Sunday, October 18, 2009

Errr What?

Thanks to multiple generations living at the same time, we get some rather funny English language usage. Two examples come to mind.

Jacob did a post recommending the debut album for Shua Kessin. Album? Someone is still putting out 33-1/3rpm albums? Nah, didn't think so. But the word still being used is album. For my generation that denotes a record, clearly not what can be being referred to here.

The other example is one I point out to my students. Get online and go to your email page. Under the from/to/date/subject you will find "cc" and sometimes "bcc." I ask my students what this indicates. Some of them know this means you are sending a copy of the email to someone other than the person in the "to" space. So I ask them "Why cc then? Why not just c or maybe the word copy?" And then I explain to them what "cc" meant and still means to millions of living people--carbon copy. And then I have to explain typewriters and sheets of carbon paper. There is a certain irony in having technologically advanced tools such as a computer and the Internet using the abbreviation for a product long gone obsolete. They could envision and design and produce computers and email but their thoughts stopped cold at what to title the line for sending copies?

Note: there can also be some cross generational, cross speaker confusion when more than one language is involved. G6 posted some pictures of bathroom doors in Switzerland. In one picture a dooris marked as WC. I am going to guess that native speakers of American English are going to look at this marking and get confused. The WC does not refer to a woman's bathroom but stands for Water Closet, the British word for what we call a bathroom. The marking "closet" has nothing to do with hanging up your clothes--pronounce it closet (accent on the last syllable), and again, it refers to the room where the toilet is, as opposed to the "badeh tzimmer," where the bathtub is. Yiddish speakers here in the US can get strange looks if they use "closet" to refer to the bathroom. I remember once having a friend ask me why my mother would excuse herself to use the closet. My parents eventually dropped using both German/Yiddish words, particularly since American bathrooms do not, for the most part, get divided into two separate rooms, one for the toilet and one for the bathing area.


Anonymous said...

And we "dial" a phone with push buttons, but it originally applied to rotary phones.

Rae said...

And we still talk about turning on our computers when there is no knob that is being turned anywhere in sight. About the only thing that is still turned is the knob for the burners on some stoves, but even there some manufacturers are moving towards using a keypad instead.

Anonymous said...

Never knew what that cc was there for. Kind of figured that it might be something to do with copies but the 2 c's confused me. Thanks for the info