Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lost in translation

The English language is stupid.

No really. It is really really really stupid. It is ridiculously hard to learn to use correctly as opposed to some other languages in the world. There are all these weird rules, and then exceptions to the rules, and then exceptions to the exceptions, and it is just dumb. I have been speaking English my entire life and I am still not sure I have a firm grasp on it. I only just figured out the use of a semi-colon about six months ago (I am fairly certain I am still using it incorrectly, but hey at least I am using it).

Then if grammatical technicalities were not confusing enough, you then actually start to use it and things get all crazy like. This is mostly in part because people use the language, and people are stupid; stupid + stupid = really frigging dumb. 

Now in Englishes defense people can make any language stupid. Its just these weird sayings and phrases that people come up with. For instance "Put some elbow grease into it."
What the hell? I mean I know what it means, because I have been told it means put some more effort into it, but if I hadn't known that I would be so confused. What the hell is elbow grease anyways?

To illustrate this point, a story.

When my mother was young, in Elementary school, somewhere between the age of 6 and 9 (I don't remember her exact age, just that she was in Germany at the time, which would have made her 6 to 9) she attended a rather strict school. It was military after all, and they were in Germany, and it was back in a time when children were expected to act civilized and follow the rules...or else.

Well one of the rules was that you did not put your feet on the walls. I know it sounds silly, but when you think about it, it makes sense. They didn't want people to lean on the walls and then put there foot up behind them (kind of like a flamingo only with your foot on the wall not your other knee).

Well my mother, being a child, and some of her classmates were not keen on following the rules, and one day were caught with their feet dirtying the walls. As I said before this was a school that believed in consequences, so the group of little girls ended up being punished for their transgression. The punishment was to wash the walls, which makes perfect sense.

So here are these little girls with a bucket and rags, washing off the walls. Their teacher made the comment to them "Put some elbow grease into it" and then went off to do other things while the girls performed their punishment.

Now again this is a group of 6 to 9 year old girls. Not one of them had ever heard the phrase before, and not one of them knew what it really meant. What was this elbow grease she spoke of? Was it some sort of chemical that your elbow produced that would make footprints come off walls easier?

So my mother took her teacher literally (as most children do). She took the rag and placed it on the wall with one hand and then placed her elbow on the rag and began to rub. She rubbed and rubbed and rubbed trying to use this strange mythical elbow grease her teacher had spoke of.

Now I want you to stop and picture this.
She was scrubbing a concrete wall.
With her elbow.
As hard as she could.

So eventually the teacher came back to check on their progress, and what she discovers is my mother, in tears, with blood running down her arm from her elbow. The teacher ran over and demanded to know what my mother had done. All she could do was cry that she had done exactly what she was told to do and put elbow grease into it.

You see what I mean?

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