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Cultural/linguistic universals?

From:James Campbell <james@...>
Date:Thursday, September 6, 2001, 13:18
All this talk of what order adjectives should be in, and whether it 'feels'
right to a native speaker, got me thinking about some of the other things
that perhaps only a native speaker could understand - or which perhaps *are*
universals, much as Peter Ramsey intimated on the adjectives topic (of his
TEFL students):

> most of them use mostly the > correct order intuitively
I've often discussed with friends the nature of humour, and that certain words are just funnier than others. (As an occasional humour writer, these things are important.) After all, why is 'kipper' funnier than 'sardine'? Dunno, although someone (I forget who, I think an American humorist) postulated that K-words just *are* funny. And why do I find the word 'underpant' way funnier than 'underpants'? That one's probably because we're unused to the singular form, in fact it may not even be a real word. But presumably that wouldn't translate, even if you found a language where the word was also a plural. So how do you write humorously in Finnish or Amharic? I suspect that some of it comes down to the sound of the words, as in the case of the kipper above. For instance, say you have the Grim Reaper uttering 'Prepare to meet thy doom.' A chilling picture. Now imagine he has a bad headcold. 'Prepare to beet thy doob.' Not nearly so frightening, is it? So, what keeps me awake at night (notionally) is the question of whether such implications exist in other language cultures. In French? In German? In Jameld? As an English speaker, it's just way too easy to believe that everything else just works the same. But a week here onlist should be enough to convince anyone that that isn't the case. James ========================================================================= James Campbell Zeugma--Our Life Is Design Sponsored by -- for all your household blithery requirements =========================================================================