Wednesday, 10 January 2007

The Cumulative Carapace Effect

Art Studio, Wenesday 10th January 2007

„The cantankerous clerical worker
Remarked with clarity and crude humour
That the office looked like a charnelhouse
Due to the cumulative carapace effect

Shoo bee doo bedoo........“

Yes, this is The Singing Turtle´s – alias Kev Moore - last song! But don´t think twice:
the lyrics are not the product of a random word generator, like it may sound!
They are the result of a trip into the depths of the English language.

As we created Goodaboom, I absolutely wanted to have a diary. But there was a big problem for me: the language! Although my native language is French, my first steps as a serious writer were in German. I wrote thousands and thousands of pages in German in the past, diaries, dream books, short stories, a book for children and even a novel. As I came to Spain, to this area where about 30 different nations are represented, the languages began to interface in my brain, French, German, Spanish, English, Portuguese and even Russian as I was working together with a Russian painter.
Well... I had no choice for Goodaboom: I had to write my diary in english. But as a mathematician –this is another story, another day perhaps- my language is normally very precise and I noticed soon, that my english knowledge doesn´t allow me to write what I want to: what a frustration! Impatient as I am, I even considered the possibility of abandoning the diary. So some days ago Kevin, scared I would leave him alone with the responsibility of our visitors literary entertainment and also fed up hearing me moaning about my bloody linguistic incapacity, decided to give me some lessons in English vocabulary. I accepted the idea with deep enthusiasm as I always loved to learn languages.
But of course I am a difficult, easily bored student and he had to find an attractive method. We agreed to choose for each lesson a letter of the alphabet, starting with „a“, and to learn betwen 5 and 10 words beginnng with this letter. He gave me the „a“ and „b“ lessons, where I learn some words like „blithering idiot“, quite useful sometimes... But I soon became bored, it was not fun enough. And anyway, too difficult to remember the words. So, for the „c“ lesson, he had the idea –not quite his idea, if I remember, a well-known technique to train the memory - to make a sentence out of the chosen words, and even to put it into music.
And so it transpired that Kevin composed the verse at the top of this entry. This method has anyway an attraction for him as a poet and song writer: the phrases are by definition full of alliteration!
The method works very well and I can really recommend it to people who want to learn new vocabulary.
But today, the „d“ lesson confirmed a problem that arose in the „c“ lesson. As I have a certain basic vocabulary in English, Kevin must constantly come up with lesser known words. He ponders a while and then, triumphant, comes up with such words as „carapace, cumulative, clarity, crude, etc.“ which inevitably leads to my even more triumphant exclamation:
„But I know this word already!“
You should see his face then!
„How do you know?“
„Easy... it´s a French word!“
I won´t bore you with the chauvinistic conversation following this statement. But the fact is, the most difficult words he wants to teach me exist in French!
Anyway.. he had to change his wordsearch strategy today. And we ended up with:

„The demonstrative man
Denoted the diatribe of drivel
As he dabbled in drudgery
On a dreary day“

I learnt this sentence and I guess I will remember it tomorrow, but to tell the truth. I have no idea what it means, and not only because it is nonsense verse! The reason being that I have only English-Spanish, English-German and English-Russian dictionaries at home, and in none of these languages I know such words as diatribe and drivel!

So don´t wonder if my language gradually changes in my diary and you sometimes don´t understand everything... me neither! It is the so-called „cumulative carapace effect“.

PS: But at least one thing is sure: even if I don´t understand what I am „babbling“ („b“ lesson“!) about, Kevin´s chances to beat me at Scrabble are becoming less and less!

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