Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The things we say

Do you want evidence that the human mind works in tortuous ways? Do you need evidence of it? Either way, look no further than the structures of that most human of activities, language.

Take the sentence ‘it was cold’. It’s something I’ve had plenty of call to say since our move back to England, along with ‘it is cold’, ‘ it will probably be cold tomorrow’ and the variants with ‘wet’.

In English, I just say ‘it was’ (simple past) and ‘cold’ (simple adjective).

In Japanese, however, you have to say ‘it is’ (present) ‘cold-in-the-past’.

Who on Earth dreamed that up? Or who dreams that up-in-the-past?

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