The Public Eye

printed 10/25/2019

If there’s one thing I don’t get about the English language it’s why it isn’t Italian, or Spanish, or German or Bantu or any of the hundreds of tongues that employ words that make sense.

At least, that’s my guess, since the only time I employ an altogether different vocabulary is when I attempt carpentry or, if I don’t follow the universally acknowledged door-opening schedule, the dog expresses his impatience by liquidating on the floor.

“Why you little….”

It’s surprising how many syllables the word “dog” can be turned into under the right, or wrong, circumstances. And it’s okay, because they have no idea what you’re saying.

“Why you little …”

Wag, wag, wag.

The fact is, it’s a good thing dogs don’t know that much beyond, “okay,” “sit,” “hungry?” “snack,” and “wanna go for a ride?” If they did know more, they would be even more confused than we humans are.

For instance, take the word “wind.” Why is it the English language refers to the occurrence of rain as “raining,” snow as “snowing,” and sleet as “sleeting,” but does not permit wind to be expressed as “winding?”

Neither can you say, “Is it supposed to wind today?” You can use the nouns rain, sleet, snow and hail as verbs, but not wind. It’s in a class by itself, probably because of some Medieval Elmer Fudd who wrote, “The winding winds wind up the wiver,” thus sending these words to the high council for clarification.

The fact is — I looked it up — wind, as in breeze, gale and whatnot, was originally pronounced with a long ‘I,” as in “eye,” for centuries before someone realized a distinction between wind, as in coil, and wind, as in air movement, needed to be made.

It’s just a guess, but it was probably because of some Renaissance Elmer Fudd, who observed at the castle gate, “Wind up the dwawbwidge, men, before the wind and wain awive,” thus leading to great confusion.

Meanwhile, in the modern application of our stupid language, three words in particular really get me: technology, source, and sustainable in all its forms.

“I sourced my technology sustainably.” Which, to me, makes about as much sense as Elmer Fudd singing, “The Wong and Winding Woad.”

“Sourced” is what I call stilted language, which means it’s a high-falutin way to say, “bought,” “found,” or even “stole.”

“I sourced this six-pack from the store when no one was looking.”

As for “technology,” it does not mean “computer,”or anything connected with that area. Technology is what we use to make computers, and cars and coffee makers and fishing reels and …

And then there’s “sustainability,” which lately has taken to mean “environmentally responsible,” I think, although it really means to “keep on keepin’ on,” or something to that effect.

It’s all confusing, this employment of a language that shifts rapidly in some areas but remains stuck in others.

On the other hand, it has just occurred to me that if “wind” was used as a verb, would its past tense be “winded?” And that’s sort of how this subject leaves me, winded, but hardly blown away.

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