1. John McWhorter argues against the idea that what we have words for limits what we experience:
There are many languages in New Guinea and Australia in which there is one word that means eat, drink, and smoke. Are we to designate these people as less attuned to gustatory pleasures than us? They give little evidence of it, and note how distasteful it feels to even suggest it. Or, Swedish and Danish have no single word for what we call wiping. You can rub, erase, and such, and the word they spontaneously give as a translation means dry—but there is no word that means, specifically, what we mean by to wipe. Yet we shall neither tell Scandinavians that they do not wipe nor even imply that the act is less vividly important to them than to the rest of us.
We can signal our awareness of human equality in other ways. All languages are complex. Nary a one of the several thousand known languages does not allow precise and nuanced conversation. Languages vary in just which squiggles of existence they choose to mark with words and endings, but we must resist the notion that this variation creates different “worldviews,” not only to avoid intellectual incoherence, but also to avoid an unintended continuation of the cultural condescension we all seek to leave behind.
For an English speaker, to a large extent, learning Mandarin is a matter of learning how much is unnecessary to still communicate effectively. No articles. No way to express the past tense. It’s quite common not to mark things as plural. The first words of the Bible can be rendered as “Start-start God achieve-make sky-earth.”
2. Difficulties of translating Finnegan’s Wake.
3. A compilation of Vonnegut writings for various situations.
4. On memorizing poems.
5. Pennsylvania dialects.
6. About creativity as associative brain activity.
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Tagged accents, assocation, Bible, brain activity, Chinese, creativity, dialect, Finnegans Wake, John McWhorter, memorizing poems, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, translating, translation, Vonnegut, Wakefield, Whorf
This is where The New York Times thinks I live, based on the results of a a quiz I took that asked me how I pronounced some words and used some terms. They got my region pegged. Several of my family members who live in the same area said their quiz results were the same, or nearly the same as mine (in the photo above). I took the quiz a second time, this time choosing another variation of how I might say something, and this time it placed me in Rockford, Grand Rapids, or Buffalo. It’s Rockford both times.
Now, I have lived most of my life in a region where the nearest movie theaters were in Rockford. My parents grew up here, too. But my mom’s mom grew up in northwestern Wisconsin, and my dad’s parents were children of German immigrants, and so I wonder how much of my language is that of my parents, and how much is from my peers.
I was pleasantly surprised to see this list of options:
I love the poetic qualities here — fox’s wedding, liquid son — but what American variant picks the devil is beating his wife to describe a meteorological phenomenon? I guess this one.
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Tagged American dialect, American English, American English dialect, devil beat wife, dialect, fox's wedding, language, learning language, Rockford, Rockford Illinois, words