Monday, October 30, 2006

It’s no more a Yes

I was at the health club watching the evening news on the raging fires in southern California. There were these 2 men sitting next to me who were talking about forest fires, environment pollution, deforestation etc. Seems one of them had watched a program on global warming some time back. Their discussion was like this-

Stranger 1 – You know, 1000’s of acres have already burnt down in this fire. The people, you know, where will they go, I mean where will they stay?

Stranger 2 –I heard this is the biggest fire that has happened in the last 5 years you know.
Stranger 2 – I watched this program on global warming you know. They say earth is becoming warmer and by 2030 70% of corals will vanish it seems.

Stranger 1 – Yeah you know I heard there was a volcano in Siberia, sometime back. Seems it had covered the area of a football stadium.

Stranger 2 – A football stadium is big you know. I mean it had to be a big volcano.

Stranger 1 – Yeah, It said it was something like the Detroit stadium. That’s big you know. It’s a huge stadium. I couldn’t make it for the super bowl you know.

Stranger 2 – yeah that’s big. Did you watch the game between lions and ……

The conversation slowly shifted to football. I sat there thinking, as they discussed the Monday night football. It wasn’t the raging fires or the vanishing coral reef I was thinking of. It wasn’t the smooth transition from global warming to football which surprised me. What really caught my attention was the number of times the words “You know” and “I mean” were used in the conversation.

I am not complaining about the use of these “filler” words. Many of us do that. I think we use these to buy some time or make the sentence look lengthy. We need a word to complete the sentence but don’t have it. So one person assumes the other will know what to replace for “You know” or “I mean” and the other person somehow WILL get the exact meaning and the conversation goes on!! But what is never realized is that a language is being killed in the process. Words are slowly forgotten and a dictionary is needed even for a simple word.

This problem is not only with English. I know of many such filler words I use in Kannada or Marathi or Hindi. It’s just that we are slowly killing all languages we know. I had once asked my friend about the food at a restaurant close to our office. He had said “it tastes like sh%t.”. I don’t know what all our people eat but I am sure the “inventors” of English language would have never thought of so many different contexts for these words!!

Anyway it was really not surprising that the topic shifted so quickly to football. “I mean” we all talk about global warming, “you know” and we all know it is happening. So if somebody asks you if we are killing our environment, just say yeah or yo or yup!

~Narendra V Joshi

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