On Sun, 17 Sep 2000, Jonathan Chang wrote:

> n a message dated 2000:09:17 12:04:08 AM, [log in to unmask] writes:
> >I've always rather liked English, at least once I realized that there
> >actually *is* a method to the madness.
>     *snarfle* English is such a magpie language it's wonder it got so
> "powerful." Then again there are IMHO many types of Englishes, even within
> America - to not neglect sayin' da whole wide world.

Quick question: what does "magpie" mean in this context?  (I'm used to
thinking of magpies as bringers of good luck, so I *know* I'm missing
some connotation.)

I *like* the different Englishes, though I certainly can't speak or
understand very many of them.

> >The rules make perfect sense, once you learn
> >them all, and they have very few exceptions.
>     *snarfle* sheesh, have you seen the actual literacy skill levels of
> American and British kids? Even native speakers have a hard time with English
> IMO.

<laugh>  I tutor writing at Cornell U. and some of these poor freshmen
who come in...<shaking head>  It depends on the particular kid, OC.  And
people who aren't expressive on, say, paper can be *very* expressive, if
not textbook-grammatical, when you take away their paper, put it face
down, and ask them to explain their ideas.  (OC some of them just
flounder, but usually that's because their ideas/logic in the paper
aren't well thought-through, not because their language skills are
completely out of whack.)  Is literacy (reading/writing) necessarily the
best gauge of English use?

Also, I think my favourite variety of English to listen to is Black
English (Ebonics?  help?--I bet there are varieties within *this* but my
ear can't tell them apart).  Because when I listen to it, there *are*
rules, just not the ones I'm used to, and the paralinguistic things like
tone, rhythm, are quite musical.  That's a variety of English I wouldn't
mind being fluent in.  However, I've seen papers written by speakers of
Black English that are expressive in *their* mode but needed help to meet
the "standards" of the English their profs would expect.  <rueful look>