Such a maze
My home is beside a harbor; I love it but always dreamt of having a stream running through my garden. So I created the stream in the image above. My inner world is like the image above. I live in a very beautiful place in the UK. I returned there after years of being overseas. Apart from Ireland, and Nowra, in NSW, Australia, nowhere else compares. I miss the climate of southern California, and changing colors in canyons as the sun moved across the sky. Sadly, I hear that’s gone awry recently.
I started life in Germany, speaking German but also a little English too. My Dad is British, but not English. His passport says British because of where he was born. He is a mixture of Central European Jewry, his grandmother had escaped the pogroms in Ukraine with her children.
I spoke German fluently and my family moved to England with my Dad’s work. I was six. Then I had to learn to make sense of the English language.
Speaking English is one thing, writing it is quite another. You see, I was programmed to say things that I read in a logical way. I was puzzled by island. We used to read from the same book in class and take it in turns to read aloud while our class read silently. I was bewildered that our teacher never corrected those who said “Ireland” when the page said island. I finally whispered to a friend, who confirmed that yes, island was pronounced “Ireland”.
So, I don’t recall how I resolved that island is a land surrounded by water, but I certainly learned how ridiculous the spelling of English words is. Take could, should, and would. How does the L play any part in those words? Then look at cough, bough, bought, should. They are all pronounced differently, despite the common ou. Where is the sense? How can two coupled letters be pronounced so differently! What about the silent gh? Then there are soul and foul. Soldier and insure. Where is the sense in the spelling and pronunciation?
Then I grappled with the spelling of words that change with the past tense. Label becomes labelled, cup becomes cupped. I agree, it looks right, but that is because it is the rule. Except not every time. Just almost every time. There seems to be an exception to every rule in English. How do we have eat, eaten, and ate? Is there another verb with two past tenses, specifically the perfect past tense? Gotten is used in America but fell out of fashion in Britain long ago.
Recently, I saw an American use those whereto instead of whom. I wonder where they were educated.
It is not that I struggled; I don’t recall learning to read English. My first memory of reading it is sitting on the floor reading the back of whatever section of the newspaper my Dad happened to be reading. I read everything and anything. However, this did not help my pronunciation. I still say some words incorrectly today. I pronounce the O in front, whilst the English say “frunt”. I say Samsung with a German U. There is no equivalent in English unless you are a northerner. It does not rhyme with hung.
In truth, my English came very naturally and I rarely made spelling mistakes. I do now. Nor did I make grammatical errors. I knew that sentences never begin with and, also that and should not appear twice in one sentence. But should used with care, and cannot always be replaced with however.
Too, there are beautiful words like gallop, succinct, blossom, ditto, mellow, soft, pillow, and kiss.
Learning the art of using one instead of I or we are simple to master. A writer doesn’t want to alienate the reader, or sound lofty. No, one signifies the world, as in One could watch him play tennis. It can also suggest another point of view; I love vanilla ice-cream, but one can choose other flavors.
Here, in order to be selected for further distribution, I must use American spelling. I hate it! I love colour not color, flavour not flavor. Additionally, I like organise not organize. Why did the English who sailed here allow such a massacre on spelling?
There are words I would like to ban, along with the attitude behind them. Words like hate, racism, war, argue, irritate, annoy, superior, inferior, segregate, reject, and any other word or attitude that implies aggression between humans. We are all human. We have more in common than that which divides us. As a former human rights worker, I dream of world with disparity, no war, no oppression, no hunger. I have won small accolades for my work. Bishop Tutu retweeted me, as did a few other prominent figures of peace. This work was done almost entirely in English.
English is derived from the Anglo-Saxons, who gave us Germanic vocabulary, then the French invaded us and added words. Also, Latin was visited upon us by the clergy in the Middle Ages. I had to do a year of Latin. It was very difficult but gave me the root meaning of so many words. English is a very rich language.
Good written English is a pleasure to read. It should flow, and render meaning without interference from adverbs and adjectives unless they are vital to describe an object or scene. I am a fan of the Oxford comma. It clarifies so much, and expels confusion.
So, here is my journey into the English language. I was first puzzled by it, but now am a qualified editor. I love this language. I still enjoy using German, mostly now on Facebook and on the phone to my uncle.
This is dedicated to
Dennett. May she smile.
Published in Write Under The Moon
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