When you’re wrong for getting it right

This is a post about champagne, which I know nothing about.

img_moet_chandon

It’s also a post about language, which I know a little bit about.

Ultimately, though, it’s about confusion.

As a non-alcohol drinker, I have learned to approach names with caution. While names like merlot, sauvignon blanc and cognac are easy to say when you know how they’re supposed to sound, there lies a gap between reading and pronouncing that is fraught with potentially embarrassing moments.

It’s this need for vigilance that made my ears prick up some months ago when I heard a friend pronounce Moët, ‘mow-ay.’ Feeling grateful that she’d just saved me from the embarrassment of every referring to ‘Mowett’, I determined to remember it.

Today, however, I happened across an article that informed me that Moët should be pronounced with a hard ‘t.’ First, because its full name is Moët et Chadon (and in French that means the ‘t’ is pronounced) but, more importantly, because the word is not French at all, but actually Dutch.

So Moët actually rhymes with poet, and I have myself a dilemma. To pronounce it correctly and have people around me think I’m a fool, or to say it wrong with everyone else? The solution is easy. I survived 30 years without having to say it at all; I can surely survive another 30.

But I’ll be a bit more compassionate to all those foreigners who keep saying Mel-bourne, when we all know it’s Mel-bun.moet-et-chandon-champagne-bottle-with-watermark

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I luv ya, but I don’t love you.

Valentine-Bokeh-Heart-Shaped-Light-Background_thumbThe English language has one word for love. And let’s face it, it’s a bit of a problem.

How do you express that deep feeling of loyalty and affection towards someone who you do not feel romantic love for?

Why is it that you can laugh and say ‘I love you’ to a casual friend, but you have to wait for weeks, or even months to say it to someone who you truly do love?

Us Aussies have come up with a solution. It’s a poor one at best, but it get’s the job done. We preserve the beauty of the phrase ‘I love you’ for more special occasions or instances in which it won’t be misinterpreted. I love you is for family or lovers or close friends. For everyone else, the you tends to slide into a ‘ya.’

‘Ya’ has a powerful impact on the phrase. It makes it acceptable. It expresses appreciation and affection, with out the weight of confession. To add the abbreviated word ‘luv’ allows us to shelter behind the missing letter. Love? Now that’s a strong word, but luv? Yeah, I can do that.

So to everyone out there: I luv ya… but let’s just leave it at that.

I’m Not as Dumb as I Sound

morning paper: photo credit stock.xchng

Anyone who has studied a foreign language and then traveled to that country can probably relate to that vulnerable, humbling feeling you get when you discover that your lack of ability to communicate makes you sound stupid.

I remember on my first trip to Germany, sitting with my host and a few of her friends, playing a board game. I think it was Pictionary, and they were all encouraging me to play, but my language was limited and I didn’t know half of the words we were playing with.

I clearly remember wanting to tell them, as I haltingly communicated in basic, broken sentences, “I’m actually not stupid! I do speak a language fluently and I am capable of intelligent conversation!” Instead I was relegated to child-like speech and exaggerated facial expressions.

I learned a big lesson that day, and one I’m ashamed to admit that I had to learn by experience:

Just because people don’t speak my language doesn’t mean they’re stupid.

I think there is far too much arrogant, English ‘monolingualism’ in this world. A person could speak five languages fluently, but sadly too often, in my country, if their English isn’t good, they’re quickly relegated to the ‘stupid bin.’

Intelligence goes far beyond communication, so let’s give our tourists, our immigrants and our exchange students a fair go. Their English might not be fluent yet, but there’s a good chance they’re smarter than we are.