Wednesday, May 21, 2008

you see what you're looking for

Who'd have thought?

I was on vacation, reading in the palapa with my husband and friends, and along came Glenn to see whether we wanted to take a snorkeling tour (of course we did). Glenn had a delightful accent, and he asked us to guess where he was from. Guess #1, Australia - wrong. Guess #2, New Zealand - wrong. He says that it's always the third guess. England? Doesn't sound English, but why not try? Yup - England. He's from Lincolnshire, next to Yorkshire, and from what he says, it's important to make the distinction. The two towns seem to have an archrival-type relationship. Linconshire isn't "posh," and Yorkshire is thought of by them as full of snooty people who aren't any fun.

The reason I tell you all this is because the reason we guessed England third and as a fluke is that Glenn's vowels don't sound what we Americans were thinking of as British. Turns out, up where he's from (far north of London), the accents are very different. This was all discussed in that course on the History of the English Language that I listened to awhile back, and dates back through Old and Middle English. You see, Northern England was influenced by the Scandanavian languages in a way that Londoners were not. It changed their dialects in a way that was so different as to be incomprehensible, both in pronunciation and in idiom. I find it hugely interesting that this difference is still so pronounced today (and it is).

Glenn went on to tell amazing stories about his prior career, when he "turned around bars" in England. If the bars weren't doing well or had frightening clientelle, he would come in as manager and turn them around. I hadn't realized that this sort of career existed. He then told us a couple of amazing stories about dealing with what we might call gypsies, or wanderers, and amazing bar fights related to same. He also had great stories about buying a bracelet for his girlfriend in England while on vacation in Mexico, and meeting his now wife in the jewelry store. Glenn's a pretty interesting guy, and we sure learned a lot from him during the course of his selling us a pretty fun snorkeling trip! This has nothing to do with the course, but oh my!

I know that when you're paying attention to something or looking for something, you see it everywhere, but I really didn't expect something so seemingly obscure to be demonstrated in such an obvious way to me. Now I'm listening to the course, "How to Listen to and Understand Great Music." It's a long one, but I'm enthralled so far. I can't help but wonder now how this will come back.

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