Chips or Fries? Weeks Five and Six

A Letter to the English Language

Dear English,

I hope this letter finds you in the best shape with your vowels intact. Thanks to your recent anonymity, I will be sending this letter to ten countries where I suspect you may be hiding under different names. It’s rumoured that the Queen was unhappy with the way you were being used in America and wrote a letter to the Americans revoking their independence. Is this true? Is this why you have absconded? Do you not want them to fight over you? Understandable.

Though I have known you for long, you continue to amuse me. These days, I spend my time studying at the Seagull School of Publishing hoping to understand you better.

I began studying you from when I was four years old—learning to write each letter of the alphabet carefully and enunciating each word clearly. I found you to be the easiest and the best fit. I chose you as the medium through which I wished to communicate with people and animals alike. You and I became inseparable, a good pair, like a man and his moustache.

It was only after a few weeks of classes that I realised that you have got quite a few parts which I didn’t know existed, parts I had forgotten about and parts that you’ve simply grown to confuse people. Oh you beautiful, beautiful, self-mutating creature! Last week, I learnt more about how creatively, dangerously and, sometimes, lazily you are being used across the globe, with emphasis on British and American usage. Not that we Indians are any less creative; the next time you visit us, you must bring your camera along and shoot photos of the signboards in this country. You may know that Indians are familiar with both forms—British English because of our history with your creators and American English because of Friends and all the television programmes that followed it. Anyway, we learnt that both forms differ in the use of several common words and sometimes differ in the use of common idioms and phrases. I was aware of some, though not all. But little did I expect the difference in the meaning of so many common words to vary so much. I may have to consider standing a metre away from the next American I talk to, insure my teeth even. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

An Englishman wrote the following short note to his American mistress. Please bear in mind that she had only recently moved to Birmingham.

This is what he wrote:

Madeline my love,

I received several hampers and a potted plant at my office last evening. I wonder who sent them. By the way, I wore my new jumper—the one you gifted me—to work today. I must say, I looked quite handsome in it. Remind me to buy you haberdashery and the scented rubber from Wilsons’ before I visit you next week. I may knock up some spaghetti for dinner, wish me luck. I hope you are feeling homely in Birmingham.

Love,

Richard

And this is what she understood:

Madeline my love,

I received several baskets of dirty clothes and marijuana at my office last evening. I wonder who sent them. By the way, I wore my new sleeveless dress—the one you gifted me—to work today. I must say, I looked quite handsome in it. Remind me to buy you men’s clothing and the scented condom from Wilsons’ before I visit you next week. I may impregnate some spaghetti for dinner, wish me luck. I hope you are feeling ugly in Birmingham.

Love,

Richard

Poor Richard. Simplicity may be one of the several intended results of evolution but I am afraid that in your case it may have backfired. I am perplexed and I seek clarity. The editors at school have been teaching me/us to use you wisely.

What about the rest of the English-speaking world? Do the meaning of common words vary so much? Do please write to me about that.

I wish you the very best. Write to me.

Yours sincerely,

Suraj

Suraj J. Menon 

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One thought on “Chips or Fries? Weeks Five and Six

  1. debarati biswas

    I am Debarati Biswas enrolled for the class of Jan to march 2015. It’s been few days that I have attended the classes. It is within this short period of time that I have discovered a whole new world out there. The journey so far has been really interesting. The faculty here is more of friend philosopher guide, rather than a formal teacher. Every nook and corner of publishing sector is being covered. The mentors here are always ready to assist us in every possible way. Both the areas of book editing and cover designing are covered. The practical experiences of the mentors are shared for the better understanding of the field. The first day of the class was the orientation programme,where the students were given the time table and also the brief insights about the class. The classes are made interesting through presentations and also interactive sessions. The publishing sector is not just about publishing books and reaching out to the readers. It’s much more than that. The editor or the publisher has to keep note of the author’s manuscripts, the minute editing details, the accounts, the sales and marketing team, the distributors, the publicity. Starting from the author giving the content to the published book is a long and magnificent journey. Business strategies of myriad kinds are used to make the book a success. Cover designing is not just denoting what kind of book, it is a whole new revolutionary and experimental thing. Cover designs are not only used to make the book look attractive and beautiful, but also to arouse the curiosity of the readers to go through the book itself. Cover designs are made such that they send a specific kinds of message to the readers. The classes have made us see that cover designing is much more beyond art and aesthetics.. what soul is to the body, the cover design is to the book. The faculty comprising of literary scholars and personalities are supportive, ready to assist us in every possible way. They are torch bearers..showing us the right path amidst the magnanimous pompous world of publishing sector.

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