Am I a geek?

Some would say yes, others would say no. The yes-sayers are members of my family and some of my friends who find my rather intimate relationship with my laptop and my phone unnerving and unnatural. The no-sayers would be fellow bloggers and tweeters who routinely build own websites and say things about XHTML that I don’t understand…

When I saw Geek Girl Meet-Up (link in Danish) announced on Twitter I was attracted to it, but also very much in doubt as to whether I belong there or not. I still am, to be honest, although I am now officially a participant. I have been asked by a true geek (and this, in my book, is VERY positive), my friend Lisa (link in Danish), to describe what geeky stuff I can contribute with. Hm.

I just don’t think I’m geeky enough to contribute in a setting like that. At least not with traditionally geeky stuff. But there’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. And that is Danish/international companies’ use of English as corporate language.

I like it. I like it if we can emerge from our self-sufficient little island and become part of the world out there – being colleagues at work with people from all over the world and let ourselves be enriched. And English is the obvious choice in our part of the world, where the German, French and Spanish we learn at school are far from sufficient to get us through much more than ordering a meal at a restaurant.

As you all know, I love the English language in all its richness and complexity. I even make a living, more or less, from my love of this language. I love Danish too and would probably love every language I learned well enough. When I read a really beautiful sentence I go all soft and “aahhh”. Guess that’s pretty geeky in a way…

I don’t claim to speak or write it perfectly – don’t think I ever will. But I feel much better about this after my years in England, where I found that most English people don’t either…

What I’m trying to get to is this: Corporate-Speak is NOT English. The language non-English people speak amongst themselves is of course English. It’s just not, well, you know, English. (And it’s not American either). Each time you enter a big international company or go to a conference and listen to people speak, you hear a new, slightly different, version of Corporate-Speak. Then, when you start working with them on their texts, you get into the strangest discussions about language. Like, can we use “difficult” words when not everybody understands them? My claim is, yes, absolutely. You cannot and should not lower the level to some sort of 10.000-words lingo that everybody understands. That would be terrible. We would never do that if we wrote ads, articles, etc. in our own language!

The reverse is also a problem. A kind of imagined “over-familiarity” with the English language. We’ve discussed this on Twitter lately and all the English/American and bi-lingual totally agree. When Danes speak English, they adapt a tone that’s even more blunt than the “original” Danish. Read an article (in Danish) about that here. The f… word, which I could never write, is overused in Denmark, because Danes don’t grasp just how nasty a word it actually is. The fact that it can be heard on television a lot (although in the UK and US it’s usually beeped out) and that rap-artists believe it’s the most common word in the English language, does NOT make it acceptable in book titles, conference blurbs and adverts. It just doesn’t. Some people will think that I’m just an old hag who disapproves of swearing and “modernity”. But it is not so. I wish I was less prone to swearing, but I do swear more than I like to admit. I just don’t say the f… word, unless… There should be a wide gap between what you write in the public sphere and what you say when you stub your toe on the table-leg.

So, what I am is a language-geek. I don’t want to be a custodian, watching over a language spoken in bygone times, but I want us to maintain a rich and easily understandable language, be it Danish or English or any other. Easily understandable in the sense that sentences are complete, punctuated in such a way that they make sense when you read them, and in the sense that “difficult” words are used where they are necessary and not to show off.

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Serendipity

I just love that word, don’t you? Always looking for a chance to use it and tonight, while the boys were watching football, it presented itself. We’d just been watching episode five (on the wonderful BBC IPlayer) of a marvellous TV-series called Victorian Farm. Once the football started I looked around on my Iphone to find BBC’s page for the programme with some info about the three people who “star” in the programme. And huge was my disappointment when I couldn’t find any such page. What I did find – hence the serendipity – was a blog. As previously mentioned I’ve been looking for British blogs of interest, but have only found very few. This one, however, looks SO promising. The woman has a sense of humour, she can write and she has something to write about. AND – she’s a geek! And why did I find it – well of course because she’s written a lovely post, describing the Victorian Farm programme in detail. I’m thankful, because then I don’t have to – it’s a bit cold and I’d much rather be in bed! If you haven’t seen this programme – hurry up and do so. It’s SO good. It can still be seen for a short while on the Iplayer. And there are many other great programmes to be watched there – if you’re Danish or another kind of non-Brit, you can watch it on your computer or even on your Iphone, in astonishingly good quality. Public Service at its best! Victorian Farm has also been made into a book. It looks good.

About serendipity – my friend Gabs sent me a great link the other day, to a Wiki-type dictionary. One of the more unusual features in this dictionary is “The 100 most beautiful words in English” and Serendipity is on it. check it out – I’ll try to memorise some of the words in the list I didn’t already know. Quite a few – English is a rich, rich language!

As a non-Brit I often meet words that I’d really like to start using myself, but then hesitate because I don’t have a clue how to pronounce it. But there’s help, did you know? On Dictionary.com (and other online dictionaries) you can click the little speaker-icon and have a nice man or lady say the word out loud for you. As many times as you like. That’s nice.

Finally, we’ve been to the British Museum today. Dane has a thing a bout Egypt, pyramids and mummies, so we journeyed through the Egyptian section of the museum. I haven’t been there for a very long time, but have visited their absolutely fabulous website a number of times. Have a look and see what a museum website should REALLY look like. Here’s about the Egyptians. Read about the visionary director Neil MacGregor and his plans for the museum here.

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