Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stop Thoughting and Start FedExing

The Thai language is, in many ways, one of the easiest languages in the world to learn. Its grammatical structure is dead simple, requiring little more than the ability to string uninflected words together in the right order. No conjugation. No tenses. No persons. No genders. No voices. No cases. No morphological changes whatsoever.

True, there are 44 letters and tons of vowels that go all over the place. You also need to be mindful of the tones in order to prevent misunderstanding. But that's about it. How hard is it to learn those two things?

If you think Thai is difficult, try Russian or Arabic.

When you grow up speaking a loosely-structured language such as Thai, the English grammar can present a challenge. I once lived a hellish life trying to master the general rules of English grammar while committing to memory the 100,765 exceptions to those rules. The quality of my life drastically increased only when I stopped caring.

But lately I’ve come to see that somewhere in the midst of the iffy rules and regulations of the English language, especially the American English, lies freedom as vast as an ocean. I just didn’t see it before. Let me explain.

I was there when this happened. A father, whose first language isn't English, was confronting his son, whose first language is English, about something the latter had done.

Why did you …… blah blah blah …?” The annoyed father inquired. Attempting to justify his action, the son explained, “But I thought I could ….. blah blah blah …!”
I told you not to …. blah blah blah …!” The father was relentless.
The son stuck to his formula, “But I thought you said I could … blah blah blah …!”

The dialogue continued in this manner for a few more minutes until the father couldn’t take any more of the son’s ignorance plea. Grabbing his temples in exasperation, the father made audible the sentence he made up in his head, “You thought, you thought, you thought, you thought, you thought. STOP THOUGHTING!!!!”

Complete silence befell the room. A few seconds later, we all burst out laughing. What makes it funny is that, "stop thoughting" made perfect sense to all involved; "Stop thinking" would have been grammatically correct, but it would not have conveyed the intended meaning.

From that day forward, I have come to see the English language in a totally new light. Ah, the freedom of being able to mess up the grammar royally while making perfect sense.

Still not appreciative of the freedom of English? How about this? Any noun can be verbalized. It’s not always right, appropriate, or even allowed. But it rarely fails to communicate. In addition to the verbalization of nouns, there is the nominalization of verbs. As if that wasn't enough fun, there is also a huge assortment of prefixes and suffixes at your disposal with which you can use to create pretty much anything you want.

Here's an example. Let's create all kinds of stuff with the brand name FedEx.

I am going to FedEx a package to my cousin.
This is because he said to me that he wanted the package FedExed to him.
While my cousin is an avid FedExer, there are times when he under-FedExes for various reasons. But even in the state of hypoFedExation, he still outFedExes anyone in the state of Illinois.
In fact, his over-FedExing has earned him the title, John the FedExist, in the family.
I guess if he could recruit a bunch of FedExists, he could totally become their archFedExist.
Me? I am an ex-FedExer. Hard to believe, because, in the old days, I FedExed so much I was once accused of hyperFedExing. But I'm now a UPS girl. Of course, I know that being kind of FedExish in their operation, UPS is a FedExoid; I just like their delivery guys' brown uniform.

Sure, my highly FedExous cousin has relentlessly tried to FedExize me, but it has never worked on this non-FedExer. My anti-FedExism is just as strong as his ultra-FedExism. Needless to say, I'm totally immune to his fervent FedExization.

It's kind of annoying. Why would you try to FedExate anyone? What are you, a FedExeer? Keep that up and people will think you're inflicted with FedExosis or something.

But I don't know. I mean, one of these days if the brown guys lose my packages, I may allow myself to be beFedExed by my FedExotic cousin. After all, I can see some of his points.
But if that happens, who knows how long that will last? In theory, that which is beFedExable can be deFedExable also. That means if I can be beFedExed, then I can also be deFedExed, right?

I love English. Do you?