English Gramma(r) and sharing a banana.


Is it true that todays bananas are getting bigger or am I shrinking, and the comparison is at fault? In any case, I now share the banana with Helvi. It is part of our morning ritual, as is our blood pressure measuring. This morning it was a nice 105 over 66 with a pulse of 82. I generally cut the banana with a large cleaver. Sometimes Helvi does it too but uses a smaller knife. After all that, we proceed with opening our pill boxes and take the first of a range of medications spaced out through the rest of the day. In between morning’s duties we sip coffee and tea between talk.

Part of my school education back in Holland was the learning of four languages. It was compulsory at that time for all students going through a high school. Learning English started at Primary school. After our family left Holland 1956, my school education stopped and since then my limited learning of world’s  language skills came through curiosity and reading. It was a case of self-educating and becoming an ‘autodidact’ as is sometimes called.

I was fascinated to read how the English language evolved. English is a typical product of illogicality. I remember as a schoolboy being annoyed that English words were not pronounced as they were written. It is baffling why the language lacks phonetics. Normal languages pronounce words as they are written, but of course, not in England.  The English language is just part of a culture steeped in Illogicality. Just listen to their parliament or Fawlty Towers. They are both the same. And then the circus of Brexit!

I was heartened to read in a book ‘The Lexicographer’s Dilemma, by Jack Lynch, that through the decades attempts were made to simplify English. George Bernard Shaw campaigned to make it more phonetic but with frustratingly little success. In 1906 the Simplified Spelling Board attempted to change the spelling of many words but it turned out even more complicated. Here below are just a few examples how this attempt made the English language even more strange and difficult.

autograf-autograph, biografy-biography, crum-crumb, dout-doubt, tung-tongue. etc

As one can see, the new way of spelling became even less rational. It added letters , mainly consonants, that are not used in speech. They remain unuttered and left unspoken. It is now totally out of the question to make English more phonetic with spelling reforms. We will just have to put up with an abundance of spelling mistakes that is common even amongst those having grown up with just English without the benefits knowing a second or third language.

English  despite it being a difficult and obstinate language, remains the world most spoken language. I like it for its complexities and nuances. It remains to be my favourite tongue. Yet, in my dreams I still speak Dutch.  That language hasn’t left but am unsure if expressing it would be now as fluent (or clumsy) as my English.

Who knows?

From Wiki; ” Phonetic, using a system of written symbols that represent speech sounds in a way that is very close to how they actually sound.”


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31 Responses to “English Gramma(r) and sharing a banana.”

  1. shoreacres Says:

    As you hint, there are differences between British and American English, and some of the things you say may apply more to the British version. After all, I learned to read phonetically, and so did most American school children until the next wave of “reformers” showed up.

    Beyond that, there are differences between today’s English and Middle English, and even more between Middle English and Old English. Anyone who thinks that’s not so should have a run at Chaucer — or even Shakespeare. The development of language is continuous, and will be forever.

    Shaw had some odd ideas, and one of the oddest was that language could be manipulated to fit a logical system. Language by its nature isn’t logical — and that’s part of the fun. If it weren’t for all those little quirks in language, we’d miss a lot: like puns. Word play would become less possible, and the same bland, uninteresting pall that hangs over so much of our culture would come to language. No thank you! Language is alive, and always changing — and so dependent on culture. If you get someone from New Jersey, a Cajun, a West Texan, and a midwesterner in a room and ask them to read the same paragraph, written in English, you might well think you were hearing four different languages.

    Just because we don’t think a language is rational doesn’t mean the language is at fault — it’s just different. As for those exceptions, especially in spelling — like “i before e, except after c” — they’re just part of the deal. Every language has them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      All languages develop with the passing of time, there come new words while others fade away. In my limited knowledge of languages I tried to point out that English is unique in that it doesn’t pronounce words as they are written.

      As I understand, the symbols , the alphabet of the written letters developed as close as possible to the sounds that our voices make when words are spoken. I wrote, perhaps not clear enough, that much of the English language doesn’t seem to follow that general rule. I hope it did not come across as negative of England or anything English.

      My classmates back in Holland all were perplexed by the oddity of English language. Being odd isn’t a bad thing. It might also explain the reverse, that the sole English speaking person has more difficulty in learning other language(s) as those that have grown up with a language that is spoken as it is written..

      I am always baffled when somebody whose only language is English has difficulty in pronouncing words in a different language.
      They pronounce words as if English. This isn’t a fault or wrong.

      I love the English language, and vive la difference.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. freefall852 Says:

    I hate being the first to comment..it looks like you are too keen and just hanging around trying to make yourself look smart or something…oh well..

    English has always been a problem for me too ..and I was born and bred here and only learnt the one tongue….But coming from the “lower class’, my pronunciations were a bit off the mark…This was brought home to me one day in my young years in a serious discussion with some better educated people when I pronunced the name of that drum that holds a fire in it as “brassiere” instead of “brazier”….I can still see the tears of whooping joy they shed at my expense…and I hoped some of them got a stomach ache from the bending over..it becomes difficult to resurrect seriousness after such a gaff..and the girl won’t talk to you anymore.

