English as Another Language


I before E, except after C.

We all were taught that simple rule in school as a basic principal of spelling. Well that only works if your foreign neighbour named Keith isn’t too weird.

How in the world did English become the universal language of commerce and trade, when even we anglophones have difficulty learning our mother tongue?

The rules for plurality are even more confusing. Add an S: horse to horses; goose to gooses….ahhhh, ok, well not that one. Mouse to mouses….hmmm, nope that isn’t correct. Flock to flocks. No, wait; that turns a noun into a verb. Flock already is plural. Oh my head!!!

Okay, well we know that pony becomes ponies….change the Y to IE and add and S. So movy…oops! That’s not a word….it’s movie in the singular form.

So it stands to reason that fish would be fishs, but noooooooo, we forgot the E. E? Yes, E. FishEs.

It suddenly dawns on me that while I love literature and am part of the Canadian grammar police squad, I now know why I didn’t choose teaching, specifically, teaching English, as a career.

Of course if you really want to confuse a person learning the English language (a child in kindergarten, or an adult with a different first language), let’s discuss homonyms. I can’t really think of a time when none of the words being taught, whether or not they were in their original form, were not confusing. (Double negative, I know) Unless of course the nun tying the knot on the kite string was worried about the weather there.

Don’t even get me started on punctuation. And please, please, if you don’t get anything else from today’s blog, remember that a colon and a colan, although similar in shape, are very, very different things.

Life’s lesson: Buy your own jewellery

Often, even without knowing when it happened, it dawns on me that somewhere along the path I learned a valuable lesson and didn’t even realize it. Some of the lessons are more socially responsible than others, some monumental and profound, others more obscure, until one day, there it is: that “AHA” moment as Oprah calls it; the light bulb goes on; you see the forest through the trees; you plant a face palm on yourself and think “How did I miss it all these years?”

Such was the case about eleven or twelve years ago. I had been eying this beautiful, quite large, amethyst ring in the window of our local jewellery store for some time. I thought about buying it, but decided instead to make that offering to my husband. He was always stumped when it came to buying me gifts, so I thought, with my birthday a few weeks away, this would let him off the hook.

I am not a big jewellery gal. Sure I like it, but other than the ten pack of earrings for $5.00, plus GST….I never wear much …. other than rings. I adore rings. I am fortunate that I have long fingers so I can wear any style and they look nice on my hands.

Now before I make a commitment to tell my love about how easy he’s about to have it in getting my birthday gift will be this year, I decide I’d better check the price to make sure it wasn’t outrageous.images-1

A few hundred dollars…okay, more than we’d normally spend on a birthday gift, but we could certainly afford it. I wait another week or so, and then one day as we are walking by the store, I decide today is the day. I will take him in, show him the ring, appropriately ‘ewwwww and ahhhhhh’ over it and mention the upcoming anniversary of my birth. This is going to be so easy! For both of us!

In we go; arm and arm. I am excited and happy! I am about to get what I want by making hubby’s life easy. I mentally pat myself on the back and congratulate myself as I wonder why I had never thought of doing this before. I am BRILLIANT!!!

We look at the ring, I try it on and it fits perfectly. OMG!! This is going better than I’d hoped!

My sweetheart …without prompting….asks if I’d like the ring for my birthday. I, of course, answer in the affirmative, thinking how well this is going; how easy it’s been. All we have to do now is leave and he’ll come back at a later time without me and get the ring.



Instead, with me at his side, and a burst artery in his brain (ok, well that could be a technical error…I don’t know if we even have arteries in our brains, but there was definitely leakage on grey matter in that precise moment) he looks at the salesclerk and asks “Would you take $XXX?” A full TWO HUNDRED dollars less than the tagged price!!!

Oh my gawd!!!! I am mortified!!! I am being humiliated by the man I love and he is totally oblivious to it!

Is this a beach in Mexico??? An open air market in Bali where bartering is not only expected, but encouraged??? ARGH@#!%$#@!

I want the floor to open up and swallow me…or a heavy showcase to fall over and crush him before he can make this worse than it already is.

Just as I am dying a thousand deaths; well, ok, really it’s just my pride and my ego that are being bludgeoned to death; the owner walks over to ask how we are. I mumble something as I suggest, through gritted teeth, to my soon to be ex-husband, that we leave….we are late for a very, VERY important meeting. A lie, but she doesn’t know that.

With heart pounding, face flushing, and blood pressure about to turn me into a human volcano, we walk out of the store…still arm in arm but this time I have a death grip on his.

I can’t believe you did that with me standing there, I say, with a mouth full of venom a King Cobra would be proud of. Did what, he asks sincerely and totally innocent. Can he really be that stupid?! He just ruined my life! My reputation! He really doesn’t get it.

Back at work I can’t concentrate. I need to teach him a lesson. And I WANT that ring!

Off to the jewellery store I go; pull out my wallet; haul out my credit card and within five minutes, the ring is on my finger as I, shoulders back, strut proudly from the store.

I suppose this is where I should mention that when I went back to the store, the owner came right over and said she couldn’t take $200 off, but she’d take $100 off. OMG!!! I can’t believe my luck! I got the ring, AND I got a deal!!

That was the day I decided from now on, I’d buy my own jewellery. After I allowed my dear husband to barter down the price.

In the beginning…

Many years ago, in my life as Editor of a small town newspaper, I wrote a column called “Off the Cuff”. It literally was, as I usually wrote them the night before we went to press (driving the typesetters to the brink). I didn’t want to limit myself to a specific theme, or type of column I wrote, and the same is true for this…my first blog.

Rather than do a blog about gratitude, life lessons, recipes, parenting, friendship, hardship, pets, menopause, politics or a multitude of other choices, I want the freedom to write about whatever pops into my head…relevant to my life, and perhaps yours, at that moment in time.

During my working life I have always considered myself a generalist, trying and succeeding at many different careers, with a few failures tossed in along the way, which helped make the successes so sweet…and it is the same in my writing. I don’t want to be pigeonholed or boxed in. While it would be wonderful, and please me greatly, to have each of you find something you can relate to, learn from, laugh at, or motivate you, I will tell you now: I write for myself. If you don’t agree with what I write, want to debate, correct, or cheer me on, I would certainly welcome it.

Writing a blog certainly leaves one vulnerable. I have thought about this for a long time, and wasn’t sure I wanted to open myself up in this way. Even my closest friends and family who think they know me so well may find a few surprises as this ‘experiment’ unfolds. I even thought of using a pseudonym….just in case I ever wanted to write ‘legitimately’ again one day…as in author  “The Great Canadian Novel” we writers all know exists inside us.

Now that you know where the name of my blog comes from, I hope you’ll enjoy my musings.