Sunday, 15 July 2007

Nothing but mammals

I read an interesting theory once on why human beings developed language. Perhaps my memory is less than reliable, given that I ingested this piece of wisdom reading an Economist supplement on a slow Monday evening in the pub I worked at during my Masters year. I distinctly remember sitting perched on a bar stool, probably cashing in one of my one-for-yourself?-thanks-I'll-have-a-half-of-Stella tips.

It turns out that language evolved purely as a highly sophisticated way of attracting a mate: the verbal equivalent of a magnificent peacock's tail. In other words, the wider your vocabulary, the greater your pulling power. Anything we actually say is completely meaningless, since all human discourse is designed to build up to a joyful romp in the hay.
From the BBC World Service to the European draft Constitution via the Queen's Speech and the locative case: it all exists simply to enable people to make whoopie.

It dawned on me (fortunately the barstool was not very high) that I had just spent the past six years studying the birds and the bees. It would have been quicker (and much cheaper) just to spend a night at the appropriately-named 'SOS' nightclub in Tonbridge.
Which brings me to the present day. What am I hoping to achieve here? Will my ability to differentiate between perfective and imperfective verbs give me a better chance of producing attractive offspring? Surely it only increases my likelihood of producing Polish offspring? [The author of this blog would like it to be known that she has equipped herself with several phrases for declining quoi que ce soit in Polish, with varying degrees of politeness]

The one positive aspect is that next time I find myself sweating over a test translation, cowering in front of an audience or trying to work out the correct genitive plural declination so I can order a box of biscuits, I will take comfort in the fact that the whole linguistic exercise is simply a complex way of getting jiggy with it.

As an afterthought, if attractiveness is in direct proportion to linguistic proficiency, then the sexiest nation in Europe must be Luxembourg...

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