An English Ramble: A look at language

Published 10:40 pm Thursday, June 14, 2018

Most Americans support the idea that all immigrants should learn the English language. Without speaking your home country’s language, the newcomer is creating a separate society.

In sympathy with those who choose to master the English language, it must be difficult. For an example, this morning President Trump said that we need to REIN in Kim Jong Un. We know that REIN means to control movement, but the words REIGN and RAIN are also pronounced the same way and have no relation in meaning.

Then I thought about words that are spelled exactly the same but have different meanings, what my high school English teacher Mrs. Willingham would call heteronyms. For an example, let us examine BOW. Does it mean to bend down, a tied ribbon, or means to launch an arrow? One goes out to LaFayette True Value Hardware and asks for a SPADE. Does he sell you a black card out of a deck, induct you into a college honorary group or hand you a digging tool? One thing for sure, you are not going to find anyone connected to Nick Saban’s crowd being inducted into the honor society. Case in point, I asked Cooter Allen what was the largest diamond in the world and he said Melania Trump’s wedding ring. Even Ed Yeargan knows that the answer is a baseball field.

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It is amazing how different the sounds of words are in the Queen’s English compared to the colonies. For example, the word vitamin. Americans pronounce it VITE-a-min; the British pronounce it VIT-a-min. Another case is the word mobile. We say MO-bul but the British say mo-BILE. If you have ever watched a British show, you probably turn up the volume and still turn frequently to your fellow watcher and ask, “What did she just say?” My daughter has a friend from northern England who says, “I’m full, I et a lot.” Can you guess what the word is? ATE! And now for one more—the British get confused when an American is thirsty because they hear a request for a glass of “wodder.” I like listening to the Fox News’ Next Revolution program featuring Steve Hilton because I like hearing his very British accent.

To an individual learning to read and speak English, I can imagine how confusing the use of southern colloquialism would be. Here are few off the top of my head that would make no sense to a true English student, Hot To Trot, Flip Flop, Tooty Fruity, It Is A Piece Of Cake, Lock Stock & Barrel, Two Left Feet, Wrapped Around His/Her Finger, In A Coon’s Age, Go Hog Wild. Come to think about it, I doubt if this lingo would make any sense to a Harvard graduate as he has probably never spent time down South.

Of the many things that I have come to regret in later life, one was not taking advantage of a situation that would have benefited me in my work and personal life. I spent two of my four years in the Air Force (Kelly Field in San Antonio) as an accountant assistant. Almost all my fellow workers had a Hispanic background and spoke fluent Spanish. I learned a few sentences, but I regret that I did not learn to speak Spanish as I had the resources and the spare time to learn. I will always remember the staff at the Finance Office; they were wonderful colleagues.

As I look around, it seems to me that most of the workers in lawn care, chicken and beef processing plants and construction are of Hispanic background. These people work hard and generally are moral and law abiding citizens. This country needs these immigrants. However, I do feel that some control of the number that enter our country must be initiated. Definitely, anyone who votes, has a driver’s license or serves in our military forces, should be required to speak and read English with high competency.

I may have stepped into a hornet’s nest with my comments on immigration. But I do know this. We are all created in the image of God. One of the greatest commands is to love our neighbor. Every tribe and nation will be represented in heaven. Hmmm, I wonder what the language will be in heaven?