In a few previous blog posts I have commented on differences between the British and American languages, as whilst many words and phrases are the same, many others are very different. Spelling also varies. I have found that the terminologies for individual hobbies are quite specialised just as they are in different businesses, in a similar way to abbreviations and I have detailed some of my findings in earlier blog posts. The biggest problem seems to be in our failure to remember that not everyone follows the same learning paths as ourselves, even when we have the same teachers and we hear the same words. Our upbringing can mean that we remember different things in different ways. In our English language we have many words that are rarely used, whilst some have taken on quite different meanings over time and more are relatively new, due to the advances in modern technology. At one time the phrase being ‘bright and gay’ meant someone was happy in their demeanour, but ‘gay’ has now taken on a very different meaning. I am unable to comment on quite how this might have occurred in other languages though. Knowledge of words can also depend on how much we read, our reading material as well as where we live and the language, colourful or otherwise, that we are exposed to by those around us, as adults or children. There are some folk who use colourful language quite naturally, often within the work that they do where it seems to be acceptable. However in other environments it is most definitely frowned upon. A couple of offices I have worked in kept a ‘swear box’ and anyone uttering what was considered as foul language then had to make a donation, with all monies going towards a night out or perhaps a Christmas meal for the team. It used to amuse me when I heard some folk, especially ladies who spoke in ‘posh’ tones, using utterly foul and abusive language. I wondered why they did it, perhaps to shock, or maybe to elicit a response. I ignored their efforts, refusing to rise to the bait. As for me, I grew up with two elder brothers, one nine years older than myself and the other eleven years older. The eldest one worked in engineering where swearing was commonplace, whilst the other had regular dealings with the public so it was not considered proper to use a bit of bad language. But neither of them brought that behaviour home with them. I always worked in an office environment, I had direct contact with the public so my behaviour was kept an eye on, as were those around me. Our parents very rarely swore, my father had a tremendously good command of English and was a teacher in a local infant & primary school. He could almost make you wish for a good hiding rather than the verbal tongue-lashing he gave if you did something wrong, yet bad language was never used! I was born in London, as were my parents and grandparents, so I heard many of the sayings and phrases from that area. That included a wide range of accents, as despite what many people seem to think, not all Londoners talk with what some consider to be the ‘Cockney’ accent. During my formative years in both Whittlesey and Peterborough I heard a quite a variety of local accents because as well as that which I consider to be a ‘Fen’ accent, there were also both Italian and a few Polish communities there. My work then moved me around the North as well as the Midlands, so I heard quite a few different accents, also some of the expressions uttered there were unusual but naturally were very well-known to folk in those areas. It was around that time that I was caught out whilst on a date with a young lady, as I found that I was not listening to what words she was saying, but how she was saying them! That really was not the best idea I ever had as she was not in the least impressed and we soon went our separate ways… For a while I was able to differentiate between the accents used in and around Birmingham, as what may be heard in the City is really quite different to perhaps a Halesowen or Wolverhampton one. I got really stumped though when conversing with a person who spoke with a quite unusual tone of voice. I discovered that they were from Scotland but had moved around with their work, first in Newcastle but in latter years they had settled in Dudley, which has a really strong local accent. As a result, their accent was just impossible for me to place! We had a good laugh about it. In my young days I was read to, I was shown various picture books, I was taught the alphabet and as I have said before, guided into making good use of a dictionary. Back then there were only physical books, there was nothing like the electronic books of today like Kindle, there was no Internet then either. All this came into good use whilst at British Telecom when I joined a team where we had to manually complete computer cards in order to add or amend entries in the local telephone directory. It was fascinating, as the completed cards were then scanned by a computer but which had difficulty in determining between certain characters and numbers. As a result, when completing these cards we had to place a horizontal line above certain letters so that the computer would know which were to be letters rather than numbers. I can still recall them to this day, they were ‘O’ (not zero), ’S’ (not five), ‘Y’ (not seven) and ‘Z’ (not two). As a team we were then required to check the entries, proof-reading the changes before the new directory was compiled and finally published. We were kept busy as the updates were printed weekly for use by the local Directory Enquiry staff. It has meant that both spelling and grammatical errors on the items I read nowadays simply ’stand out’, almost as if a bright highlighter pen had been used on them. Sadly we can so often miss simple mistakes and it is not always the fault of the reader as our brains can correct errors. It can take real concentration to recognise the errors, as we see what we expect to see. It can be similar with hearing too, as a friend of mine has lost some of their high frequency hearing because of working in a few different noisy environments. As a result, if he is in a rather crowded place like a public house and a female with a high-pitched voice tries to talk with him, he has to almost lip-read to fill in the blanks over what he is hearing. I spent a great many years in a noisy Sales office with a telephone pressed against my left ear and I am beginning to notice a slight drop in performance of that ear now.
