Wednesday, July 28, 2010

On Real Life Conversations VI: Grandmothers

Not my grandma, but she looks the part. If I were holding open-casting for a grandma, this lady would be a front-runner alongside Betty White and Mel Brooks in a wig.

My grandmother has a typically Bronx-Jew idiosyncratic speech pattern.

For one thing, she's fairly incapable or saying Ts in the middle of a word. "Mitten" comes out as "Mì'en," with a hiccupy linguistic hiatus in the middle.

On another note: when verbs affect verbs, her grammatical syntax reverts to Yiddish.
"Do you want me to…" becomes, "You want I should…?"
This would make sense in some Romance languages, where the expressions "You want" and "I should" can each be expressed as single, conjugated nouns without necessary pronouns, then modified into a question simply by adding an inquisitive inflection. For example, the Spanish "¿Quiere me deber?" literally means "[Do] you want [that] I should?" However this still makes no sense, considering that Yiddish is mostly German (written in Hebrew) and English itself is a Germanic language as far as syntax is concerned.

Fun for the whole family is trying to discern What the Hell Is Grandma Trying To Say?! (from Parker Brothers)!
"You know how to hang Venetians?"

Proper response: "Yes, Grandma, I know how to hang Venetian curtains."

Rejected response: "What? Like people? Yeah, I know how to lynch a Guinea."

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