Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Hooked on Phonics

Ok, I found this to be kind of funny, and interesting on a couple levels.

Last week we ordered breakfast from a deli down the road - got someone on the phone we hadn't spoken to before. Took a little extra time to place the order, and when the food came, we knew why. Here's what was written on the check:

Pina barh yeli sogui bret

Egg chis tos rol

Egui beiquen chis rap

The order that this reflected was:
Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread

Egg and cheese on a toasted roll

Egg, bacon and cheese wrap

A couple of things worth pointing out are:
  • The person on the phone appeared to be a Spanish speaker, as are most of the cooks at this place, though the owners (who usually answer the phone) are Korean
  • The handwriting on the check was clear - better than mine (of course, that's not saying much). It wasn't particularly elegant, but I'm not guessing at any of the letters.
  • The order came through perfectly. The food was done 100% right, and delivered on time.

To me, this is fascinating. I mean, leaving aside the fact that I couldn't begin to function taking food orders in Spanish (much less Korean) I think that this shows the organic side of language in a way we sometimes forget about. Having just finished a Shakespeare play, I may be more attuned to this than usual - there was almost no standardized spelling and vocabulary in Shakespeare's time; in fact we owe a lot of our 'proper' English spelling to Shakespeare, for better or for worse. (Is 'Achilles' really better than the closer-to-the-Greek 'Akhilleus'? You tell me.)

Seems to me that it also points out the, um, challenges of spelling and pronunciation in English. This is nothing new to anyone, but take a quick look at these words:


I dare you to come up with a quick answer to the question of how 'ough' is to be pronounced.

Even though you may have to google a couple words, I bet you understand that I can go to the bodega with my bff in k-town and get an empanada, some kim chee and a 40. And when my cholo texts me something that makes me rotflmao, I'm reminded that language really is a living thing.

In other, much sadder news, Don LaFontaine has shuffled off this mortal coil at the age of 68. Or as he might have put it: "In a world with the heroes of all time, Don LaFontaine announces coming attractions to the angels."

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