The Twisted Way We Gringos Speak

By Tommy Clarkson


paint_hufferBy way of explaining this layperson’s autopsy of “Gringo Speak” please allow the following brief explanation to, hopefully, set up what put this all in motion. 

Like most folks, both my wife and I extensively use, and are highly dependent upon, our land line and cellular telephones and computers. In that regard, recently, we experienced a problem not unfamiliar to other ex-pats...communications equipment problems and all that is entailed in correcting same in environs slightly different, shall we say, than Oklahoma City, Portland or Philadelphia.

So, in response to our dilemma d’jour, our local electronics professional, David (nearly a family member as much time as he spends here), responsively raced up to our rescue. After diagnosing our difficulties, he informed us that he would have to re-install the modem.

OK, that seemed to be a logical prognosis for our computer problem but it set in motion my convoluted way of thinking.

Upon setting up our household we had “installed” a modem and now, this one being on the fritz, we needed to “re-install” another. We were “repeating” an original process. That made sense.

But given the complicated manner in which my mind seems to work – or others might observe, “doesn’t work” - that initiated a somewhat convoluted thought process.

By definition, “re” means to “restore to a previous condition.” Thus by employing that semantic rationale, if we first “installed,” then we “re-installed”, did we then “peat” before we could “repeat” the process.   In fact, in that I am now “recounting” this incident, did I previously “count” it?

In thinking this through, if we wish to not “refuse” something, choosing to accept it, must we then “fuse” it? Likewise, is it imperative that we be “tired” before we can “retire”? Or must we “turn” before “returning”? “Tort” before “retorting”? “Tract” before “retracting”? “Vive” before “reviving”? “Pent” before “repenting”? The mind boggles.

By further striving to incorporate some sort of consistent rationale in the way we speak and write, I know that while “renumbering” is merely “numbering” again, should it not then follow that we must “spect” someone before we can “respect” them? Yes, we generally “view” before “reviewing” but for the life of me I can not recall “verting” anything before “reverting.”

Bogged in a veritable quagmire of word confusion I turned to that which should explain. My faithful, well worn and dog eared dictionary defines “retry” as “To try again.” Brevity, directness and simplicity - that’s a good and simple explanation. I like it!

However, is to “duce” a mandatory precursor before “reducing”? Or must first we “vere” before “revering” or “veal” before “revealing”?

As I “reflect” on this – I can but only question if I was earlier “flecting” first on it. And, I worriedly wonder if I am missing something or am merely linguistically “retarded.” But, then again, I don’t remember ever first being previously “tarded!”

I surrender and “spect” we merely must “respect” this amalgamated language of ours for what it confusingly is. (But, honestly, I still have difficulty understanding the need to “pose” prior to “reposing” in thoughtful contemplation of how it somehow works.)

Admittedly, it bothers me a bit to think that while Patty and I now reside in Mexico full-time we, apparently, must, then, have previously “sided” in Iraq, Hawaii, Kwajalein and various points north of here across the border. That simply somehow sounds semantically askew of something.

But, then again, critical thinker that I strive to be, I “reserve” the right to so wonder and, apparently have “served” so for some time. (Which begs, to a degree, the question of how one might “serve” in the Army “Reserve?”) So, while some may “resent” my sometimes ponderous – if not outright strange - critical dissection of our native tongue, I can only wonder if, beyond that, they previously may have simply “sent” (or wished to) all manner of my convoluted ponderings! If so, dare I deign to ask, where?

I worry not. I’m “resilient” and, apparently – though, maybe, unknowingly, have long prided myself in my “saliency!”

Those who know me well will attest, I am not one to become depressed over unrequited appreciation for my “word concerns”. So if I’ve put anyone out by my word worries, I hope that we can properly “requite” each other.

Oh dear, now that introduces two more cans of semantic worms - those regarding “de” and “un.”... another day, another day!

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