Journal, 9:38 a.m.

It's not that I don't have a lot on my mind, things I want to write about, things that are worthy of some deeper attention, it's just that I'm afraid there may be nothing more for me to note than the mere mention of them.

I saw a movie this week, though it would be more accurate to say "watched" since I rented it from the library, and for some reason the verb "to see" implies the process of going out, whereas "to watch" implies having not gone out to see.  This distinction I may have never noticed had it not been for my favorite job, teaching English to adult immigrants in Tucson.  It was at this job where I noticed many quirky things about our language, things that one usually only notices about foreign languages one is trying to learn.

Examples: Some nouns such as "church" and "school" do not need an article whereas "hospital" and "store" do.  Sentences require the addition of "do" to make them negative, except for the verb "to be" which does not require the addition of "do" in the negative, though I would have to review many more examples before I could defend this rule with complete confidence.*  Many words are distinguished by the slightest variation in pronunciation of vowel sounds.  Beard and bird are particularly challenging because to mispronounce them leaves the listener completely baffled:  "I must remember to feed my beard." In other cases, the pronunciation can vary wildly without loosing the meaning of a word, think "a" and "the".  Sometimes the past tense "ed" is pronounced like a "d", sometimes like a "t", and other times like "id."  Many names of letters are also words, some with multiple meanings.  Be, bee.  I, eye.  See, sea, an interesting case since neither use the letter they sound like.  "Use" is a very difficult verb to explain given its many uses.  My husband used the diaper bucket to brine the turkey.  Not only that, he used a used diaper bucket to brine the turkey.  But it would be most accurate to say, my husband used to use a used diaper bucket to brine the turkey.  But he does not use one any more.  Not after the relatives rebelled. (Notice that "used" is pronounced differently depending on if one is saying "used to" or simply "used.")

In order to make a nice transition between this lengthy digression and what I had set out to mention, I was about to write that the movie I watched was also about language, a lame and redundant observation.  Aren't all movies about language, just as are all books?  Why would I need to bring that to your attention, except to quell my own insecurities that you Dear Reader will not tolerate non sequiturs.  Obviously, I underestimate you.

So now, I will tell you about the movie I watched this week.

When the Road Bends, tales of a Gypsy Caravan is the story of four diverse groups of gypsy musicians from Spain, Macedonia, Romania, and India who come together for a North American concert tour.  Near the beginning of the film there is a scene when they are trying to work out a finale in which they can all play together.  But their music is all so distinct that they are visibly annoyed with the task.  But after three months on the road, listening to each other's music, playing together in hotel rooms, on buses, in planes, they find their common ground.

Watching these musicians I couldn't help but wonder about my own roots.  I realize that dressing up like a gypsy every Halloween when I was a kid, and never wanting to settle in one place doesn't make me a gypsy any more than playing a cane flute makes me a sharecropper from Mississippi.  But it is fascinating to me to contemplate that no matter how hard we try to distinguish ourselves from our neighbors, our political rivals, from people who look and act and talk so differently from us as to be incomprehensible, we are all, somewhere along the ancestral line, related.  It would be a good thing for us all to remember.

*Also: will, can, shall.

1 comment:

  1. Did you know that I always wanted to be a gypsy for Halloween... Every year... We're bizarre spirit sisters from Nebraska