What Did You Say?

Delta Winds cover 2004Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


What Did You Say?

Lorrie Condon

People often become upset and complain when a person behind the counter or on the phone cannot speak clear English. Yes, this can be frustrating, but has anyone been paying attention to some of the language native-English speakers have been using? I have heard that English is one of the hardest languages to learn. Personally, I think the American Slang Language is the difficult one to learn. Although this informal language seldom makes any sense, it has become a colorful part of the American Culture.

My daughter came home the other day and we discussed her day at school. As she was talking I heard her say several times that was "hecka fun" and that was "hecka cool." I asked her, "What in the world does 'hecka' mean?" She said, "All the kids use it instead of a cuss word." That reminded me of when I was young; we would use the word bad for good. Since I was young, our society has become increasingly comfortable with using crazy substitutes for proper English, and we do not realize how silly it sounds.

Listen to some of the expression our kids use in daily conversations: "Yeah, Dude that was whack," "Not," "I'm down wit it," "Tight." Sometimes the words they use are not completed words at all. Take "Hello, how are you?" I have heard it change from "Hi," to "What's up?" and now "SUP?" says it all. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be trying to learn our language.

I have seen many students walking around the campus, looking up words in a translation dictionary. What can be running through their minds when they read the actual definition? If there is a definition at all! I am still trying to figure out the rules involved in English and I have lived here all my life. We have so many words that sound the same, but they are spelled differently and have different meanings. Words like "where"-- for where are we going, and "wear" -- for what will I wear; how about "sale" and "sail"? Let's not forget the number of words that have the same meaning but are actually different: "forward," "ahead," and "advancing." If this is confusing, a whole book of these words is provided for our convenience.

Another baffling factor is what we call an idiom. An idiom is a ridiculous scenario used as a form of expression. For example, I was sitting in the beauty parlor the other day when an older lady walked in. It had been raining most of the day and she was quite wet. Shaking off the rain and folding her umbrella she announced, "It is raining cats and dogs out there!" I giggled at the thought. I have never seen it rain cats and dogs. Come to think of it, I have never seen it rain buckets, but I have used that expression myself a time or two.

Last Friday my family and I went out for dinner. While we waited to be seated, my husband said, "I am so hungry, I could eat a horse." I thought he must be incredibly hungry. Have you seen the size of a horse? I wonder what he would have done if they had brought him a horse. He might have run out of there like a chicken with his head cut off. We would probably never eat there again, until pigs fly or hell freezes over.

So the next time a person is having a hard time expressing himself in English, we should extend a little compassion. Let's back up and hold our horses. Chill for a while, and give homeboy some room. He and his peeps are just tryin to hang with the big boys, ain't no shame or blame in dat. Keep it real and quit drinking that hater aid. Let's show em da love. Dat's it for now; peace out y'al; gotta bounce; late.