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ESL—English as a Second (Stupid) Language

22.January.2011

Trish is a close friend of mine whom I had the pleasure of meeting when I was in college. We clicked right from the get-go—of course it didn’t hurt that we shared a dorm—and for the longest time, we’ve created this long history of sharing everything with each other: from simple observations of how life unfolds, to secrets that should never have been told.

I met up with her a few hours ago. We spent an hour (probably less) at the mall, walking around, buying stuff, and catching up. It’s been two months since we last saw each other, but almost an entire year since we last had the chance to be by ourselves—to talk about anything and everything, however we liked (my brother Josh tagged along , but he had his own business at the mall that he didn’t really care to listen to what we were talking about).

And after she and I waited for a cab, after we said our goodbyes as we hugged, and as she was finally on her way to the bus station to catch a bus going to Los Baños and I on my way to meet up with Josh at Timezone, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic.

I miss college. I miss my college pals. I miss the dorm. I miss my instructors and professors. I miss being a student.

When Josh and I got home, I went straight to my room to start digging into my past.

I needed to reminisce. I opened my personal baul (in my case, it’s a freaking huge suitcase) chock-full of old notes, exams, creative stories, speeches, a plethora of trinkets and doodads kept out of sentiment, and sacred written relics—all from my collegiate past. I flipped page after page, read sheet after sheet, until I found this piece of text (a poem) shared to our speech class by our instructor, Jonnah Valero (whom I miss dearly).

The poem is about English as a stupid language. It’s my second language. And though it has its anomalies and quirks, it is a language that I have come to love—the medium through which I am most comfortable expressing myself.

In the same way that Ma’am Jonnah shared the poem with her students, I thought I’d share the poem with all of you as well.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did way back when.

ENGLISH IS A STUPID LANGUAGE*

Let’s face it.

English is a stupid language.

There’s no egg in eggplant,

No ham in hamburger,

And neither pine nor apple in pineapple.

 

English muffins were not invented in England.

French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted

But if we examine its paradoxes,

We find that quicksand takes you down slowly,

Boxing rings are square,

And a Guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

 

If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing?

If the plural of tooth is teeth,

Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth?

If the teacher taught, why didn’t the preacher praught?

 

If a vegetarian eats vegetables,

What the heck does a humanitarian eat?

Why do people recite a play yet play at a recital,

Park on driveways and drive on parkways?

How can the weather be hot as hell the one day,

And cold as hell on another?

 

English was invented by people, not computers.

And it reflects the creativity of the human race

(Which of course isn’t a race at all)

 

That is why

When the stars are out, they are visible

But when the lights are out, they are invisible.

And why is that when I wind up my watch, it starts.

But when I wind up this poem, it ends.

______________________

*Performed during the Second National Conference on Speech Communication on May 10-12, 2000 at the Faculty Center, University of the Philippines Diliman.

* * * * * * * * *

WORD

1. This is such a wonderful, touching story. 🙂

2. Blake Griffin, Baron Davis, and the LA Clippers.

3. Happy birthday cousin Kezia! 😀

4. Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman) in The Dark Knight Rises? Sounds like fun. 😛

5. Senator Defensor-Santiago standing up for bloggers? That was surprising.

SHAME

1. and 2. Seriously, Venus? Your sartorial sense is so bonkers, it deserves two spots in this week’s Shame! See the horror here and here. View at your own risk.

3. I’m not quite sure with this.

4. Flub: funny or not? Not.

* * * * * * * * *

QUOTE OF THE WEEK*

Sarah (Palin) is a self-opening piñata.”

~Robin Williams, on Sarah Palin being a fantastic source of comedy in government—from his HBO Special Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction (2009).

