Monday, 25 February 2008

Stupid Things We Say - Well One Of Them Anyway

Have you ever wondered why China, India, Brazil and the like are developing at such a pace that Western countries can't seem to match? I know I have. It's the stupid things like that keep me awake at 4 in the morning.
I've come to the conclusion that it can be narrowed down to one thing - language. The fastest developing countries of our time all share one thing in common - they do not speak the English language as their primary language. Therefore they have an advantage.
Once upon a time the English language was a powerful tool. It is after all a language of four hundred thousand words. Well that's the figure that someone told me once. Personally I tend to be cynical when people mention figures. People lie and exaggerate all the time, especially when they don't know the facts. I was especially cynical in the case of the four hundred thousand for more than a few reasons. Its a nice round number for one. I'm also the sort of person that doesn't take anything as fact until it has been proven without any doubt. My brain is such that you could give me a book with the recipe for an atomic bomb and I won't fully 100% believe that that is what it is. That wouldn't be meant as an insult to the author, I would be open minded about it but at the same time I would need to build said atomic bomb and accidentally blow somewhere up that I had no intention of visiting in the future - the moon perhaps.
Also I have many dictionaries of my own but I've never taken the time to count the words in them. I have better things to do with my life, like the all important task of scratching my bum when its itchy. Quite frankly I don't know anyone who has counted the words in a dictionary but I do know a lot of people who have scratched their bum. But back to the four hundred thousand words before I drift any further. I'm a cynical bastard. I believe people exaggerate and usually by a great number, even when they don't intend to. Lets say that in this case they exaggerated by a third that still leaves the English language with around three hundred thousand words. That's a lot of words. Very impressive you might say. In the right hands it can still be a powerful language, and just in case you are wondering I am not that person. Come on, how many times have I went off topic in this one post? I, like most people, am not a great executer of the potential of this once great language. I'm lazy. I use a minuscule amount of the words available to me. I''d be surprised if I know 5000 words, at a push I may know 10000 words. I really don't know the amount, and I don't care. I do know its only a small fraction of what I could learn and I use even that small amount lazily. I use them in ways that I have heard others use them. I use the same phrases. I don't always know what they mean but I regurgitate them anyway. Just because they are there. It's easier than coming up with something fresh and new and its so much easier that saying something in my own words. Most people I know are like this. Truth be told I might even be worse than most people, if I had to develop a language of my own I would probably resort to grunting, making up words would be too much like hard work.
Again I'm drifting, I have no doubt that at one point the English language was a powerful tool. It was an enabler. With the right voice it gave a nation the belief that they could fight the invasion of a hostile force on the beaches, even though at the time that nation had little more to fight them with than tin openers which weren't fit for purpose for which they were designed seeing as most of the tins destined for the country were at the time sinking in the mid Atlantic. The English language can also make you believe that a man can 'float like a butterfly' even though your eyes are saying that that same man is getting pummelled in the ropes by two very big fists. There is no doubting the power of the English language in the right voice.
Even today it has the potential to be powerful but the potential has been hampered somewhat for most us. Phrases hold its power back. People who are less familiar with the language aren't held back in the same way by what it has become.
China, India and Brazil are all fast developing nations and as a result much of the people of these fine countries will be familiar with the English language but not to such an extent that they say things like "Its the best thing since sliced bread". I mean to say 200 plus years of industrialisation thats the best thing we can come up with?
Countries such as China have ambition. They want progress. They are forward looking countries. They don't measure the greatness of something to an insignificant moment. Why do we? How did that phrase come about anyway? What's so great about sliced bread anyway, I'm sure we could have coped had a cutting machine not been invented. But where would global warming be without the wheel? OK maybe that's a bad example.

1 comment:

Mentok said...

Great post, the cat's pajamas. ;-)