Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Macademia Nuts - Some Thoughts on the English Language

   Hello again, and welcome to the third post in our "Let's write lots of blog posts so we look busy in our first week" weeklong blog campaign. This is what I would call a 'special' post (as opposed to a weekly series), not only because it won't become a weekly series, but also because it aims to bury my colleague's one tragically offensive post below a pile of intellectual bile that I spit out.


   Yes, this is a blog post entirely comprised of blagging - blagging endlessly to cover up an inconvenient truth that is not related to the environment. Well, not yet, anyway. This act is also known as 'B.S.ing', or for those of you who don't mind the occasional swear word, 'bullshitting'. I don't know why it is only a bull's feces that symbolises lying and deceit, for I find all varieties of defecation to be equally pungeant. In fact, I find bulls to be a generally rare sight in developed countries these days, and (by the transitive property of biological functions) so is their dung.

   However, this strange and completely random topic actually leads quite nicely into my main subject today: Macademia Nuts. No, wait, I mean language; specifically, the English language. Any of you who don't speak English as a first language - or don't speak English at all (hey, Google translate's gotten pretty good these days) - will know that it is a very complicated language. Heck, even those of you who do speak English as a first language will probably know what I mean. The most common complaint regarding its difficulty to learn is the number of irregular verbs and annoying homophones: I haven't runned today, and whoever writed that terribly inaccurate clause nose nothing of hour language.

   This having been the topic of my studies for the past few years, and this post being my pushy way of presenting my opinions to the unsuspecting world, I do have a different theory. Yes, irregulars are tricky, but they aren't exclusive to English. Look no further than Spanish's 'Ser', which follows almost none of the rules for verb conjugation.


I won't bore you with the details, but suffice
it to say that 'Ser' is one mad hombre.

Not only that, but against all common sense rules, 'agua' is somehow a masculine noun! It's insane! Or, is it? (It's not). The fact is that all languages the world over - even German - have irregularities within their construction. Esperanto and Basic English don't*, but that's because they are constructed languages - constructed not all that perfectly by mental cases. Quite simply, all natural things tend towards chaos, even in language. Do I know why? I could spout some nonsense about how the rough and tumble ways of nature that form such beauty as the Grand Canyon would be impossible without this entropy, but the fact is that I simply think that first grade spelling teachers hate us. All over the goddamned world.

   But wait - what is that you're saying? If all languages have irregularities, then why is my gardener always complaining about her low salary in some foreign-sounding language instead of good ol' American like I do? Well, sidestepping the issue of critical period theory because I don't really feel like putting up with the dead baby jokes that Kevin would bring to the table, there is still my theory.


No, that's not my theory. Not until I have a time machine, at any rate.

My theory on English complexity (and I use the word 'my' only because I've never read of anybody else citing this as the main reason - not because I wish to be sued.) is that there are so very, very, many synonyms. Not only are there 271 words in our mother tongue that mean 'good' (and only 149 that mean bad. Come on, man! Keep up), but each and every one of those has a subtly different context and meaning. You would call your dog "Good" to mean that he was a fine (there's one synonym already) specimen of his species. But when was the last time you heard someone praising their canine companion for being 'ace', 'gnarly', or 'stupendous'? They all mean the same thing, technically.

   No, it has to be "Good dog". Has to be.


Or else.

   The reason that this is such an issue, is that we never even think about it ourselves when we speak. This was something that changed a lot when I was hanging out exclusively with Frenchmen in Prague. There were only Frenchmen in Prague. In-between drinking and partying, I was generally conversing with these fine folks, and lemme tell you - it wasn't that easy. They spoke fine English by all accounts; they could say just about anything that they needed to get across. However there were snags when I was speaking, which if you haven't yet guessed, was down to my use of words such as "Conversing" instead of 'speaking' and "snags" instead of 'issues' (or would 'problems' be the more universal word?) I quite often had to whip out my mental thesarus and try a few different words to get my message across adequately.

   Adequately!? Adequately? I meant 'understandably'. Do you see how difficult it is? To you, my many foreign acquaintances, I apologise humbly for my very complex way of speaking sometimes.

   Now then... All of this brings me to one final point. English is weird to me! There are oft-cited examples: 'a driveway is where you park; a parkway is where you drive', 'being economical is good; being cheap is bad', et al. but one thing recently struck me quite deeply.
"Macademia nuts."
No, this is not the confession of some strange phobia and/or phillia. It is a common foodstuff that just happened to get me thinking... 'Mac' is a common prefix to (pseudo)Scottish names, and 'academia' is just a fancy way of saying 'education', right? Add to that the general understanding that an 'academia nut' is one who is nuts (crazy, zealous, in love) about academia.

   So the thought I wish to leave you, dear reader, with today is this: why is it that in this crazy world, when I am speaking so clearly of my Scottish intellectual chums, that people think I'm talking about hard, woody, globose seed carriers?


Two examples of hard, woody, globose seed carriers.

  Keeping you, as always, cushioned within the impenetrable grey fog of information,

Y. S. Rice

*They do.

Most of the information, particularly on the scientific description of macademia nuts comes from this relatively unknown site:

Synonym statistics are from:

And, as always, the pictures link to their sources. Browse at your own discretion, for I have no idea how cool or otherwise these sites may be.

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