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vendredi 28 avril 2017



A couple of days ago I was scrolling through my list of blogpost ideas in search of some thrilling content that would kickstart my writing and drum up your enthusiasm, as well, when I came across two topics I had often thought of throwing into the " not-worth publishing " bucket.
I was about to walk the talk, when I had a light-bulb moment.

After all, " Vocabulary " and " Grammar " could be worthwile topics, but which one to choose ?
The clock was ticking, the deadline to publish getting closer and closer, so it was high time to make up my mind.

 "  Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, ..."

Vocabulary ! Yes, the die has been cast, this week I'll tell you about vocabulary.

Hey you, relax ! I won't be hoity-toity, and make a fool of myself. I wager that if I start ' wikipedizing ' and babbling on what is vocabulary, you'll roll your eyes, shrug your shoulders and move on !  No way !

No, when I say I'll tell you about vocabulary, I mean, I'll tell you a story about vocabulary, or I should say , about  a lack of vocabulary, and I hope it will make you crack a smile and help those of you who are learning a foreign language  and still struggling with words, phrases, idioms and whatnot !

But why such an off-puting topic ?
Well, English is not my mother tongue, and I keep quite a few bitter memories of getting into trouble, because I was stumped for words.

The very first time I stayed with an English family for a whole month was nothing but a daily ordeal ! Even to ask for some more bread or some salt, I had butterflies in my stomach !! I could not even recognize my voice ! It sounded as if I were hoarse or bleating like a sheep !
To crown it all, the family had a basset and in those days I was scared stiff of dogs.
That "good boy" (as the lady called him) was over the hill and had a nasty temper (due to rheumatism ! My foot !!)
I guess he felt my fear and tried to increase it by growling at me whenever we were in the same room. Even when his "mum" scolded him ("naughty boy" was the worst humiliation), the cheeky four-legged sausage kept humming his war tune at me !
Well, one evening we were having dinner, and while the lady had gone to the kitchen to fetch a jug of water, I started dealing with my veggies...
A lot has been said about English flashy green peas, but not enough about English boiled potatoes ! They are strong-tempered, and cutting them can sometimes turn into a merciless fight.
So, there I was, when suddenly the blade of my knife slipped on the hot potato and sent it straight into the dog's basket. Immediately the growling went off ! For once, with good reason ! Sure, being hit by a boiling hot potato was painful !
But when the lady came back from the kitchen and heard her little devil, she flared up and said that enough was enough, and that he would spend the night in the kennel outside !!
I wanted to explain it was my fault, but I started to go off road in my thoughts, searching for the words " lame de couteau " and "déraper". Of course, in vain !
I was faced with a tongue-tied feeling of hopelessness !
I let the alleged culprit be dragged outside, whereas I could have said :
" There is one hot potato in his basket" or " A potato has flown into his basket".
A bit weird, but then I could have drawn in the air the flight of the potato from my plate onto the basket tarmac. It would have saved an innocent !

Psychologists would say it was a "subconscious deliberate mistake". To avenge Joan of Arch ?

Maybe, cause the year after, I was nearly charged with first-degree murder on the same four-pawed guy ! No kidding !
To coax him and drive him to bury the hatchet, I had decided to prepare his favourite food bowl and then become his favourite waitress.
Easier said than done ...
I mean, in those days I was already a poor cook, but Dusty was not a finicky guest, and anyway, pouring a dollop of dry pet food into his bowl
was not such a big issue !
No, once more, ' I had a brush ' with vocabulary . That's when I realized that words can play tricks on non-native speakers.
I confused ' to eat ' and ' to feed ', or to be honest, I knew the noun
' food ', but didn't know you just had to change double 'o'  into double
' e ' to turn it into a verb.

So, of course, when I said that that I would eat the dog, everybody
was horrified and so was I !

What a mess  I had got in and what a galoot I was !
In a split second, my imagination ran riot and I could  see the red warning " Revenge is a dish best savoured cold " flashing  in their minds !
Before being sentence to a harsh punishment for dog bullying, I rushed to the kitchen and came back, holding my so-called victim's bowl tight , and looking, I guess, just like a blithering idiot !

It took me several years  and several misundertandings and blunders to realize that building your vocabulary is a ceaseless job, but so exhilarating that it is worth it !

Well , this week I had promised not to be hoity-toity, but I can't help ending this post by quoting Evelyn Waugh ( 1903-1966):

" One forgets words as one forgets names.
   One's vocabulary needs constant fertilizing or it will die. "

So, whatever the language you are learning, just remember that the more words you know, the easier it will be not to get into a pretty pickle .

That's all for this weeks, folks !


Getting stuck on some words or phrases of this post, cause English is not your mother tongue ? Drop me a mail, and I'll help you through this tricky text.



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