Friday, August 8, 2008

The Foibles of English

I don't really need a birthday to tell me I'm getting older. Sometimes all I have to do is listen to a conversation between someone much younger than I am and someone of my age or older.
We were in the bakery and someone's son was all excited about a new laptop he had seen. He was extolling to his mother all the fabulous features the laptop had and how it would make life so much easier and more productive for him if his parents would only buy it for him. The arguments were all made and then his mother countered with "Yes, but does it do windows?" The young man looked at his mother more than a little puzzled. "Of course it does Windows ma. It has the latest version!"

I was convulsed with laughter as were a few others there with a foot in both age/knowledge camps; unfortunately, neither mother nor son could understand what I found so amusing. And people think there is nothing funny about English.

For those who need the explanation, it used to be a pretty stock answer many years ago that when someone was extolling some strange new technological invention the listener would ask: "Yes, but does it do windows?" meaning is there really some practical value to this thing.


Anonymous said...


I think that the English language is not the subject here. The subject is cultural references, i.e. the COMMERCIALS from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that our kids have never seen. Don't you remember the one with the housekeeper primly saying, "I don't do windows"??

In our house, the older generation (which includes me) is constantly mystifying our kids with these cultural references -- for that is what they are, no more and no less.

I'm not a linguist, but I play one on TV.

Have a great Shabbos, a HB, and an easy fast.

Lion of Zion said...

regarding getting older, most of classmates were about a decade younger than me. when we studied i didn't always understand that cultural refefences they used when making up mnemonics. "don't feel bad," they would console me, "it was after your time"

off topic, but regarding your reading lists for kids, see the front page article in today's wall street journal on books for boys

happy birthday, shababt shalom and fast well

s(b.) said...

I really liked your comment in the hyphen post on Frum Satire. Have a good shabbos and an easy fast.


Anonymous said...

Tesyaa is right that some of it is cultural but some of it is also an English language use difference. What my generation meant by cool and what my kids mean by it are very different. We used hot as slang for stolen, they use it as a synonym for sexy. When my kids say something is a rad idea that sure isn't what we meant when we said someones ideas were radical.

A Living Nadneyda said...

I always ask whether these things can do the dishes -- no one every needs clarification. Then again, no one ever answers in the affirmative, either. So I'm still waiting....


Gila said...

I got the meaning! Does that make me old?