September 16, 2009

Strange language

From our guest blogger, Nick:

This from the New York Times, via Ed Park’s blog, via Jenny Davidson’s blog, via probably someone else: 

“It’s hard to say why I like walking backwards,” said Yang De Fu, 60, who does it for an hour in the morning and again in the evening. “It can exercise muscles you don’t use when you walk forward. And it just makes me comfortable. I’ve been doing it 20 years.”  He explained that walking backward forces the tummy in and the back straight. Then he walked away, backward. He did not have to turn around to wave. 

This scenario is a concrete example of the concept I always heard at art school of “making the familiar unfamiliar”. Experiencing something you think you know in an unexpected way is something that art, literature, physical activity, funnily allows. It sometimes happens when English is used by people for whom it is not their first language, like when Javier Bardem likens John Malkovich to a big Pizza Hut (favourably). 

In an article about quitting a habit, David Sedaris has written this:  

When it came to verb conjugation, she was beyond reproach, but every so often she’d get a word wrong. The effect was not a loss of meaning but a heightening of it. I once asked if her neighbor smoked, and she thought for a moment before saying, “Karl has . . . finished with his smoking.” 

And here is a story by Lydia Davis, from her collection Samuel Johnson is indignant

Happiest Moment 

If you ask her what is a favorite story she has written, she will hesitate for a long time and then say it may be this story that she read in a book once: an English language teacher in China asked his Chinese student to say what was the happiest moment in his life. The student hesitated for a long time. At last he smiled with embarrassment and said that his wife had once gone to Beijing and eaten duck there, and she often told him about it, and he would have to say the happiest moment of his life was her trip, and the eating of the duck.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30


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