Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Another act of self-expiation

Speech came first; alphabets provided the toolbox – the technology – by which speech became visible. And a rare old hash we made of it. We’re all aware of English negligence (enough, cough, bough, through, for starters) but the French are just as bad. Take feuille (leaf); could there be a more complicated way of spelling a syllable and a half. As for Finnish – why all the umlauts? Since the double dots modify vowels why not pick more precise vowels in the first place?

Two cheers at least for German, then. I know just enough to recognise Germans worked harder at relating the alphabet to speech and in maintaining consistency thereafter. I particularly like the iron-clad rule that ie spells ee, and ei spells aye and it curled my teeth in America to hear Steinberg rendered wilfully as Steenberg. Yes I know Germans use (possibly invented) umlauts but somehow they don’t seem as prodigal as the Finns.

Learn the basic pronunciatory rules in German and you’re more or less home and dry.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen
Diese Küss für ganze Welt.

(Be embraced (oh ye) millions,
This kiss for the whole world)

It’s a crime to offer it unsung, and without the tenors pushed so far up the scale they’re almost trebles, but I do so knowing that a few days’ familiarity will be enough for the average Yorkshireman (Is there any other kind?) to communicate those words.

Why am I doing this? In self-expiation. The few Brits attracted to other languages tend to get swoony about French. And I’m more guilty than most. Pax vobiscum. Oh, what a smartyboots.