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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hearing Test

When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops CoverI'm presently reading George Carlin's latest offering When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? It's filled with the typical observational and analytical linguistic humour I've come to know and love from George (along with the occasional spastic swearing fit just for fun). Some of its original, most of it seems to be cobbled together from his stage acts and re-written to be more current, but one paragraph really irked me, jolted me right out of the whole book.

It's about Peter Jennings and the apparent inability Americans have to distinguish the words "bout" and "boot" when spoken by Canadians. Being American, of course, George sees this as a problem Canadians have in speaking English properly. He also alludes to Canadians being simply English people "in disguise" and concludes by suggesting all English people be killed. I have three and a half problems with this part of the book:

1) Peter Jennings is dead. Oh I know, he was still alive and kicking when the book was penned but time has passed and it just feels wrong. And I'm not speaking from some karmic "don't speak ill of the dead" perspective, it's just that the dead can't offer rebuttal. It doesn't seem fair.

2) If Americans can't distinguish between "about" and "aboot", it's not my problem. It's true, alot of Canadians do speak with a slight emphasis on the "o" sound but we all understand each other perfectly well, so what's the problem? Do all Americans have some sort of auditory malfunction that they can't make this simple distinction? I can only hope my southern neighbors someday get a decent healthcare system that helps reverse this chronic condition.

2.5) I'm pretty sure most Americans are aware of different accents within their own country. I don't think anyone would have trouble distinguishing a Texan from a New Yorker, or a Californian from a Boston resident. How is it that the blinders suddenly go up when dealing with non-American English speakers? I wonder if people in the northern states (particularly Western New York) are aware that to Canadian ears, they seem to say words with an "ot" sound (such as not) as if it was spelled with short a's ("naaat")? Bet it would surprise the hell out of them.

3) Don't like the British? Too bad. Fact is, if not for them, you wouldn't be there you grizzled, old fuck. America was, after all, a British colony at one point. As a New Yorker, if not for the British, George would be finding himself speaking and writing Dutch right now (seriously, "New Amsterdam", look it up). Face facts, the British practically OWNED this planet at one point in history and we owe them a lot. A LOT. I also happen to be British, no small factor in my reaction to these comments.

Of course, if I said these things directly to George Carlin, he'd no doubt tell me to go fuck myself, probably with some large blunt instrument that he would describe in graphic, but eloquent detail which would be classic George Carlin. It would not, however, change the fact that I'm right and deep down, he'd know it.

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  • As an addendum, I'm puzzled by the occaisional references made in this book to "true facts". Surely someone with as tight a stranglehold on the english language as Mr. Carlin knows that anything which is true is factual by default, making the statement superfluous.

    By Blogger CapnG, at Tue Sep 13, 06:59:00 PM  

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