*This week’s quote may not have been said this week, but I had just finished watching it (you really should see it too) and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity to post such a hilarious statement about Palin, who happens to be a hot topic of late, especially after the tragic shooting in Tucson, Arizona.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. 23.January.2011 12:27 am

    I say it’s more stupid to sweat over the figurative value of the English words without consulting first their etymologies. 😉

    • 23.January.2011 5:19 am

      I couldn’t agree with you more, dear. But making fun of the innumerable inconsistencies of the English language is such an enjoyable activity. 😀

  2. 23.January.2011 2:05 am

    I have this thing which my siblings call “baul” pero drawer sya actually at punong-puno sya ng ~memories~. Umaapaw pa. I call it “joy box” kasi maarte ako. haha!

    Naaliw ako sa poem 🙂

    At sa bagong role na gagampanan ni Anne Hathaway ^^ wee~

    • 23.January.2011 5:35 am

      Ah yes. The baul—which, in this context, we use as a metaphor—could be a box, drawer, suitcase, or any other container. It is simply where we store and safeguard our memories—by virtue of keeping stuff that we consider to be part of our personal history safely tucked away inside it.

      Buti naaliw ka, dear. 🙂

      Nyahaha. Di ko na talaga ma-antay ang The Dark Knight Rises. Kung bakit naman kasi sa 2012 pa ang showing nun. >.<

  3. 23.January.2011 5:56 am

    That’s why up to this day, I don’t completely understand English. Nice poem by the way.

    • 23.January.2011 6:33 am

      Hi, pinoytransplant! Thanks for viewing and commenting. 🙂

      Hey, neither do I. English is probably the most difficult language to grasp. I may be wrong (there are some who would argue that the most difficult language to learn is Mandarin Chinese), but English can be such a pain to understand sometimes.

      I’m not the author of that poem, by the way. That was given to my classmates and I by our Speech Communication instructor a long time ago. I just wanted to share it to everyone.

  4. 23.January.2011 6:03 pm

    Nice Poem :)) and I got a baul too~ *sharing* 😀

    peace&smile,
    _korhz

    • 23.January.2011 9:06 pm

      Thanks, korhz. I think all of us have this inner pack rat, meaning each of us has a personal baul, too. 🙂

  5. 23.January.2011 10:55 pm

    I love the poem. It describes perfectly the innate quirkiness of the English language. Although I always will be proud that I am born a Filipino, I feel that English provides a better avenue for much wordplay. But don’t take me seriously since I’m probably just rationalizing my depressing inability to bend the Filipino language to my will. 😉

    Right now I can’t imagine missing college life. But then again, the view is always different from outside. 🙂

    • 23.January.2011 11:29 pm

      I’m right with you on that, dear. If I’m not mistaken, English has the most words in its vocabulary, what with all the borrowing it does from other languages. I remember the first time I encountered the term ‘boondocks’ in a dictionary. I was like, they took this from Tagalog (bundok)!

      I’m sure you’re thinking that you’ll never miss being in college. I thought so too, in my time.

      When you’re in school, you can’t wait to get out, to work or whatever. But once you’re out of school, give it a few months (in my case, a year) and you’re going to start singing the opposite tune. That’s just how it is, I suppose. 😀

  6. 11.February.2011 2:33 pm

    old notes old notes ka dyan. di ka marunong magsulat pag asa classroom. charos ka. maniwala sayo. nakita ko na so called notebook mo. wala kaya laman. ay meron pala, course title tsaka name ng instructor. Chararat ka!!!!

    -J

    • 11.February.2011 2:40 pm

      Di ko naman sinabing old notes ko e. Pano kung old notes na hiram ko sa classmates o sa upper class? Pano kung notes na sulat ng ibang tao para saken? 😀

      Pero may tama ka ha, yung ibang notebook ko (fillers lang, actually) e puro course title at name ng instructor lang nakalagay. Lol. Ay teka, isama na rin naman natin yung course number, section, at room assignment. =))

      But how would you know that? Sino kang J ka, ha? Hmm.

      Wait, I may have just figured out who you are.

      Janna? Ishtatue? 🙂

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