World’s Oldest Sport

To steal Uncyclopedia’s warning: “This article or section may be overly British. Americans may not understand humour, only humor. Canadians and Australians may not understand anything at all.”  Bon appetit!

There is a sport so ancient that it predates all other forms of entertainment. It came just a little bit after “fun with fire”, and only narrowly beat “wheel games” to the finish.

The sport in question was “let’s laugh at Johnny foreigner and his ineptitude with our (superior) language, and then base all our sitcoms around it”[1]. It’s been going a loooong time, believe me:

Okay, not quite Stone Age, but you get the point. Hysterical, yes, but what we’re really saying is “your lack of ability/experience at our language is something to laugh at”.  Well, steady on, I say.  Do we laugh at cripples because of their lack of ability to propel themselves from A to B? Or at cancer victims whose bodies are ill-equipped to deal with tumors? Of course we don’t, even if it was their own fault – it would be thoroughly unsavoury, and social suicide to boot.

It is a strange thing therefore that the British have this peculiar tendancy to make fun of non-British accents.  “Ha ha, you’re different” – the sort of thing you might expect to see in a nursery, or school, or BNP conference.  (As it just so happens, Fawlty Towers was poorly received the Continent, because all those mainlanders were miffed at being the butt of John Cleese’s jokes – and perhaps rightly so.)

Nevertheless, the show eventually became a rip-roaring success, and was to make acceptable much other comedy that revolved around linguistic deficiencies – and not just on the television.  Take Engrish.com for example.  No, that’s not a typo – it’s a slightly cruel way of referring to English as stereotypicarry spoken by the Japanese, praying on their inabirity to make a “l” sound and applying it more generally to the imperfect English so many of them produce:

Simple mistakes, caused by an incorrect assumption that direct translations will produce readable results in the target language.

It’s all very well to chortle at these schoolboy errors, but you’ve got to give them credit for trying.  You have to start somewhere in one’s quest to conquer a second (or even third or fourth) language.  Small failures are always going to be a part of big successes, and that is life.  Not trying is at the root of all real failures, and it’s ironic that many people who laugh at these kind of mistakes can’t speak any other language, at any level. Who really gets the last laugh?

So the next time someone sniggers at your garble-age of their language, tell them two things – one, you’re learning a thing so monumetally large you’re bound to make a mistake here and there, so deal with it, and two – piss off.

[1] Loose translation of the original text.

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One thought on “World’s Oldest Sport

  1. Pingback: SRSing “Personal Development” « Thousand Mile Journey

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