Today I am proud to feature a work of microfiction by author C.J. Friend, who sent me the following piece of flash fiction and agreed to let me share it here. Last year, C.J. Friend published his first ebook, The Meddlin’ Line, a collection of short fiction and personal favorite of mine. He is currently working on a second collection of short fiction. I greatly enjoy his work and highly recommend you check out his book!
Two Indian men, both trying to learn English, were knitting blankets together.
Running Water asked, “…if I am weaving something, but I did it yesterday, did I “weaved” the blanket or “woven” the blanket?”
Elk Horn responded, “Neither. You would say, ‘I wove the blanket.’”
Running Water, astounded, asked, “Elk Horn, how did you acquire such great learning?”
Elk Horn said, “Remember the White Man who was alone in the military outpost and who eventually adapted to our ways?”
“Ah, yes, I do remember hearing about him…what was his name again?”
Elk Horn smiled and said…
“Tenses With Woves.”
English spelling rules are wretched. It tells you something that Spelling Bees even exist. Do other languages have this problem? When I first started taking foreign language classes, I marveled at how straightforward and elegant the spelling rules seem in other languages. Spanish, Italian, German – I didn’t struggle to spell words in any of these languages once I learned the basic rules. I get the impression that the idea of a Spelling Bee would be outlandish in a culture whose spelling rules are so sensible. And this is coming from a girl who’s been in several Spelling Bees!
The problem is that English has historically borrowed both words and grammar from lots of sources. It’s a Germanic language heavily influenced by French and Latin. The word “weave”, for example, comes from Old English, which had many more verb tenses than we normally use nowadays in Contemporary English. Because of the roots of the word, it has a more complex tree of derivatives to learn than verbs of other origins in English. Thus the confusion of the second language-learners in C. J. Friend’s story above. Thank Tenses with Woves for being around to explain to them!
I have a love/hate relationship with grammar. I love the fascinating history of the English language and the rich variety of words that history gives us with which to express ourselves. I hate how complicated English is for people learning it for the first time, especially our spelling rules, which are needlessly confusing.
What’s your relationship like with grammar? Love it, or hate it?