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The Flag of the World

-G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

This here blog is a glimpse or two or three at the condition of the 'fortress of our family' through the eyes Timothy Goddard, a Christian writer with an unhealthy interest in politics living in the Puget Sound area.

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Monday, May 19, 2003


Random finals thought #2
German, this time--though keep in mind this is decidedly introductory German, and I know very little about the language, but will nonetheless speak as an expert. You've been warned.

In English, words are Things. They are Units. They are self-encompassing, though typically not self-sufficient. Just like people, they are independent units functioning in a dependent whole. Sentences, society, it's all the same thing. And we'll take words from wherever you've got them--Arabic, Swahili, French, haXXOr, you name it. There's no central governing authority, we're all in charge of our own words. Likewise, each word is free to do whatever it wants--nouns become adjectives, adjectives become nouns, nouns become verbs and verbs become nouns behaving as adjectives. Hey, it's a free country. And because it's free, they can go in any order you want them to, really, as long as you're willing to endure the ridicule and mockery if no one likes the way you did it. It's a free country, but we're all free to think you're a moron. Some of our freedom goes away, though, if you try to start messing with the independence of the words. If you're going to combine two words, you'd better have dang good reason, and we may well make you use a hyphen or an apostrophe anyway, just to make a point. Earache? Hmmm... this time. Come back to me with 'legache' and I'll run you through. Speaking of which...runthrough? Not a chance--stick a hypen in there, buddy, and be glad you got even that. Kitchentable? What are you? A commie? Get out of here. And childbedroom? I'm reaching for my Magnum--the next, and last, piece of you I want to see is your tail getting hit by the door on the way out.

German, on the other hand, is incredibly structured about where its words go and where each and every one of them belongs in the sentence. First position, noun, second position, verb--wait, there's a modifier! First position, modifier, second position, verb, now you can have your subject! Jawohl, Herr Commandant! And, of course, all Words are important, but some Words are more important than Others, You know. And we'll be danged if we take more than a few words from any other language. English... ok... French, sure--in fact some linguists have been pushing to ditch all the English additions and go with only French. But there's no Asian languages, or African, or much outside of English and French, really. In part, this is because the German court can up and decide just to change the spelling of the whole stinking language And, just as there is apparently no independence of speakers, there is no independence among the words--they are but clay in the speaker's hands, to be put together and taken apart as Herr sees fit. So, we end up with signs that say "Gemeinschaltzentrum" (common switching center), or "Heimatsicherheitshauptamt" (homeland security main office), with no care for the words that are lost within those monoliths, for they are only Pieces within a greater Whole.

Picking on German unfairly? Perhaps. English has plenty of problems of course, but I really can't help but wonder how much the languages have affected the cultures.

Back to studying...
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