    Another time in my more mature years, I thought I’d try my newly learned Italian phrases on a couple of chaps laying foundation rods in the street from my house…as I rode past on my bicycle, I called out : “Che fa?” (what are you making/doing)…and rode on feeling pretty goood that I had got the phrase out clearly enunciated…on the way back past the same blokes though…one rushed out to grab my bicycle and holding a foundation spike in his big hand he demanded to know why I told him to “get f#cked!”…..it was a close call there for a while…

    Liked by 4 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Fair share of the saveloy, Jo!
      Here an extract from an unpublished book of memoirs I wrote years ago. It is called ‘Frank Story.’

      “My first job was cleaning the floor of “Roger’s Chains”, which was a big metal shed factory with many men working machinery making links of chains, large and small. The part that I liked most was the ordering of the factory workers lunches. Meat pies, apple pies and soft drinks. I was amazed how some of them would just eat only half and throw the rest out, on the floor. I was almost tempted to eat those remnants, but did not for fear of getting infected with something horrible. The main problem was understanding the Australian accent or slang. I did notice one word that kept cropping up and seemed to be repeated in almost every third or fourth word. I decided to ask the Van Dijks. What is this fukking or fucgling or fouging, I asked them? Now, you would have thought that their Dutch background would have immediately come to the rescue and explain the meaning of that word. No word in Dutch was something to be ashamed off. Sure, there are coarse words; even so, they are still just words. Instead, their assimilation to Australia and it’s culture was so successful that they immediately went into that silly world of sniggering and evasively trying to convey that there was something absolutely terrible going on with that word, without giving the requested explanation.

      They finally told me that the word was bad and that it was alright for men to talk like that but never ever in front of a woman, how curious. Not using certain words in front of a woman? What was going on here?”

      Liked by 2 people

      • freefall852 Says:

        No bullshit…it’s enough to make you weep!….it’s cruel isn’t it?…I remember this Italian chap telling me of his first adventure with the lingo when he landed in Oz…
        He was at Sydney Central station with his luggage and he was looking for a trolley to move it…
        “I saw all these men walking past with a uniform on and I thought they would be..like in Italian railway stations…porters….but none of them offered to help me…so I called out to them as they went past..’Fucchino!…Fucchino!’..but still none of them came ..I thought they didn’t hear me so I called out louder…’Fucchino! Fucchino!’….and suddenly a couple of police grabbed me and arrested me for shouting out vulgar language in a public place…!”

        Liked by 4 people

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        One has to be careful, Jo. Wrong words could get you a ride in the Bumper Farrell wagon. Isn’t it funny how the ride in the ‘Bumper Farrell wagon’ has become a ‘dinky die’ part of the vernacular and in a sense part of the language in Australia.

        Liked by 2 people

      • freefall852 Says:

        I read several episodes of your “Frank Story”, Gerard…You WERE quite the lad!…Could you not find a publisher for the book, or did you not want to?..

        Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        That’s a nice thing to say, Jo.

        “Frank Story” was written some years ago. I haven’t seriously tried to publish it. I did self publish two books, “Almost there”, and “Oosterman Treats”. I used the POD method, Print on Demand through Amazon with limited success. On hindsight the books should have been much better edited.

        However, publishing and selling a book are two very different things. I am happy to write here and stay in contact with those who seem to enjoy the pieces on line. What more could one ask for in the autumn of life?

        Liked by 1 person

      • freefall852 Says:

        My sentiments exactly, Gerard…especially in this “brave new world” of “entrepreneurial aspirants”.. I am currently in “mourning” for what I now see is the death of the Australia I grew up in…and the loss of connection this “new society” has with their immediate past…
        I penned this piece this morning in memoriam..

        Bring me no roses.

        Bring me no roses, on this sad day.

        No fancy words, no bright eulogy, pray.

        Bring nothing but your tears,

        Your regrets and fears..for what has gone awry,

        And what is now come into play.

        My people are dead, their works repealed,

        Their strikes, their rights, their hard-won wages reviled.

        Their lives of toil and camaraderie forgot,

        Traded away as an auctioned lot,

        Along with their “crude and clumsy jot”.

        Their fumbling demands for rights at work,

        Dismissed by “class-less” finishing-schooled jerks,

        With soft, crème’d hands and a tongue that is forked.

        No..bring me no roses on this, such a day,

        For I am still weeping for my lost comrades..

        Give flowers to the “pretty people” as they go about their play,

        The soft, sweet scent will hide the stench as they betray.

        The working class Australia I grew up with is gone…dead..replaced with a younger, new class of risky-financed middle-class aspirants of part-time/casualised.. barely anybodies.. that I have to confess..I have never seen SO ambitious to clamour toward such radical mediocrity

        Liked by 1 person

  3. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Nice post, Gerard. My mother spoke high and low German and Danish and English but as time went on she remembered very little because there was no one with whom she could speak. She wanted to teach my sister and me her once fluent languages but my dad would have none of it. His reasoning was that he did not want us to speak with an accent. I am still upset that I can not at least speak German.

    I would imagine that if you had some one to speak with, that you would again be able to speak your native language.

