by Dan Seagren
Posted: March 31, 2018
English in other times and places
The milkman did it. Hey! It’s your nickel. Don’t forget to pull the chain. Knee high to a grasshopper. Well, Fiddlesticks! Going like sixty. I’ll see you in the funny papers. Don’t take any wooden nickels you knucklehead, or nincompoop. Not for all the tea in China! Back in the olden days, life used to be swell, but when’s the last time anything was swell? Swell has gone the way of beehives, pageboys, and the D.A.; of spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes and pedal pushers. Oh, my aching back. Kilroy was here, but he isn’t anymore.
OK. If you don't remember any of these expressions, you might be a Millennial making up your own verbal expressions. Personally, I remember all of them but haven't heard or used many recently. Slang can lead astray or only be understood by an in group or not at all. See ya later, alligator!
I found a list of common American slang word and phrases that our English-speaking comrades in Great Britain might have trouble wrapping their heads around. There wasn't a single expression expressed above showing how languages change. Accents within the same language can also cause difficulty. I remember taking the ferry from France to England and overheard a group of people on the deck talking. I didn't recognize either the language or even a single word. A gentleman was standing apart from the group and I asked him if he knew what language they were speaking. He replied, Hoot man, that's English. He then explained they were from Northern Great Britain speaking English. I listen closely and picked up a word or two.
Currently there are about 6909 living languages. About 6% of them have more than a million speakers each, and collectively account for 94% of the world population. The top five languages spoken are CHINESE: 1197 million native speakers (MANDARIN: 848 million) ... SPANISH: 399 million. . . ENGLISH: 335 million . . . HINDI: 260 million . . . ARABIC: 242 million. ...
Ethnologue’s 6,909, for instance, only 230 are spoken in Europe, while 2,197 are spoken in Asia. One area of particularly high linguistic diversity is Papua-New Guinea, where there are an estimated 832 languages spoken by a population of around 3.9 million. Now here is the closure: How many languages would you guess are spoken in the United States today besides English? 100? 165? 225? 300? 500? If you don't know, look it up (try Ethnologue).
Dan Seagren is an active retiree whose writings reflect his life as a Pastor, author of several books, and service as a Chaplain in a Covenant Retirement Community.• E-mail the author (su.nergaesnad@brabnad*) • Author's website (personal or primary**)
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