Monday, February 22, 2010

A story about a badger...

Many months ago, I got into a debate with an office mate over the virtues of the American language. Essentially, having grown up outside of this fine country, she was extremely frustrated by the intricacies of the dialect. And often by what she viewed as the absurdities of English. My office mate was born across the western ocean, and while she has been in the US for nearly two decade, the subtleties of English elude her much of the time.

In one case, particularly frustrated with a phrase that I had to explain five times to her, break down and away from all cultural idioms and strip of all implied humor. She expressed grief over how some verbs  become a noun by adding an "er" to the end of them; for example, run becomes runner. She then expressed more grief when certain nouns possessed an "er" suffix, but yet never became verbs or never seemed to make sense in her realm of logic.

She help up her ID badge and shouted at me, "I can have a flag and then if I have a flag and have it in the air, I am a flagger. But why is it that when I ad an 'e-r' to my badge it doesn't make me a badger?" Shaking her badge at me and spitting out her hatred toward the English language, she prattled on about how English was extremely stupid. She also had a difficult time understanding how an animal could keep its face white when it lived in a hole in the ground.

Seeing this as an apt time to have fun with a culturally confused individual, I decided that it was wise to turn to the Oxford English Dictionary and to Wikipedia to find pictures of badgers. It was here that I informed my office mate that the badger takes its name from the shield like shape of the marking on its face. I also told her that because it was a cute mammal, it defied her logic and did not need to conform to her silly ways of understanding the English language.  I then informed her than this animal was extremely smart and that is why it kept its face clean while living in the dirt.

She then hit me.

So I printed out a picture of a badger and placed it on her desk.

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