Friday, November 25, 2005

Not very coherent Friday snippets


When I leave the house on Thursday and Friday mornings these days it is dark. As I rode the train around the Osaka loop line this morning a ghastly orange sun was rising through the mucky brown air. Osaka looked as ugly as I've ever seen it. Is it just me, or has the air pollution been particularly bad the last few days? Usually the air seems dirtier in summer, when it's muggy.

Come to think of it, a couple of days ago someone mentioned yellow sand blowing over from China and reaching this area. Could that be it? That is usually a spring problem, though, and doesn't normally reach this area anyway. I wonder if something has changed?

But ... but ...

As I was wandering around the classroom today I noticed that one of my students had written that his favourite movie was "Butman." I should have understood it right away, but didn't. It's Friday. I'm slow on Fridays. I hovered behind him, and I think my brain may have been making ticking noises because he turned around and saw me staring at his paper.

"Good movie!" he said.

"Yeeees," I answered, doubtfully. I thought a little more. Then I added, "Make that an a."


When I was twelve I had an English teacher called Mrs Ball. I remembered her today as I was teaching my students some phrasal verbs. The only thing I can remember about Mrs Ball's classes, aside from her being angry most of the time, is that she seemed to spend the entire year conducting a passionate vendetta against the word got. Got was, she claimed, the ugliest word in the English language, and should be avoided whenever possible. Beautiful sentences could be destroyed by the word got. There were so many better words we could use, she lectured, and she would cross out any gots in our writing and order us to look for replacements. It was a hard, horrible little word, she said, and she would spit it, to demonstrate.


Our writing became elaborate. Anything we wrote in her class we then had to proofread for the word got (and get, although she seemed to reserve most of her vitriol for got) and remove it. This was a lot harder than it might seem. All kinds of useful phrasal verbs were banished from our vocabulary when we were writing for her. We dismounted from horses, disembarked from cars, were afflicted with colds, arose from bed, received phone calls, mounted and dismounted our bicycles, and so on. Also, the cat acquired the cream.

I don't know how she stood it. Perhaps she thought she was teaching us to be expressive, but she must have had a tin ear for language.

I am happy to report that although I remembered this advice very clearly and for years and years felt dutifully guilty every time I wrote the word got, I eventually got over it. I just did a count of the gots on this page, and there were sixteen, not counting this post. There were also fourteen gets, making a total of thirty. (This number will now be wrong, of course, because I've pushed some off the bottom of the page by posting this.)


Does anybody pronounce the h in his or her when they say, for example,

I'll tell her and I'll tell him?

What about when it is preceded by a vowel?

I'll see him tomorrow.

Just wondering. It came up in class today, and I forgot to ask all the various nationalities in the teachers' room. I got distracted by a tale of a train accident. One of the teachers was in the carriage a body ended up under, in bits.*

*Proof that I am perfectly capable of writing an ugly sentence without using got.

(Addendum: The Man tells me that the yellow sand (kosa) is indeed afflicting us unseasonably, hence the hideous sunrise.)


Cheryl said...

If you've ever accidentally left anything old and white in the blues or blacks wash - thats what the sky is like here.
The sunset is a cold yellow gold colour and the bluest places in the sky are the lowest clouds threatening snow.
Washed out, washed out, washed out.


melinama said...

Yes, I can hear the wind whistling in all your examples. I do say those h's...

kenju said...

I say the "H" too.

My high school English teachers were dead set against ending a sentence with a preposition. One if them used to say
"That is something up with which I will not put!"

It surely made me rember that rule, though!

Anna said...

I say the "h" in both. I'm Canadian.

I think someone not saying the H would sound funny.

Wiccachicky said...

Butman!?! That's hysterical! I'm still laughing...

tinyhands said...

The H is contextual. Among peers in a casual setting, silent. In a more proper setting, or when talking to non-native English-speakers, I pronounce the H.

In my comment verification word, zptuokh, the h is silent.