Learning English

Reads: 203  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 4

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
English is difficult enough to learn as a first language. I can scarcely imagine how much harder it must be to learn it as a second language.

Submitted: January 12, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 12, 2015

A A A

A A A


When I was a boy in the 1940s, my aunt was in a serious automobile accident where she lost the use of her legs and suffered a speech impediment from a severe head injury. Afterward, my father and I visited her in a sanitarium. I had never before seen anyone in her condition, so my father explained that she had been crippled and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

One day in school a few years later, I mentioned that my aunt was crippled, whereupon the teacher recoiled in abject horror and called me to her desk. "We don't use that word." she hissed under her breath, "It's demeaning. Your aunt is not crippled. She is handicapped."

"But my father said . . ."

"I don't care what your father said. Now, go back to your desk and behave!"

I slunk to the back of the room with by head bowed. I pondered the meaning of the word demeaning. I wondered if it was one of those sins where one goes straight to Hell, bypassing Purgatory altogether.

During my teenage years, I was enjoying dinner with my girlfriend's parents, both of whom were college professors. I happened to mention that my aunt was handicapped, whereupon the entire family recoiled in abject horror. I was met with chilly silence. The room felt 20 degrees colder, as if Dracula himself had shat upon their mothers' graves.

"Ignoramus!" my girlfriend hissed as she showed me to the front of the house. "Your aunt is not handicapped. She is disabled. That's so derogatory, you jerk."

"But my teacher said . . ."

"I don't care what your teacher said. I can't see you anymore. Now get out of here before I call the cops." She shoved me out into the drizzling rain and slammed the door before I could ask if she meant Law Enforcement Officers.

A decade later, while I was giving a presentation in the conference room at work, I happened to mention that my aunt was disabled, whereupon the administrators collectively recoiled in abject horror. "I move that the pejorative 'disabled' be stricken from the minutes of the meeting." my supervisor intoned in a dignified voice.

"But the college professors said . . ."

"I don't care what your professors said. We don't use that kind of language in this company. Your aunt is not disabled. She is physically challenged. You may rest assured this will go on your evaluation form."

Pejorative? I had to look up that one in a dictionary, and yes, we still used dictionaries not spellcheckers back then. They were books of word definitions written on paper which . . . Aw, forget it, archeologists will know what I mean. Anyhow, pejorative means demeaning.

Recently, I was enjoying a cheeseburger and fries with my cousin at lunch. I happened to mention our physically challenged aunt, whereupon my cousin recoiled in abject horror. "We don't call them that anymore. That's a term of disparagement."

But my supervisor said . . ."

"I don't care what your supervisor said." my cousin hissed under her breath, hoping not to be heard by other diners. "Our aunt is not physically challenged. She is alternately enabled."

Even more recently, at a family gathering following my aunt's funeral, I mentioned how sad I was that she is now dead, whereupon the family recoiled in abject horror. "Our aunt is not dead." they hissed in unison, "She lives in Christ Jesus. She has gone to her reward. She is our late aunt now."

Late? What late? Sure, people always joked that she'd be late for her own funeral, but she wasn't. In fact my aunt was the first person in the parlor, hours before any mourners arrived.

Having spent seven decades in a futile attempt to learn English as a first language, I can scarcely imagine how hard it must be to learn English as a second language. That is why I never snicker when someone speaks with an accent.

Copyright © 2015 W.C. Bell; All rights reserved


© Copyright 2017 Whiskey Charlie. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

avatar

Author
Reply

Booksie 2017-2018 Short Story Contest

Booksie Popular Content

Other Content by Whiskey Charlie

Toll Payment

Short Story / Flash Fiction

She Will Come, Eventually

Short Story / Flash Fiction

Storm Debris

Short Story / Fantasy

Popular Tags