18 May 2011

English Is a Rock: Skip It!

From a previous life. Intended for ESL students. Part three of a trilogy.

You walk along a river, whistling. A seagull flies overhead, screeching. A green rock lies in the shallow water, glistening. You think to yourself, The rock looks like jade, but only because it is wet. What will it look like when it is dry? This is a natural question. Go ahead.

English is that river rock. Think about it: There are millions of languages, but only one true language. You have searched your whole life, and now you have found it: the perfect skipping stone. When you pick it up and send it skimming across the clear water—plip, plip, plip—everything is right in the world. Clouds rack through the sky and airplanes fly to faraway places. Children take naps and teenagers sing pop songs on buses. Businessmen get massages. Trees breathe their hot breath.

Sometimes, in England, schoolgirls sing on the playground:
    Are bicycles there to be ridden? Yes. Are presents there to be given? Yes. Are secrets there to be hidden? Yes. River rocks are meant to be skipped.
And English is meant to be spoken. The language is like a potato: hard, and popular in Ireland. So speak it! Speak it like it is a nickel in your mouth. Feel it warming up and clacking on your teeth. Spit it out in your hand. Take a look. This is the real thing, the real English. Pop it back in your mouth. Run your tongue along the smooth edge.

Have you ever been married? I was married once. I learned something: if you look at your wife’s cell phone while she is in the shower, you may find a message from "Marvin." But you don’t know a Marvin. The message might say, “You’re so cute. You left your socks here.” Hire a private detective.

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