Career Guidance for Grownups 2 – Lee Coppack / Guest Contributor
My fascination with language first manifested itself in competition with my closest childhood friend as to who could make the worst and the most puns. A groan was the most satisfactory response. I’m not sure why. It continued. A news editor once threw a paper at me when he read the conclusion to my story about a lost sheep: “But I only have eyes for ewe.”
Words are a journalist’s play things. In news rooms, we attempted to use complex or obscure words or bad puns in our copy. The challenge was to avoid having them removed by the sub-editors before publication. I still have a fondness for the headline ‘Yes, we have no Bahamas’ in my own local paper when the islands became independent or the Sun’s ‘Stuff it up your junta’ at the time of the Falklands War.
The laurels went to Tony Gray, then business editor of Lloyd’s List, who got away with schaudenfreude. And what a good word it is to describe our pleasure when the apparently mighty and untouchable fall over their own hubris.
Although there is no real English equivalent to this useful word, it is a good thing to have English as your first language since it has become universal. It helps you to understand, without thinking, the apparent contradiction in chopping a tree down first before chopping it up. Then there are the pronunciation traps that lie everywhere for the learner.
Even as English is adopted as second language all over the world, though, it’s evolving through use. Take European English. Bodies like the European Commission and European Space Agency have developed a vocabulary that includes words that do not exist or are unknown to native English speakers outside captivity in EU institutions.
In terms of my second career, this leads me to the possibility of studying for a certificate to allow me to teach English as a second language (ESL). It would enable me to share my love of this wonderful and paradoxical language – and it would give me my second paper qualification to join my big bang era Stock Exchange Practice certificate, something which would probably produce a blank look from a contemporary compliance officer.
I was, however, made a life time member of the Institute of Risk Management. I think it was for proving it possible to turn risk management-speak into English, which is certainly a form of language skill.
In the meantime, I am learning Spanish and off to Salamanca in north west Spain for a week’s intensive study in October. By the way, did you know that Zorro means fox? All those years watching him carve a bold Z… and not knowing. I’ll talk about 3D printing and moose another time. Hasta la próxima.