Thursday, January 28, 2010

Big Issues

After last year's successful legislative session, Utah lawmakers are ready to debate another set of very important issues. Bills to watch include:

banning endangered wolves from entering the state
getting rid of 12th grade

I'm all for tossing around interesting ideas, but these ideas should have been presented in some unknown committee or sitting around the dinner table at home and then never made public to anyone, let alone actually debating them on the hill while the per diem clock is ticking.

The budget is always a big deal. Hopefully they keep the reduced tax on groceries steady and make cuts elsewhere. I bought some ice cream last week for $2.06. Imagine the mobs who would form to protest if that same ice cream suddenly cost $2.13. Sure it was full of both fudge ribbons and E.L. Fudge cookies, but come on, we're talking over 3% here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

english bad

How did the arguably greatest country in the world end up with one of the arguably worst languages in the world? And how did that terrible language end up as the de facto language of international business?

Why does English have so many silent letters? Why are there so many ways to pronounce every letter? The rules in Spanish are more complicated than some languages, but definitely more intelligible than English. You can always tell how to say a word based on how it is spelled. The imperfection with Spanish comes into play where there are multiple ways of spelling a word based on how it is pronounced.

Even if we could get pronunciation down, English is still missing more advanced features of other languages. What happened to the second person (as if that were advanced)? Why are we stuck with forming new words like y'all to reduce the confusion of having no difference between singular and plural you (as if that were advanced)?

If you really want advanced, take a look at Guaraní, the native language of Paraguay, which enjoys co-official language status along with Spanish. It is enjoying a resurgence and is actually taught in schools again after the efforts of some to hide their native tongue. Even this little-known language has something most languages don't: clusivity. A language like Guaraní with clusivity gives the speaker an 'inclusive we' and an 'exclusive we' so the listener knows whether or not he or she is included.
Jim: We're going to the store.
Tom: Great, I'll get my coat.
Jim: No, I mean Amber and I are going to the store. You're not invited, Tom.

Awkward, I know. Not in Guaraní. If Jim had said ñandé instead of we, Tom would know he was invited to go with Jim and Amber. In the above case, however, Jim would have used oré to signal to Tom up front that 'Amber and I' are going to the store.

Perhaps the language reform question will become moot as texting and Twitter have their way with us, but in the mean time, there ought to be something we can do to fix our language. I'm not suggesting we go as far as the nooalf guy, but the first reform I have adopted has to do with quotation marks. If a sentence ends with a word or words in quotation marks, I put the final punctuation outside the quotation marks. I just like it better that way, even though it's "wrong". It's at least a place for ñandé to start.