Also known as mushrooming or procrastination
“Everything is fascinating when you should be working”
Who said that? I think It was the author who wrote Huckleberry Finn. Mark Twain, that’s him. I think his real name was Clarence something.. No Clemens.. Wait, Samuel Clemens.
Mark Twain was his pen name or nom de plume as the French say. A lot of authors had them.
Stephen king - really Richard Bachman. George Orwell was really Eric Arthur Blair and John Wayne was really Marion Morrison, although that’s more of a stage name, not a pen name. I’m doing it right now, I’m procrastinating. Let’s get on with it. I was just going to tell you about how language teachers’ brains work when we are out in the wild among the fauna and the flora. Here goes...
I was recently celebrating a friend’s birthday in the park. It was a bright breezy day in Ciutadella and people were laughing and smiling and drinking beer. We were having a great carefree time. The kind of scene you might see on an advert for indigestion pills, or life insurance policies.
After speaking to some amigos for a while I suddenly found myself in a full blown conversation with a man who seemed to be trying to indicate something with his hands whilst staring intently into my eyes.
“It was enormous! Huge man!”
“ What was huge?”
So a few months prior to our conversation he had spotted a wild black bear near to his house in Canada. It had really left an impression on him, and he seemed to find it a waste of time to talk about anything else.
I had only met him a couple of hours before but I was already warming to him. He was a young Canadian guy who was seemingly only interested in skateboarding and bears. His hands were quite wide apart as if to say “it was this big”.
His hands then started to move apart again, “dude, and a grizzly bear.. They’re like…”
He continued with the hand widening display, but with an expression that suggested these were not his arms and even HE was surprised at how wide they were spreading. He looked shocked, it was infectious. I was starting to become amazed at how big this fictional bear was, and if this guy's autonomous arms were anything to go by, It was gonna be MASSIVE!
“No way!” I said, genuinely impressed.
Well, I was convinced. Convinced I liked this guy and convinced bears are generally quite big. He then fished out a phone from his pants and said “wait, I’ll show you”. He was going empirical on us. I was a little worried he was trying to find real statistics. I had enjoyed it so far and I was hoping he wasn’t going to find any data that would disprove his theory that bears are exactly the same size as your average ice cream van. It would have ruined the mood. Wait! Did I say pants? I meant trousers. I was thinking about the pants thing at the time too because he’d used the word before and whilst he was scrolling.. I was thinking.
Pants is the American word for trousers, whilst pants is the English word for underwear. Weird. It mainly all comes from a fellow named Webster who was outraged that American children were reading and spelling in British English. He had a fair point. Why write ‘plough’ when you can write ‘plow’. Does colour need that ‘U’ in there. Nope, waste of ink.
Trainers - Sneakers? Both make sense to me. Sneaking sounds even cooler. “I’m sneaking about in my sneakers”. Classy work Americans!
Dummy - Pacifier. I think we won that one, and tap - faucet, well now you’re just making stuff up.
That being said, where would we be without ‘hangover’? Yep, that’s American. So the next time your face isn’t working and everything around you is pulsating and beating curiously to the rhythm of your own heart, you can thank our cousins across the pond for giving you one less thing to think about. There’s loads of other great words too, like rad, cool, bro, dude and about a million other culturally appropriated neologisms. Radical always existed in English of course, but was rarely used to describe a grown man riding a child’s toy. Ghetto! That was one I looked up recently. So American. It turns out it’s from the Italian Borgo - borghetto (borough, neighbourhood) - GHETTO. But wait.. Where were we?
I had finally seen the light. Not an epiphany, but a light from a phone. It was my new friend showing me a photo. He hadn’t looked up statistics after all, he’d been searching for this picture of a man in a horrendous leather (possibly) suit from the last century with the heading “bear hunting clothes from the 1800s”. It was amazing. It was like a human sized mole with spikes all over it! Why do I never search for things like this on the internet?
“No way!” I said, genuinely impressed (still)
“Yeh dude!” he said
This is the rabbit hole I was referring to. The whole time he had been searching for this ideal picture which would bring us even closer together, I had been thinking about words. I’m always doing that. I hope I’m not alone in this. Anyway, that's how English teachers think, or at least I hope they do and this doesn’t sound too much like Holden Caulfield.
I like Canadians, I love bears and I’m obsessed with words.
I have some last minute words of advice to any English language snobs who find American English a little too coarse. If somebody is describing the colour, size, or material of their pants and there is even a hint of ambiguity, leave immediately.