No one really knows why otters juggle pebbles, but one thing is for sure: whether they are tossing pebbles from one paw to another or rolling them up and down their arms and across their chests, otters are without doubt expert pebble jugglers.
H.M.S. Pinafore is a comic opera in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and a libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Opera Comique in London, on 25 May 1878 and ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time. H.M.S. Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth operatic collaboration and their first international sensation.
The story takes place aboard the Royal Navy ship H.M.S. Pinafore. The captain’s daughter, Josephine, is in love with a lower-class sailor, Ralph Rackstraw, although her father intends her to marry Sir Joseph Porter, the First Lord of the Admiralty. She accepts her father’s wishes at first, but Sir Joseph’s promotion of the equality of humankind encourages Ralph and Josephine to overturn conventional social order. They declare their love for each other and eventually plan to elope. The Captain discovers this plan, but, as in many of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, a surprise disclosure changes things dramatically near the end of the story.
Gironzolando per la rete l’altro giorno mi sono imbattuto in questo simpatico video sul sito https://www.open.edu/openlearn/ che, in modo scherzoso e auto-ironico, traccia la storia della lingua inglese dai tempi dei Romani ai tempi moderni. Non è un brano facile e la lettura di Clive Anderson è piuttosto incalzante, ma tra video, trascrizione del testo e gli aiuti che ho fornito nella trascrizione, potrebbe essere un utile e divertente esercizio di ascolto e di lettura per studenti di livello intermedio. Suggerisco di cominciare dal video, ascoltando e cogliendo quanto possibile del racconto con l’aiuto delle immagini. In un secondo momento potete avviare nuovamente il video e seguire la narrazione direttamente con la trascrizione davanti.
[per sapere il significato delle parole evidenziate, passaci sopra con il mouse senza cliccare]
Anglo-Saxon, or whatever happened to the Jutes.
The English language begins with the phrase ‘Up Yours Caesar!’ as the Romans leave Britain and a lot of Germanic tribes start flooding in; tribes such as the Angles and the Saxons – who together gave us the term Anglo-Saxon, and the Jutes – who didn’t.
The Romans left some very straight roads behind, but not much of their Latin language. The Anglo-Saxon vocab was much more useful as it was mainly words for simple everyday things like ‘house’, ‘woman’, ‘loaf’ and ‘werewolf’.
Four of our days of the week were named in honour of Anglo-Saxon gods. They didn’t bother with Saturday, Sunday and Monday as they had all gone off for a long weekend. While they were away, Christian missionaries stole in bringing with them leaflets about jumble sales and more Latin.
Christianity was a hit with the locals and made them much happier to take on funky new words from Latin, like ‘martyr’, ‘bishop’ and ‘font’.
French was de rigeur for all official business, with words like ‘judge’, ‘jury’, ‘evidence’ and ‘justice’ coming in and giving John Grisham’s career a kick-start. Latin was still used ad nauseam in Church, but the common man spoke English – able to communicate only by speaking more slowly and loudly until the others understood him.
Words like ‘cow’, ‘sheep’ and ‘swine’ come from the English-speaking farmers, while the a-la-carte versions – ‘beef’, ‘mutton’ and ‘pork’ – come from the French-speaking toffs – beginning a long-running trend for restaurants having completely indecipherable menus.
All in all, the English absorbed about 10,000 new words from the Normans, but they still couldn’t grasp the rules of cheek-kissing.
In fact, just as ‘Jonathan begat Meribbaal; and Meribbaal begat Micah, the King James Bible begat a whole glossary of metaphor and morality that still shapes the way English is spoken today. Amen.
The English of science, or how to speak with gravity.
Before the 17th Century scientists weren’t really recognised – possibly because lab-coats had yet to catch on. But suddenly Britain was full of physicists – there was Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle – and even some people not called Robert, like Isaac Newton. The Royal Society was formed out of the Invisible College – after they put it down somewhere and couldn’t find it again.
At first they worked in Latin. After sitting through Newton’s story about the ‘pomum’ falling to the ‘terra’ from the ‘arbor’ for the umpteenth time, the bright sparks realised they all spoke English and they could transform our understanding of the universe much quicker by talking in their own language.
But science was discovering things faster than they could name them. Words like ‘acid’, ‘gravity’, ‘electricity and ‘pendulum’ had to be invented just to stop their meetings turning into an endless game of charades.
Like teenage boys, the scientists suddenly became aware of the human body – coining new words like ‘cardiac’ and ‘tonsil’, ‘ovary’, and ‘sternum’ – and the invention of ‘penis’ (1693), ‘vagina’ (1682) made sex education classes a bit easier to follow. Though ‘clitoris’ was still a source of confusion.