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, at my time in Holland, German was still taught with the distinction between high and low German.

      Yes, Ivonne.It was and in some cases still sometimes seen as some kind of disloyalty speaking in a foreign language. After arrival in Australia my father was told in the bus, in no uncertain terms, to stop speaking Dutch to a friend. He was most surprised.

      Of course, in Europe one is used to all sorts of languages being spoken. It is never seen as not being loyal or lacking patriotism.

      Here, the present right-wing Government is again touting a kind of Nationalism in insisting that refugees brush up on English and Australian culture as part of a requirement before granting them a visa. I think that is awful and so belittling. Most learn English pretty quickly.

      Refugees often have better English than many locally taught.

      Liked by 2 people

      • DisandDat Says:

        Another good blog. Your mind must be very active in between medication taking and coffee breaks !
        How true Gerard. Depending on what part of Oz you are in even today one can still gets “looks” when speaking wog language.

        Liked by 2 people

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        When the Government talks about refugees acquainting themselves with unique Australian values they invariably talk about some national bit of history or sport. It is rare that Australian art gets mentioned. Cricket is one of those things as is Gallipoli or a famous race horse, Phar Lap. His heart is kept pickled in jar at a museum somewhere. Heaven know what an Afghani refugee would make filing past Phar Laps heart?


  4. Yeah, Another Blogger Says:

    Hi. I am somewhat envious of people who are fluent in multiple languages. I have a friend who is a linguistic genius. He is fluent in about a dozen languages. Incredible.

    Take care —

    Neil Scheinin

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Hi Neil, welcome.
      It is very nice and has advantages to speak more than one language. It is great for travelling. No greater joy and reward then being able to at least speak a few words in the language of the country that one visits.
      A dozen languages! That is fantastic.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. freefall852 Says:

    And what happened to Esperanto?


  6. doesitevenmatter3 Says:

    Sharing bananas…how lovely! I eat a lot of bananas (Yes, I’m part monkey! 😉 ) They are potassium-y and I have low potassium.

    Cute photo of you on your bike!

    What an informative, interesting post, Gerard!
    I think it’s wonderful when kids are encouraged to learn several languages. They say the time to learn new languages is from birth to age 8 or so…kids have the ability to hear and mimic the sounds/words they hear. We lose that ability as we get more well-seasoned.

    My maternal grandmum spoke Dutch. My maternal and paternal grandpas spoke German. My mom knew some of each language.

    I tried to learn Spanish in school…but don’t remember enough of it today. 😦

    HUGS!!! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Learning a language is great. They say that Australian education should make the learning of another language obligatory. It helps with learning the home language as well. For years complaints are being made how Australian students lack basic English skills even at university levels.
      Our kids learned to speak and write Dutch when we moved to Holland for a few years and they went to school there. On our return they picked up English again within a few weeks. You are right, Carolyn. Children are very fast picking up languages.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Curt Mekemson Says:

    I was always amused by the French when they made efforts to keep American English from slipping into their language. There’s no doubt that language is alive in the sense that it constantly changes and evolves. Just think of all the new words we have had to learn over the past 30 years due to computers and the internet. Speaking of the challenge of learning another language, there are the idioms, which certainly add color as well as difficulty. Try explaining “get on my back.” Fun post, Gerard. –Curt

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I love hearing foreign languages being spoken even though often I can’t understand a word of it. It somehow reassures me that my mother tongue wasn’t by accident. I am still proud of my past Dutch nationality.


  8. freefall852 Says:

    Here, Gerard…you may ..or may not…be interested.. https://freefall852.wordpress.com/2019/01/08/to-gerard-oosterman/

    Liked by 1 person

  9. gerard oosterman Says:

    Yes, Jo. I clicked the link and read your post which I will answer soon. I only know about your posts when I go and click on but don’t get notification even though I requested to ‘follow’. each time you post a new piece.
    It is the same with Uta’s blog. People just don’t know a new piece has been posted.
    It is the same with Pig’s Arms which is a great blog, but…again no notification.


  10. freefall852 Says:

    Notification for your new posts comes up in my email…But that’s alright…I know of the limitations of my “el cheapo” wordpress blog..and if I want a particular reading collective to see something, I know where to place it…ta…
    Ps. I like the “casual conversation” feel about your site..it’s inviting..


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      My blog doesn’t come any cheaper. It is free. My WordPress keeps asking me to upgrade but I won’t in case all goes wrong again. Not getting notifications might be something with the setting up. My brother had the same thing.
      To get follow ups the blog needs to have this notification installed. I don’t know how I did it. It was a fluke!


  11. freefall852 Says:

    So what is your wordpress “theme”…?…It looks so much more publicly inviting than mine..

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It was at that time the basic theme and I think there might have been a dew freebies at that time. I used it, and miraculously it started to work from day one. I am no internet guru at all.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      It just occurred to me that the ‘notifications’ of a new post comes via e-mail. Also ‘likes’ come via email. You could go back to check on that through the editing facility of WordPress.


  12. freefall852 Says:

    Yes…I’m going to try something..but I’m terrified of that moment of pressing that button…in case everything goes wrong!….you know how it is!


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