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January 24, 2010

Anguish Languish - English language

Yes, I love the English language. This language is like a persistent linguistic weed - it seem to flourish the more you mangle and mess with it. Thanks to the sheer number of words in the language, we can take words far beyond their intended meanings. In fact we can distort perfectly good words and yank them from their contexts to make entirely new stories, songs and...

...who knows what else.

Consider, for example, the opening lines of the classic story familiar to readers of all ages --LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. Or, as you will learn to say in the tonally constructed language of "Anguish" LADLE RAT ROTTEN HUT:

"WANTS PAWN TERM DARE WORSTED LADLE GULL HOE LIFT wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge, dock, florist. Disk ladle gull orphan worry Putty ladle rat cluck wetter ladle rat hut, an fur disk raisin pimple colder Ladle Rat Rotten Hut."

Sound familiar? It will if you read it out loud.

You'll find it easier to understand "Anguish" when you hear it than when you see it. If it doesn't make sense yet, listen to someone else read it to you, preferably someone who doesn't quite know what he or she is reading.

For maximum impact, have someone read it to a group. Watch what happens when the listeners understand better than the reader.

Don't try to read too fast and be sure to give all words their usual English pronunciation, regardless of the new meaning the word has acquired. An accurate pronunciation and good intonation are most effective.

If you are the reader, you might feel that you have been taken over by an alien - or robotic - accent. That's all right. In fact that's half the fun of this.

You can see the whole Anguish Languish version of Little Red Riding Hood, by Howard L. Chace, originally published in 1956 and read on Sir Arthur Godfrey's TV show at that time here http://www.justanyone.com/allanguish.html#_Toc505953306.

If you poke around this website, you will find other familiar fairy tales and stories like:

Marry Hatter Ladle Limb
Marry hatter ladle limb
Itch fleas worse widest snore.
An ever-wear debt Marry win
Door limb worse shorter gore.

Don't forget tongue twisters. I find them very useful for tricky pronunciation, but consider the inspired mayhem of a group recitation of this formerly familiar tongue twister;

Pitter Paper
Pitter Paper peeked or parker peckled paupers
Or packer peckled paupers pitter paper peeked
Aft Pitter Paper peeked or packer peckled paupers
Ware aster packer peckled paupers debt pitter paper peeked?

Or consider sing-along songs (suitable for every level of English language learner) like;

Hive Ban Walking Honor Roil Rut
Hive ban walking honor roil rut Oiler laugh lung dare;
Hive ban walking honor roil rut Jester pester tam aware.
Conjure herder weasels blurring,
Blurring sore oily inner moan?
Conjure herder chaldron shorting,
Diner want chew blur debt hone?

Or my personal favorite -

Hormone Derange
O gummier hum warder buffer-lore rum
Enter dare enter envelopes ply,
Ware soiled'em assured adage cur-itching ward
An disguise earn it clotty oil die.
Harm, hormone derange,
Warder dare enter envelopes ply,
Ware soiled'em assured adage cur-itching ward
An disguise earn it clotty oil die.

Yes, my students, many times, don't know what to expect in my classes, but they never forget and they have a great time and a hands-on sense of what make this unlikely language so persistent and alive.

P.S. For some truly "Anguished" holiday songs, look here http://www.justanyone.com/carloons.htm

And don't forget - send your language puzzles, discoveries and frustrations this way!

It is good to remember that we are all always learning - and our language is always changing. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at January 24, 2010 12:34 AM

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