Despite our modern communication techniques, our telephones as well as their associated technology with computers and electronic storage, it is interesting to see how much work still involves paper. I am very well aware as to how important it is to keep records of what has been achieved, what changes have either been made or need to be done as well as the ability to share all that has been both done and learned in the past. Some years ago it was thought that a single language would be a good idea and in 1887 a Polish ophthalmologist by the name of L.L. Zamenhof created Esperanto. It was intended to be a second language of the whole world, the only one for people to learn other than their own and would be ideal for international communication. According to research it is very easy to learn, as all words and sentences are built from 16 basic rules that can fit within a sheet or two of paper. But I guess that it might not be ideal to translate precisely into, as not all languages have a similar structure. I believe that many languages are an amalgam of others that have built up over the years, like English. As for learning languages, I think it often depends on how much trouble a reader is prepared to go to in order to increase their word power as well as quite how much use will be made of this newly acquired skill. It is up to the individual, as it depends on a great many things, like their particular circumstances. I have mentioned hearing, but as we grow older we can also find our sight diminishes. Perhaps the hardest thing to accept is what is happening to our vision and other faculties. Even with this pandemic there is no shortage of reading material, in fact it is most likely the opposite as folk like me are writing more and more. However, I am aware that there is also an unwillingness to take the time, to make the extra effort, especially when we cannot pursue our interests in ways that we used to. Our health can play a huge part in all that we do, but as has been said before these problems should not be seen as obstacles to overcome but as stepping stones to reach our goals. The tendency nowadays is towards the use of modern technology but that may not always be either possible or even preferred. I am well aware of the reticence or inability with some folk to use computers, it was one of the reasons why I ran my small business the way I did, to help others of my age and ability to use such things. But many if not all computers now have a facility to read text and speak words, there are numerous audio books now too. It does not take much, as even just a small monthly publication from somewhere like Readers Digest can prove to be invaluable and a magnifying glass is not too difficult. There is even a section in each edition of that publication called ‘It Pays To Increase Your Word Power’, with a glossary included. In fact each edition comprises a few different stories, jokes as well as a few anecdotes for which the author gets paid! The options are out there. I have also said about how as a young child I was read to and I have had a thought that the same might be done for the elderly, although this may not initially be appreciated by them. When we visit, we may not have much to talk about, so maybe one idea might be to read a book out loud to them. It’s just an idea. In this busy world, I have found it useful to try and set aside time for reading and writing, it was something I did when I was much younger and it is proving useful to me now, to have a routine. I have said to a few of the Carers here how quickly my time passes each day! But as well as writing a daily diary, I also use a reminder app on my iPhone called ToDoist, which reminds me each day of things I must do, like sending greetings to folk, doing some homework, watching certain items via my iPhone that are on tv each weekday. That is a really good thing, as it helps me keep track of the days and when it is the weekend. I have medication which I must take regularly, although here the Care Home staff manage that side of things! Because I use a MacBook which synchronises automatically between the iPhone and the computer, any of the additions, updates or changes on one are copied immediately to the other. All clever and useful. It also means I can begin writing items such as this blog on the MacBook and continue writing from where I left off on the iPhone. Even for those more acquainted with using a Microsoft Windows computer and their Word, Excel and PowerPoint these are now available on the Apple Mac and MacBook, which I use. Some people have commented on how quickly I can often retrieve information that I have in the past been given and apart from organising my computer files, I use a computer program (the correct term is an ‘app’, I believe!) which is called Bear. I use it for note-taking and storing a whole range of information, including images. All this helps me to continue reading and writing!
This week, some fun. We have all experienced this, I am sure.
In the Beginning, there was the Plan,
And thereby came the Assumptions,
But the Assumptions were without Form,
And the Plan was without Substance,
So Darkness was upon the face of the Workers.
And the Workers spake amongst themselves, saying
“It is a crock of sh1t and it stinks”.
And the Workers came unto their Supervisors and saith
“It is a pile of dung, and we cannot live with the smell”.
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying
“It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong,
Such that none may abide by it”.
And the Managers went unto their Directors saying,
“It is a vessel of fertiliser, and none may abide by its strength”.
And the Directors spake amongst themselves, saying one to another
“It contains that which aids growth, and it is very strong”.
And the Directors went unto the Vice Presidents, saying unto them
“It promotes growth, and is very powerful”.
And the Vice Presidents went unto the President, saying unto him,
“This Plan will actively promote the growth and vigour of the Company
With very powerful effects”.
And the President looked upon the Plan
And saw that it was Good.
And the Plan became Policy.