Jewish World Review Sept. 19, 2013/ 15 Tishrei, 5774
Read at Your Own Risk
By Greg Crosby
People are NOT all created equal. When it comes to natural attributes and talents there are some people who are blessed with abilities which give them a leg up on the rest of us. If you were born with a head for numbers and higher mathematics comes easily to you, then you probably will do better with money and finance than others will. If you happen to be born uncommonly great looking, have a natural stage presence, a desire to perform, and can commit many pages of dialogue to memory easily then you have a better chance at becoming a working movie actor than do most others.
I believe some people are natural athletes. Tall people are better basketball players, little people are better jockeys. Some people have natural talents for business, or the stock market, or law, or medicine, or politics. Unfortunately for me I have no natural abilities in any of the major areas that might have brought me wealth and power, but there are a few small things I know I am fairly good at. One is an ear for language.
One observation of mine is that different people speak English differently. That's right, we're not allowed to say things like this anymore, but I am saying it anyway. It might come as a shock to those who don't think it is possible for different people to speak differently, but they do and that's all there is to it. Some may believe it is an improper thing to point out discrepancies in speech among different ethnicities of people. I just think it's really interesting. I am no scientist or speech expert so I can't explain why certain people talk a certain way; I only know what I hear.
Okay, I know you're waiting for examples, so here we go. Take a simple sentence like, "Move your furniture out of the house." I've noticed that Asian immigrants to America (people who used to be called Orientals) who say that phrase tend to eliminate the word, "the." Their sentence becomes, "Move your furniture out of house." I'm guessing that it might have something to do with the word structure of their native language, Chinese, Japanese, or whatever.
Now take that same sentence and apply it to another group of people, African Americans. In that instance a different word is eliminated, the word "of." The sentence then becomes, "Move your furniture out the house." In this case it has nothing to do with being an immigrant or being uneducated since this sentence structure is common to many contemporary blacks of varying economic backgrounds.
But why does one culture eliminate the "the" word, and another culture eliminate the "of" word? I'm sure there must be a reason, but I don't know what it is. Interesting, no? And that would be another cultural difference brought to us by the Latin languages, adding the word "no" to the end of a question. Instead of "Do you like me a little?' it becomes, "You like me a little, no?" I've noticed that this way of speaking has seeped into the American populace at large. It is very common now to hear people say things like, "Do you want to have more ice cream or no?" instead of, "Do you want to have more ice cream or not?"
Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern European countries used to mangle up the English language to the point of hilarity with sentences such as "Throw Mama from the train a kiss" and "How's by you?" The Irish, Italians, Scots, they all had their dialects and cadences. And it was those dialects that were parodied on the vaudeville stage more than a hundred years ago. The parodies weren't considered hate crimes. It was all in fun and most people back then got that.
But this is 2013 and we're not supposed to make fun of dialects, let alone mention them at all as I have this week in my column. There are differences in the way people speak, I didn't make that up, it's the way it is. Just sayin'. If this column bothers you, well, you can't say that you weren't warned ahead of time.
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© 2008, Greg Crosby