Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

ParisRant: Coda on Language

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

Notice something? The SPI (and most stock indices, in fact) formed a new, lower year-to-date high last week, and from there tanked like billy-oh.

Don't be fooled by the pump last night in the S&P - that's strictly an options-expiration related piece of shenanigans.

Last weekend I had hoped to get access to a computer which was not part of an internet cafe intranet - but that didn't happen for a variety of reasons. As a result, I was not able to log in to RantControl (I think it would be foolhardy in the extreme to do so from a public computer). So I was unable to grab the SPISpy Rules of Engagement (RoE) document from the secure drive, which meant I couldn't send it to those of you who have not yet got hold of it. That is a pain, but it will be remedied very shortly - we move into the house in le Vesinet this weekend (YAY!!).

Speaking of things French, I'm becoming more and more annoyed with the government-sponsored get-together of Froggish boffins who 'refined' the French language (from memory it was in the 1800s). Like typical government-orchestrated grand plans, the resulting changes were little more than the deletion of some words which were falling out of use anyhow (but the loss of which deprived French of the depth of nuance that English has).

More important issues were left undone - structural issues. For example, the notion that possessive pronouns agree with the gender of the object. For example, if I was speaking of "Peter and his mother", in French I would say "Pierre et sa mere", which always looks to me as if it is "Peter and her mother". This is why the Frogs often stuff up possessive pronouns in English, where the structure is more logical.

To extend the example (and give a better explication as to why the French way is a bad thing), consider the phrase "Peter and his mother got into his car" ... in French, that's (roughly - just concentrate on the car) "Pierre et sa mere sont entrées dans sa voiture". If you were translating that as an English speaker, you would be forgiven for thinking it was his mother's car, because sa is the feminine possessive pronoun.

Also, the fact that adjectives and adverbs have to agree by gender and number - stupid. Examples: un poivron vert, deux poivrons verts, une voiture verte, deux voitures vertes. One green pepper, two 'greens' peppers, one 'greene' car, two 'greenes' cars... notice the extra 'e' in verte(s) when attached to a feminine object (voiture is feminine). It's just stupid.

Likewise adverbs:

  • Desolé - 'Sorry' (singluar, masculine);
  • Desolée - 'Sorry' (singluar, feminine);
  • Desolés - 'Sorry' (plural, masculine);
  • Desolées - 'Sorry' (plural, feminine).

Frankly, the language is set up so that every sentence worth writing is more of a grammatical obstacle course, rather than an exercise in getting a thought across. What is more maddening is that the nuances descibed above have little impact on the spoken sentence (although the 't' in vert is silent, but that it 'verte' is not).

in other words, the nuance is basically a way to separate smartasses from dumbasses in written French,,, which smells like a vestige from the periods in hostory when the elite attempted to keep literacy to a minumum.

Anyway, among other things that's probably why the French have never produced a truly great philosopher... people spend too much mental effort on dumbass things like gender and number agreement (and whether composite tenses use etre or avoir, and how to use the subjunctive, and other meaningless stylistic embroidery). And other stuff, like the fact that words like 'which' and 'this' also change with the gender and number of the object.

Don't get me wrong, I don't find it hard, I just find it annoying because it's pointlessly inefficient.

Of course, English spelling (and English orthography in general) is a pain in the arse, but eventually English will evolve out of all its silly spellings (where 'ough' can be 'uff', 'ow', 'oo', 'oh' or 'ock'). In fact English orthography is already changing... with things being descibed as 'Lite' or 'Hi-Fibre'. I might not like it, but it makes sense if the language is for communication rather than a make-work scheme for English teachers. Webster said of English that it had to rationalise its spelling or...

"...the minds of men may again sink into indolence; a national acquiescence in error will follow, and posterity be doomed to struggle with difficulties which time and accident will perpetually multiply."

Here's a forecast: French will become a 'fringe' language (like Basque or Breton) unless it fixes these little annoying things... people will simply migrate to English.

And don't get me started on German 'cases'...