Monday, December 6, 2010

Lingua franca

Lingua franca is the language that links groups who speak other languages together. What the lingua franca is changes through history and what subset of people that one is discussing.
Once upon a time, it was Greek. Then for many years especially through the church and through academics, it was Latin. Arabic is the lingua franca of the Moslem world uniting cultures with much different languages. Among organic chemists, especially prior to 1980 or so, it was German.  Almost everything written before 1920 (the old Beilstein tomes)was in German. At UM, a reading knowledge of German was required to get a degree even though I had fulfilled the school's language requirement with French.

Now one might say, the lingua franca is English. Learning English now is a requirement in China. Still in Italy, English signs were few and in small village train stations, no one could speak it.
One bit of English I did hear were remakes of American pop songs. I remember going to a trendy store in Sulmona and the music consisted of the F word being repeated loudly to a pulsating beat. I guess swear words don't have the same power when spoken in another language. The F word doesn't even seem to pack the same punch in England where it is used routinely on regular TV. One of the students with me in Gagliano was stationed in Germany during the Korean War and did radio shows for the GIs. In the beginning, he knew no German. The station manager was a German lady who peppered her speech with American expletives. She seemed quite demure aside from that. Well my friend eventually learned German and its expletives and began to use them in front of her. She was shocked. How dare you speak those words in front of me!!! He assumed that it would be OK given her vocabulary. But to her, German swear words sounded so much worse than American ones.

Last night I was internetless as I now learn, so were many of my fellow subscribers to a certain communication giant. It is cold out and I seem to be in the doldrums. I did get out in the 10 degree wind chill trying not to slip on the dusting of snow. Once I got into the rhythm, I felt fine. Ms. Maya and her mom came over and we watched junk movies. Maya tried some baby oatmeal here and loved it. She is so much more alert now and social.

I have not put up a tree. Just can not get into the mood. When I was in Cancerland and sadly thinking that it might be my last X-mas, it was very important for me to have that tree. I had absolutely zero energy. Two of my friends came over to decorate it. It meant so much to me.

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