To Be or Not To Be

A little kingdom I possess,
Where thoughts and feelings dwell;
And very hard the task I find
Of governing it well.
-- Louisa May Alcott.
...........hmmm....that more or less describes my situation !!

~A Wise Man Said~

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
-- Aristotle

Monday, January 10, 2011

Last Wednesday at Church (I attend the Novena mass every Wednesday morning at the famous Mahim church), the priest made some very interesting observations about New Year resolutions. He said that a New Year resolution must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound). I was quite impressed by how the mnemonic summed it up beautifully! He said, and I quite agree, that most of the time we forget the resolution before we are even into February. It’s been quite true of me. I don't plan a resolution consciously every year, but come the first day of the year, I notice myself making a mental note of something I want to do differently this year. The idea is good and if I hold on it, I'm sure I would benefit in a big way, but before I know it, I have even forgotten I had decided to actually "do" or "not do" something. Back to square one when the next year arrives.

In the light of my own experiences, I felt the SMART principle had something in it. I think all goals should have these qualities. The example he gave was, if I say I want to lose some weight this year, it’s too vague for me to be even bothered about. But, if I say, I will lose 5 kgs in the next 3 months, it is specific, it is measurable, it is attainable (ok, let's assume it is), it is realistic (umm.. I guess?), it is time-bound. Much better chances of something coming out of this resolution.

I have not made a resolution yet, but I hope to come up with something SMART soon! :)

I have been reading up a little on phonology recently (as part of my studies), and I almost feel like I have been entirely unexposed to one of the most important aspects of a language, namely, the sound of it. I love the English language and I find it strange that I never thought so much about the inconsistencies in the way the English language is spelt and spoken—why is "so" pronounced "soh" and "to" pronounced “too”?! We have laughed at this before but I have only now started thinking—how is a non native speaker of English supposed to know whether "so" should be spoken as "soh" or as "soo" just by reading it?! We are lucky to be brought up on heavy doses of English, but when the words get more complicated, like say, "alveolar", how in the world are we to know what the word must sound like, if letters can arbitrarily change their sounds in individual words? All I can say is, I’m enjoying my foray into the world of English phonetics, and I am actually starting to think about sounds of languages like I never thought before. Say for example, my mom, who grew up in Karnataka (Mangalore) with Kannada and Tulu as first languages, is not yet comfortable with Hindi. When she wants to say “Khakra”, she says "Kakra", and the other day when she wanted to say "Bhai", she said "Bai". Earlier I would have just giggled at her South Indian accent, but now I ask myself—does this mean that Kannada lacks sounds such as "kh" and "bh" and the person starts using the sounds that are closest to what they are aiming at? Then I have this Bengali friend with whom I have almost come to blows because I think it is "wada paav" and he positively swears it is "wara paav". It doesn’t matter if he says "khara hoon" instead of "khada hoon" and "thora time" instead of "thoda time". Do we see a pattern here? Think about the way Russians or the Chinese speak English. It seems Chinese does not have the sound "th" and they end up using “s”, which now reminds me how I used to hear something like a "sought" when my boss (when I was in Hong Kong) wanted to say “thought” !

I always believed that language is one of the pillars that make up a culture, so to speak, but I always thought of language in terms of "meaning", altogether ignoring the "sound" of it; a lovely poem on "Sound and Sense" by Pope comes to mind:

True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,

As those move easiest who have learned to dance.

'Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,

The sound must seem an echo to the sense: