Thursday, December 13, 2007

Garble and Gibberish

On an extremely random whim, I decided to check out some of the movies playing in theatres now. And one of them was It's a Boy Girl Thing. Which, first of all, wasn't hyphenated. Shouldn't it be Boy-Girl Thing? But that's besides the point.

On their official website, there's a quiz you can take to see how well you know each gender (which I assume is extremely biased to the stereotypical teenage norm of central/northern American families. Despite the lack of choices that even marginally described what I would have done, I still continued, until about four questions in, when I'm asked: "It's the school dance. All the lads are sat around scoring the girls. Where are you?" And then I'm given three choices, none of which include the option that I simply wouldn't have been at the school dance in the first place.

But. "All the lads are SAT around..."!? What the frell sort of English is this!? Is this yet another example of Hollywood over-simplifying and stereotyping socio-economical age groups, or is this a reflection of the actual vernacular of today's youth? Having relatively little contact with teenagers (which, for my aspiring profession and current age, is considered a healthy and normal thing by society at large), it's difficult for me to say whether such a grievous error in verb conjugation could be possible. Then again, some years ago, I received an email from an alleged student at Harvard who couldn't even tell the difference between there and their, and even went so far as to argue his point, obviously more confident in his personal lexicon than the years of research that went into any dictionary. (Incidentally, his native Texan English also disallowed him to concede that the standard transliteration of the Japanese かんじ was kanji and not konji (the latter of which he consistently used, thoroughly confusing me, especially since our school club name was konja).

Back to the point. You can either be seated or sitting. Well, I suppose you could be being sat upon. But since there was an odious lack of particle indicating the idiom, we have to assume the first two.

"All the lads are seated around scoring the girls." Sounds pretty legitimate. The phrase "are seated around" sounds a bit antiquated (especially juxtaposed beside "scoring the girls"), but valid nonetheless.

"All the lads are sitting around scoring the girls." Very natural for the late 20th/early 21st century vernacular English, and consistent throughout for style.

The thing I can't understand is how one could replace a present progressive with a past tense. The errors I normally observe in speech are the replacement of past participles with past tenses, but that's a logical once, since they're both in the same category of "past event; no longer happening". But confusing "did some time ago" with "happening now" is a bit of a stretch.

Admittedly, you could assume that the original was "are seated around", and then some eejit decided that "seated" was essentially the same as "sat", and that's where the source of the error was. But what kind of high school flunkie thinks that the active and passive mean the same thing!? "I ate an apple" is most emphatically NOT the same thing as "I was eaten by the apple".

"I sat at the table" = I did the sitting.
"I was seated at the table" = someone else led me to a table, and quite possibly even physically placed me on the chair.

And, on a more entertaining note, check out this video:

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