Linguistics is a fascinating study of how our ears decipher syllables and audible cues and transform them into imagery our minds can retain. As a Southern American boy, I regularly butcher the English language. Quite frankly, it’s a wonder any of us can understand each other. If you can understand me on the podcast, you’re an amazing specimen of human engineering. 🙂
What I lack in verbal skill, I make up for in the written word. As a photographer, I talk to other photographers, writers, and editors all over the world. Over a decade ago, I started expanding my own knowledge base by reading hundreds of old books from Irish, Scottish, and English authors. Because of this and learning the structure of old English, I know words that I can’t utter because no one else uses them.
I tend to adapt my spelling and writing style depending on who I’m writing. I don’t do this to deceive people. I’m very proud to be an American. I love our Country! But, for the odd person that doesn’t watch much American TV, they may not understand some of the terms I may use. I do this to make it easier on the other person. It can backfire, however. When I was in college, I wasn’t thinking and wrote an entire five page paper in what we would consider British English. I received a fat “F” on that sucker. The professor was under the impression that I couldn’t spell, but after explaining my mishap, I was able to make it up.
The other day, I was talking to a guy(Would use ‘chap’ here, but I’d get yelled at for that.) and used the word, “Row”, instead of argument, fight, or kerfuffle. He was clueless, so I had to back peddle and explain what I meant. Some may perceive using another form of English as unAmerican, but it isn’t in my case. I have little use for the modern shortened version of American English.
Noah Webster set out to standardize American English, but in doing so, we lost the parts of English that make it adaptable. If you look back to Anglo-Saxon English, for example, the letters, vowels, and their organization within a word may tell you of the original linguistic background and sometimes geographical origin.
Knowing the original spelling of words and the history behind them also helped me understand other languages. “Auld”, for instance, is a Gaelic surname. It means old, but it is also a surname. Interesting stuff, aye? There is a story behind every word in every language..