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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Different Paths

On Saturday, March 7th, a bunch of us went to Lantau Island to hike Sunset peak. It was a rather foggy day but, despite the lack of visibility, it was actually perfect weather for climbing a mountain. As we reached the top we found ourselves in the middle of a river of fog flowing over the peak. We had hoped to reach a point above the fog, and we were certainly close at this point, but the experience of walking in the clouds would have to suffice.

A few days later, I had an interesting chat with another English professor. Apparently we both had different interpretations of a particular idiom. While languages are arguably nothing without their rules, it seems reasonable to suggest that we are all rather quickly moving away from the type of pedagogical society that cares - texting as an obvious example. Of course, colloquial language in general is informal and thus doesn't require much in the way of rules to function... just try telling that to an English person.

Now, maybe you would agree with my British friend, and indeed it is quite possible that I was being something of a "stick in the mud", but the phrase, "no use crying over spilled (or spilt if your of the pommie persuasion) milk" seems to be primarily related to the futility of "sweating the small stuff."

On the other hand, I fully acknowledge that the accepted interpretation is that there is, "no use being upset about something that has already happened and/or you cannot change."

Okay, I get it - you cannot change the past... you can clean up milk though. For that reason I might even suggest that my definition is contextually more practical... and appropriate. For example, I strongly feel that you would have to have something of a death wish (no pun intended) to go to a funeral and mutter such a poor choice of words... just saying.

My point here is that, while my interpretation appears to work 100% of the time, the official one clearly does not. What do you think?

Neither the Americans nor the British are doing a great job of preserving the language (just try talking to a scouser from Liverpool, a Louisiana Creole person, or reading anything written in English 500+ years ago,). Sure, we could argue all day about which culture is most... creative with the vocabulary, but the fact is that the main function of language has been, and likely always will be, communication. For this reason, I suppose you could say that the rules are important - until they're not.

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