Friday, March 30, 2007

Mastering the Mother Tongue

During high school, I realised that, unlike primary school, learning things and being a 'Smarty Pants' required a fair bit more effort than neat writing and creative title pages. English and the arts subjects (home economics being the glaring exception) were still easy and enjoyable for me, but maths and science were awful.

What was even more awfuller (if that isn't in the dictionary yet, it should be) was French. Notwithstanding I was introduced to the language of love and rude shop keepers half way during the first year, in Scotland. I was frightened, lonely and homesick and being six months behind the class and trying to understand Merci Beacoup being spoken by Mr Urquhart in a thick Aberdonian burr was a challenge my 12 year old mind decided to reject. Miraculously I earned a 'C' grade at the end of the year but most adamantly did not select it as a year nine subject when I returned back to South Australia.

Even as an adult, this total incapacity to grasp anything outside the realms of Australian English remains embarrassingly strong. At our beginner karate class, for example, seven year old Sapphire was able to count to ten in Japanese within fifteen minutes, but for me, three months later I'm on a roll if I manage to make it to three ('sun'). When they use basic Japanese to describe the next move, I have to quickly (but subtlely) rubberneck the rest of the class and copy what they're doing.

The same goes - quadrupled, unfortunately - for Finance at my work. Just when I felt vaguely comfortable with the unwieldy online reporting and accounting system, they changed it. Utterly. In fact, so complete is the change that even our designated finance staff struggle to comprehend the meanings of some reports or where some of our key funding has come from; where it needs to go to; or whether it has even arrived.

The confusion of others is a comfort I gladly take refuge in, but it doesn't make my job any easier. At one stage in a meeting yesterday, Queen B and Jo from Finance were chatting away with such enthusiasm about grants, shifting salaries, transferral of non-ARC grants and projected earnings I was wondering if they had suddenly morphed into Klingon and were instead talking about me instead of about finance, kind of like igpay latin. "MillyMoo be a Dumb Moron. Her brain is emptier than a student's lecture calendar during O-week"






'Finance Made Simpler'
Acrylic on masonite
MillyMoo 2007



Even English has its moments with me, and having Sapphire around to question everything from a seven year old's perspective highlights it even more. "Hey Mum why does the word sword have a 'W' in it?"
"Why does photo has 'ph' instead of 'F' at the start?"
"How come we say one sheep, two sheep, but we say one mouse, two mice?"

And what's my profound answer to those queries? Normally a shrug, a sigh and this:
"Well Sapphire, I reckon that English is sort of like the floor sweepings from the scraps of all the other languages of the world - a bit of French, a wedge of Latin, a splash of Spanish, a kick of German, a smattering of Danish and far too much drunken igpay and esperanto for my liking. Then, add in some words that some drunken or ignorant clowns have invented along the way plus a bit of bad or adventurous spelling and that equals the English language as we know it today. OK?"

She tends to give me her 'My Mum's a weirdo but she's my Mum so I won't say it out loud or she'll tell me off for being disrespectful, so I'll make a quick exit and go and ask Dad instead' kind of look and heads outside to the shed where Love Chunks is at his weights bench.

Finally, who decides what word is going to be overused at what times? I if hear the word 'bespoke' used one more time to describe fashion, house design, art or inventions I'll ram it up someone's 'bespoke and unique hand-woven muff cover made entirely by traditional Peruvian Llama wool spinners with dye made from an organic combination of yak spittle and ancient Mayan burro droppings'. Or I'll ask, "Why can't you say 'individual' or 'one of a kind' like the rest of us?

Then I'll pick up my papers, my bottle of water and my portable, hand-held graphite word processor (pencil) and huffily stomp out of the room.

13 comments:

tom said...

I took spanish for three years and I have never maastered it, finance...I'm rolling in coins. I keep them in the bottle I used to brew beer in!

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