12 May 2010

Linguistic Longing

While I love my job, roommates, and free time, I often find myself pining for ELang classes and conversations during daily life. What causes this nostalgia, you ask?

---The way Meg Ryan pronounces the initial vowel of "horrible" in You've Got Mail.
---The fact that the boy who gave the closing prayer at Commencement said, ". . . we have striven, strived . . ."
---The story my roommate's coworker told as he explained that he consciously speaks with a standard American accent, but when he is tired his Southern accent comes out.
---The odd placement of the direct and indirect objects in the phrase, "pick me something up."
---The painfully, obviously false Irish accents in Leap Year.
---The discovery that "editress" is indeed a word, and found in Dr. Davies' historical corpus a total of 14 times.
---The implications of the word "editress" and the fact that its last appearance in the corpus was in 1938.
---The novels currently occupying my free time, Portuguese Irregular Verbs and The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs.
---The way one roommate over-enunciates her final Ts and another tends toward the fail/fell merger.
---The story a friend told about hearing "prohibition" used as a verb, which is not found in the corpus (I checked).

Sad, isn't it, that I actually notice these things? It's worse when I get excited and no one else seems to care. Case in point: I watched You've Got Mail with my roommates Monday night, and when Meg Ryan says the word "horrible" (she pronounces it with an open o, like in the word "caught") the conversation went something like this:

Allison: I love the way she says that word! Harrible.
Roommates: . . . .
Allison: It's that vowel. She does it in Sleepless in Seattle too, remember? "Harses, harses, harses, harses."
Audge: What?
Allison: In the car and she's singing the Christmas song. . . .
Audge: I've only seen the beginning of that movie.
Allison: It is in the beginning. She's on her way to Maryland or something.
Audge: Oh yeah. But isn't she just making fun of the accent?
Allison: Well kind of yes, but she does it here too.
Laura: It sounds like she's from New York.
Allison: I just really like her vowels. . . .

It turns out she grew up in Connecticut and went to NYU, so it is not too surprising that she has those vowels. But my roommates just don't appreciate that like my ELang friends would.

You've Got Mail isn't the only source of linguistic discovery in the media. It surrounds us daily, but most people just don't see it. Let's say you want to learn more about gender differences in communication. We know they exist, of course, but can you define them? Ross and Rachel can:

Or what about the difference between "who" and "whom"? Do you really know how to use them properly, or do you stick "whom" willy-nilly throughout your speech to sound intelligent? For a succinct (and humorous) explanation, we go to The Office:

And if we want to see communication differences based on politeness, or power and solidarity, we can learn a lot from Bon Qui Qui:

So even though I have a degree, my education (and your education) in my field of study is continuing daily. I just don't have anyone to share it with anymore.


  1. I don't know why, but I love that part of Sleepless in Seattle!! I always sing with her...

  2. I watched you grow up for 21 1/2 years and had no idea that you were so funny!