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Smart women torkin about language

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April 18, 2015 by Fensic

Ah know what would be ah huge blast: Eef me an mih pardnahs who graduate from college in de same era could have we English teacher, Dr. Lise Winer an Prof. Anne Curzan in de same room torkin about dictionaries an language.

Okay, fuhget about dem udders, just me alone. Fuh who might be jealous, feel free tuh substitute whoever yuh English teacher was in your school. As long as yuh know whoever dat was, dey second tuh de best one since dat is who we had.

Sadly doh dat assembly not go happen because Miss Ogle died earlier dis year. Buh ah could imagine it happenin.

Let mih set de scene.

De love she had fuh she job was obvious even doh some ah we was real hard headed. In fact ah sure it wasn’t just ah job fuh she but ah labor of love given de donkey years she do it.

Eef dem rules ah grammar wasn’t bad enough, I couldn’t spell tuh save mih life. Dat word enemy? It had mih in prison. Tuh dis day, ah still does get nightmares at not being able tuh write essays de way I was supposed to. But like so much in life eef de lesson was good an yuh want tuh, yuh does eventually learn. Ah just make dat up oui.

Lise Winer is ah Canadian who spend like 25 years laborin orn ah dictionary of Trini words, expressions an slangs. De final product, Dictionary of the English/Creole of Trinidad and Tobago, geh published in 2009. It is ah tome, excuse mih; dictionary. It bigger dan what I used tuh use back in de day. She was so dedicated tuh de project dat she do she doctorate in UWI. Probably against de advice ah shocked friends. Ah could hear dem now:

de University ah de West Indies? Yuh know dat in de Caribbean right? De same place where all dem students needin tutorin does come from?

Lise study at UWI from 1978 tuh 1982. She doctorate is in linguistics. Larse year, 2014, she retire from McGill University where she was when she bounce up Trinis an became fascinated wid how we does tork.

Like she, I fascinated wid trinispeak; hence I ready tuh take orn anybody who want tuh suggest dat trinispeak devalue what my English teacher put in mih head. Too many ah we still ashamed at how we does tork.

Dis one article ah write mention somebody who have ah loyal Facebook followin. Dat person mention de article an ah end up wid de most hits on anyting ah write. I was more curious at de followers’ reaction tuh my use ah trinispeak. Some ah dem eh surprised mih nah. Since dotishness could mean different tings I usin it here tuh mean prejudice. Dat doh mean I eh have mih biases. Dey deeply rooted too. However, bias an prejudice not de same ting. When one ah mih biases get pointed out tuh mih ah have de option of addressin it. Not so fuh people who prejudice, dey cyar change dey spots.

Where Anne Curzan in all dis?

I hear about she for de first time dis week an only because ah start back listenin tuh torks from ah organization call TED. Ah might be prone tuh extreme emotions at inopportune times buh dat eh stoppin mih from being fascinated by what she tork about. In fact, is dat tork what had mih rememberin Miss Ogle den Lise Winer an since is me, seein de bigger picture.

Dat picture say anybody who have ah problem wid trinispeak, Jamaican patois or any udder indigenous version ah communicatin dat have ah standard language at its base, should listen tuh dat tork from Anne Curzan real close. Especially de larse part.

Is eidder at de end of de year or early in de new year dat two articles from different places does hit de papers. One does mention new words added tuh de dictionary. De next one does be about words dat should be banished. Five minutes after I read de two articles is fuhget I done fuhget what ah read an ah gone mih way. So when Anne Curzan say words orn one list does be on de udder one I cyar doubt she.

From now orn when ah hear one ah mih co-workers take ah normal technical word an add ize at de end tuh make it ah verb because dey arse lazy, I go remember what Anne say an doh ask mihself what shit it is dis person doin makin up words just so. Mih bias does kick like ah mule oui.

Yes, languages does evolve an is we dat doin de change when we come up wid new words. But we should be careful when we send chirren tuh check de dictionary tuh see eef such an such is ah word. Why? Anne say because we doh ever ask weself where de dictionary does get it new words. In dis age it easy fuh online dictionaries tuh get updated quick. So which part dem editors does get dey new words? From we nah, once dey figure out usage patterns. Nice lil circle dey ent?

People now does complain about new words just like people in de parse used tuh do. Two examples from de parse include balcony an notice as ah verb. From current times incentivize piss people orf. I know one such person.

Words does change meanin too. Decimate start out meanin tuh get rid ah one tenth ah someting. Tuhday, eef yuh livin someplace an after ah hurricane de news say de place decimated, yuh lucky eef as much as ah tenth still standin. Eef yuh peruse dis article, you only scan it or read it good? Eef yuh read it good den yuh do what de standard definition ah peruse is. But dat changin.

One time ah dash orf ah email tuh ah radio station criticizin dem fuh how dey use de word electrocute. Since ah didn’t like what dey write mih back an say ah might be ah biased snob. Only when it come tuh how udders who ‘should know better’, does use Standard English.

No offense tuh John Mendes an he 1986 an 2003 editions ah Cote ce Cote la but in de big picture is Lise Winer dictionary dat fit everyting Anne say. Mih pardnah use de word kokiyoko de udder day. It surprise he how it roll orf he tongue. What I want tuh know is eef it still arong or it gorn de way ah hundred hole fuh bokie?

So de stage set.

Dat encounter between dem women of high intellect would ah been fuh de ages. When Miss Ogle eh agree she would give dem dat stare. She would ah have tuh give it often cause look how de language evolve since we hard headed days. I wouldn’t be worried doh. She provide de best foundation any English teacher could give.

Is we job tuh carry dat forward.

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