English and empire, or the sun never sets on the English language.
With English making its name as the language of science, the Bible and Shakespeare, Britain decided to take it on tour. Asking only for land, wealth, natural resources, total obedience to the crown and a few local words in return.
They went to the Caribbean looking for gold and a chance to really unwind – discovering the ‘barbeque’, the ‘canoe’ and a pretty good recipe for rum punch. They also brought back the word ‘cannibal’ to make their trip sound more exciting.
All in all, between toppling Napoleon (1815) and the first World War (1914), the British Empire gobbled up around 10 million square miles, 400 million people and nearly a hundred thousand gin and tonics, leaving new varieties of English to develop all over the globe.
One of the greatest was Doctor Johnson, whose ‘Dictionary of the English Language’ took him 9 years to write. It was 18 inches tall and contained 42,773 entries, meaning that even if you couldn’t read, it was still pretty useful if you wanted to reach a high shelf.
For the first time, when people were calling you ‘a pickle herring’, a ‘jobbernowl‘ or a ‘fopdoodle’, you could understand exactly what they meant – and you’d have the consolation of knowing they were all using the standard spelling.
American English, or not English but somewhere in the ball park.
From the moment Brits landed in America they needed names for all the new plants and animals so they borrowed words like ‘raccoon’, ‘squash’ and ‘moose’ from the Native Americans, as well as most of their territory.
Waves of immigrants fed America’s hunger for words. The Dutch came sharing ‘coleslaw’ and ‘cookies’ – probably as a result of their relaxed attitude to drugs. Later, the Germans arrived selling ‘pretzels’ from ‘delicatessens’ and the Italians arrived with their ‘pizza’, their ‘pasta’ and their ‘mafia’, just like mamma used to make.
Some changes even passed into spoken English. For your information people frequently asked questions like “how can ‘LOL’ mean ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘lots of love’? But if you’re going to complain about that then UG2BK (you’ve got to be kidding).
In the 1500 years since the Roman’s left Britain, English has shown a unique ability to absorb, evolve, invade and, if we’re honest, steal. After foreign settlers got it started, it grew into a fully-fledged language all of its own, before leaving home and travelling the world, first via the high seas, then via the high speed broadband connection, pilfering words from over 350 languages and establishing itself as a global institution. All this despite a written alphabet that bears no correlation to how it sounds and a system of spelling that even Dan Brown couldn’t decipher.
Right now around 1.5 billion people speak English. Of these about a quarter are native speakers, a quarter speak it as their second language, and half are able to ask for directions to a swimming pool.
There’s Hinglish – which is Hindi-English, Chinglish – which is Chinese-English and Singlish – which is Singaporean English – and not that bit when they speak in musicals.
La tradizione vuole che il vero cockney è colui o colei che nasce a portata di orecchio delle “Bow Bells” – le campane della Chiesa di St. Mary-le-Bow – che si trovano nella zona di Cheapside nel centro storico di Londra. Originariamente però, il termine cockney fu usato in modo spregiativo da parte degli abitanti della campagna (gente vera) per deridere gli abitanti della città (gente smidollata). Nel tempo il termine ha perso il suo senso spregiativo e si è ristretto ai cittadini di Londra e poi, man mano che la città di Londra cresceva, solo a coloro nati, appunto, a portata di orecchio delle “Bow Bells”. Ormai oggi il suono delle campane è soffocato dal rumore della città e per la maggior parte della gente, un cockney è semplicemente un londinese, meglio se appartiene alla classe operaia e, meglio ancora se viene dall’East End di Londra.
Perché parlare del cockney qui? Semplicemente perché il cockney accent è una realtà che lo studente della lingua inglese non può ignorare, soprattutto considerando che la città di Londra è una delle destinazioni più ambite in assoluto dai turisti diretti verso la Gran Bretagna. Chi va a Londra è destinato a scontrarsi prima o poi con il cockney accent e quando questo succederà, è meglio essere preparati. Il cockney accent fa tutto il possibile per rompere ogni regola di buona pronuncia che il tuo insegnante di inglese ha cercato meticolosamente e pazientamente di insegnarti!
Lascio i dettagli fonetici di questo particolarissimo accento al divertente ma istruttivo video qui sotto.
As 2018 draws to a close, this speech from 15 year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg pulls no punches and leaves no doubts as to what some children think of our governments’ bland and ineffective response to the environmental crisis caused by man.