Champion.
I went deaf as a young boy until I got tubes put in my ears which also contributed to my being rather introverted as child.  I am sure that my vivid and fascinating imagination was a result of that experience.
My wife says I have ass burgers or something like that, a mild high functioning form of autism which she says makes me come off sounding rude in public.  I don't mean to sound rude.  I have to admit that I do come across much better in written form than I do face to face.
Asperger syndrome, is an autism spectrum disorder that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests.  It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development.  Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
Is it any wonder that English is considered by the world as one of the hardest languages to learn, and in the Immortal words of Prof. Higgins, from 'My Fair Lady', "…why the Americans haven't spoken it for years!"
Pull the pencil out of your eye and get back to writing!  Amen.


J.L. Murphey said...

Stevie Wonder being a navigator aboard a Starship... ah, but you forget Jordie on the Starship Enterprise revisited. He was blind.

Old dogs (you are not that old!) can learn new tricks and over time, excel at the new tricks. Patience, my son, patience. Personally, I too hate English. It takes time to learn or unlearn bad habits. It is hard to understand, and hard to write. It was one of the hardest languages I learned while growing up. But, I'm so darn good at it.

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