I wish I’d paid more attention in Latin. I got as far as ‘Caecilius est in horto’ and ‘Regina (or possibly Selina) est in culina’ before I gave up and started squeezing the bubbles out of my plastic-backed exercise books. It wasn’t a reflection upon the teaching staff but more my woeful grasp of nouns, verbs, adverbs and the subjunctive. I went on to score a stonking 33% in my end of year German exam, and to this day can only ask the way to the station. Not much use when I wouldn’t understand the answer.
I scrub round French ok but wish I was fluent, and secretly dream of learning Italian.
Yet the English language itself contains a positive cornucopia of delights. Words such as colander. Whoever came up with that one? Minx. Quiff. Antidisestablishmentarianism. Oast. Unguent. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Chortle. Curmudgeonly. Skiffle. Myriad.
I think I’d be undone in learning a foreign language by the sheer number of ways in which words can have more than one meaning – incidentally, the name for these is homonyms. Isn’t that in itself a fabulous word? Just thinking of examples now is making my head hurt, and I’m not trying it in Catalan, Serbian or Algerian. Press. Face. Bowl. And I bet the homonyms are different in other languages, so you’d still be adrift, even if you’d figured out that the ball you’d bowled wasn’t the same as the bowl you’d used to mix a cake in. Hint: if it was, you’re in trouble. Cake mix and cricket don’t mix.
And then there’s the minefield of pronunciation. At the start of my professional career I had the job interview from hell. It started with the interviewer talking about the amount of lipstick I was wearing – and didn’t get any better. The real low point was when I was trying to say to him that I was a chameleon, able to fit in and adapt to any environment. Only, having never to my recollection heard it said, I pronounced it ‘sham-ill-on’. Cue a scene rich with comedy potential if only I hadn’t been too busy being humiliated.
I didn’t get the job – unsurprisingly. Quite a relief actually because if I had, and if I had gone on to act all chameleon-like and adopted similar behavior and attitudes to the interviewer, I don’t think I’d have a friend left in all the world. And rightly so.
That reminds me. There’s a few words which make me feel distinctly queasy. Moist. Gleam. Phlegm. Verbose.
But what makes me feel positively bilious is like, totes, hilair, yah? Whatevs, babes. BTW IMHO txtspk is completely ruining the English language. See, I can’t even use it for a whole sentence, it’s too ridic, see? It’s one step too far along the vocabulary evolution scale.
Even the word blog is more than slightly ridiculous. And don’t get me started on whether you can plenish someone a drink, or have a surgence in fashion. Just putting ‘re’ in front of them fails to make them sensible. If I’d paid attention in class, I bet I would know why. It’s bound to be some ancient Latin rule.
What words make you cringe? Which would you scrub out of the dictionary, or wish would become common parlance?