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The Happy Guy

English Has Come A Long, Long Way...
By David Leonhardt

I often wonder what would happen if Shakespeare were to be transported in a time machine to our world today. What would he think? How would he react?

Yes, Willie would probably tell me "thou hast too much time on thy hands if thou spendeth it wondering about such flights of fancy." But only after he found his feet. You see, Willie would be blown away by some of the comforts we take for granted. For instance, that box we walk into. The doors close all by themselves...just like magic. When they open, we are magically in a different place.

"What callest thou this contraption?" Willie would ask in utter amazement. An elevator. You would think nothing would phase a man who just landed his time machine 400 years into the future. "Ah, I see. It was not magic after all. It elevated us, because it is an elevator."

This Willie guy is pretty handy with his English, isn't he? But that won't get him far these days. A hundred years ago, even fifty, he could have figured out just about every new word by tracing its roots (often to Greek or Latin). But not today. "What are those...those...those, things?"

Why that's a TV, with a VCR and a DVD player. Over there, it's a CD player, an AM and FM radio and an amp. This is a PC, with CDRW and floppy drives, a powerful CPU, A and C drive, and more RAM than a MAC.

"What? Thy alphabet seems a bit confusing."

Once upon a time, the meaning of a word could always be guessed by simply tracing the entomology of the word back to its lowest roots.

"Thou meanest 'etymology', dost thou not? Entomology is the study of insects and bugs."

I knew that. I took out a 'Kleenex' because my nose was running.

"But how dost thy nose run?" I suppose the same way I drivest on a parkway and parkest in the driveway. Or how it doesn't matter whether we fill in a form or fill out a form...either way, the taxman gets the last laugh. I offered to take Willie for a ride.

"That is more like it. There is nothing quite like a horse under one's bottom.'

No, no, no. We don't ride horses anymore. That is a barbaric way to treat such majestic beasts. Now we drive cars...and kill the horses off with the exhaust.

"I have no idea what you are talking about."

Just have a seat in the BMW, Willie, while I turn on the AC and rev up the RPMs on this old V6. Before you know it, we'll be doing 100 mph down the 102.

"More letters and numbers. Have words become redundant in the future?"

Pretty much. As life got more and more complicated, words got more and more complicated. Pretty soon it was taking several minutes just to pronounce a single government department. So real word groups had to be replaced by acronyms the first letter of each word. Pass me a CANDY.

"What does CANDY stand for?"

Candy, actually. But maybe I should just leave old Willie guessing. After all, there is just so much to discover in this brave new world. Like why there are so few sundials around. And why some people sleep on the street, while other climb 34 stories to an office tower above to sleep at their desks. And just how do they shrink those liquor bottles for the airlines.

"What is an RSVP? And ASAP? And TLC?" I had to find just the right way to explain to him that all these crazy letters actually made some kind of sense. Internal Department of Income Overhaul Transfer Systems. "Ah, IDIOTS. Now, that I understand!"


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

David Leonhardt publishes The Happy Guy Humor Column
And A Daily Dose of Happiness

The Happy Guy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Like Shakespeare, David Leonhardt is a writer: He is author of Inspiration & Motivation To Go and Climb Your Stairway to Heaven: the 9 habits of maximum happiness , as well as The Get Happy Workbook. To write your website copy or newsletter, just email him.
This article is 2004 David Leonhardt, published with permission


 

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