WNW: Messing with Your Head
Last week I threw a linguist mind bender out. Some of you already knew it (good for you!), and others had never heard of it.
Before I write it out again, let's set up what we're dealing with.
Have you ever tried learning a foreign language, thought you have a pretty good handle on it, and then actually hear a native speak to you and go . . . whoa! Suddenly, you can't understand a word.
One reason is often because the native is speaking fast. Another is that they're using colloquial terms that you didn't learn in language class.
This is a classic issue with learning Finnish. NO ONE speaks the "real" language; Finns are constantly hacking off and mixing up endings and throwing together stuff, so missionaries' heads are spinning.
I remember a hand-clapping game with my friends that we'd do in a specific pattern, and we'd count to see how far we could get. After about twenty, I'd let them do the counting aloud and forget trying to keep up, because they were abbreviating the numbers so much just to keep up with the rhythm that they no longer made sense to me and I couldn't count that fast in Finnish.
Finnish has a lot of syllables, so for a quick rhythm game, you'd have to abbreviate. For, say, the number 38, good luck saying, "kolme-kymentä-kahdeksan" in about a quarter of second. They'd shorten it to, "kol-kyt-kah." Now it was my head spinning.
But one big reason you get foreign speakers not understanding another language is because they can't tell where one word ends and the next one begins. If the native were to slow down enough, really enunciate, or perhaps write it out, the foreigner could have half a chance at figuring it out.
Learning where a word begins and ends and the next begins and ends is something infants and children do when they learn their native tongue as well.
And that's where I messed with your heads last week.
I took a nursery-rhyme type sing-song thing and messed it up so you couldn't tell where one word really ended and the next began. I could have spelled it any number of ways (it's a famous rhyme, so I'm sure there are others ways), but this is how I did it:
Maresy dotes'n doesy dotes'n littel amsy divie.
I even told you to say it aloud . . . as if that would help. It probably just messed with your head more if you weren't familiar with it.
Here's the real rhyme written out in actual English words so you can see where each one properly begins and ends.
Mares eat oats,
And does eat oats,
And little lambs eat ivy.
Okay, now sing it again.
Now go back and read the funky version one and see how your brain tricked you because you couldn't decipher the beginning and ending of each word.
I found out recently (thanks, Blondie!) that there's an entire board game based on phrases that sound like one thing but are really another (called mondegreens). The game is Mad Gab. I'm going to have to buy it now. Talk about the perfect person to enjoy it! (Now if I can just find someone as nerdy as I am to play it with me . . .)
Kids are the best at inadvertently coming up with their own mondegreens such with the Primary song, "I Am a Child of God" where the lyric, "has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear" turns out as, "parents kind of weird."
Hey, it sounds right . . .