Thursday, September 13, 2007

I don't know vs. I know.

My friend Russell, who spent several years in France, told me a great story the other night. While he was learning French, one day he asked a friend "What that word you keep saying 'Jepas'"? (as in "Shay PAH"). After something like half an hour, they finally figured out it was "Je ne sais pas", French for "I don't know". But it all got kind of boiled down to "Jepas". And of course we do the same thing with lots of phrases. "I don't know", for instance, gets boiled down to this strange three syllable word which is all vowel, and is practically impossible to spell, but might look something like "uhnuh". This is intriguing, because if you think about it, the opposite declaration, "I know!", is always said quite clearly. Maybe we humans feel kind of negative about not knowing, so we boil having to admit it down to the shortest, mumblyest form possible.

Or "Have you eaten yet?" become "Jeat?"

Got any further examples?


Megs said...

i'm trying to think of something witty and clever - i clicked on 'comment' assuming something would come to mind, but ... nada! My mind is an empty plate, a carta blanca, a silent, windswept desert, awaiting I know not what? My love, riding on a camel, wearing richly embroided Middle Eastern garb, smoking a hookah and humming a melody in b minor?

Joe said...

"hello darling, how are you, how was your day?"



Benjamin Ady said...


yikes. You kind of nailed that one. note to self: say something nice to meg, and enunciate.

Rachel said...

And "uhnuh" must be accompanied with a shrug of the shoulders.