Open up your eyes

Okay, it’s a bit late. That’s what happens when you try to squash a dog walk in and your dog gets overexcited when he sees some swallows. I’m working to a tight schedule here! Anyway, the Wednesday Whoo was then a Thursday Phew and is now a Friday Yippee! with U2 and their cover of the Robert Knight soul classic Everlasting Love. 

I can’t tell you how much I love this song. And the U2 version is my favourite. It was released in 1998 and it’s got so many memories for me. My copy of the song was on a copied disc of ‘The Best of 1980-1990’ that Andy did for me – and he’d written out all of the tracks by hand. I’d listened to it over and over as the B side to All I Want is You which came out in 1989. That little 7″ single of mine got listened to over and over – and I’m surprised there are any grooves left on the B side. It still makes me ache to hear it.

Let’s face it: Bono turned out to be a bit of a smarmy, holier-than-thou, shiny-faced do-gooder after “Achtung, Baby!”  and he got a bit unbearably smug. But back in the 80s, he was still filled with all this raw emotion from time to time – I still love Sunday Bloody Sunday – nothing like a bit of a protest song from time to time. Does anyone make protest songs any more? It’s no wonder I grew up so angry.

So what else is warming the cockles of my heart this week?

Teaching Italian – ages since I did (I used to teach a GCSE Italian class about 15 years ago!) although I realised that my mouth was used to French and mangiare took a bit of getting used to. Might look similar to manger (the French for the same thing) but Italian is such a straightforward language compared to French. At least most times you can tell if something is masculine or feminine, just from the word. French – well, that’s a whole lot more intricate. But I love the feel of Italian and once you get back into speaking it, after a minute or two, it feels so smiley and lovely in your mouth. Likewise Portuguese. I love the feel of that one in my mouth. A friend of mine said it’s like speaking with a mouthful of cake. It kind of is.

But much love for being an English speaker. That’s lucky. English has fewer verb endings, fewer irregular verbs and fewer tenses than many other languages, though we often have more words. There is not a massive gap between written English and spoken English, and any formality or plural for you has long since evaporated. Talking to a French-speaking boy who has lived all his life in England and has returned for a term to live in France, he says the ‘tu’ and ‘vous’ thing is a nightmare for him and he’s always using tu instead of vous. I had a student once, an old guy who had decided to learn French and had decided, against my advice, to learn French from an English person, and he spoke always in the ‘tu’ form. It made me feel really uncomfortable when he spoke to me. I thought ‘I don’t know you… it’s like you’re invading my pronoun space!’. We don’t have those linguistic bothers in English. In fact, Italian is much more straightforward over this as well. The French are much more formal than the Italians or the Spanish. Nobody uses the polite form with me in those languages. That’s at least one reason to celebrate speaking English.

So enjoy the words you speak today. Savour flibbertigibbet and flabbergasted and funky, moist and marvellous and gusset. Run rampant with regionalisms, quirks and oddities. Life is always much nicer when we have joyous words to roll around our mouths!

 

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8 thoughts on “Open up your eyes

      1. I was hoping you’d translate that last paragraph into Italian LOL 😉 Yum.
        Much admiration for teaching Italian – I spent many years learning it and enjoy it, finding it quite easy with French and English, but I don’t think I’m good enough to teach it :O!!
        After living here for so long, I’ve got very defensive over the formal pronouns and use them to my (perceived!) advantage – but it makes me unsure in other languages that are more casual… sigh. You can’t win!

        Oh, and memories of wandering the streets on the way home from obscure pubs, singing the lyrics of songs from WAR at the tops of our voices – thanks!! 🙂

      2. I was surprised by JUST how formal French can be. I’m never going to use ‘tu’ with some people, even if I live here 40 years!

  1. English is simpler but tu/vous pitfalls can happen just the same, even if it takes other forms. I remember a British friend, Lynette, who visited us in Canada. She made an appointment with an hairdresser and when she got there the young woman said “Hi Lynette”. She answered “As we do not know each other, you will please call me Mrs May.”
    One interesting thing about the tu/vous is that contrarily to France, French speakers in North America have just about given up on the vous (like the English gave up on the thou in the XVIIIth century). This less formal approach I expect reflects the North American culture. As some one has said, French Canadians are not French people living in North America, but North American who speak French.

    1. I have several friends and acquaintances who have been taught to use ‘tu’ – but I find it still very formal here. I use vous most of the time, even with people I feel I know very well. The French are very private! I think you are right about the French Canadians

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