Sunday, January 9, 2011

Babble-on in the street of Babel

A few recent thoughts from Miss Moggs.

The other day, not long before 11 in the morning, I happened to find myself in the Real Life version of London Town... in Oxford Street in fact. Some might call it a shopper’s paradise.

For those of you who have never been there it is lined with mostly up market and nice stores. Some are uber multi floor department stores (think Macey’s). Think fancy strip mall, complete with red buses going slower than you can walk, because of the traffic.

It would be possible to spend all day there... *sigh*

But just then I couldn’t tarry... I walked half the length of Oxford St, watching those poor stores disappear forlornly behind me, one by one, giving me the store equivalent of puppy dog eyes in my imagination (poor neglected things)... in shoes that I had thought were perfectly ok, when I set out that morning.. but came to realise were just a bit pinchy.

You might figure if I had any sense I should have worn trainers... Nahhh. Maybe ok for the journey to work but not for Oxford St, or where I had been, in otherwise nice clothes.

So anyway... There I was walking down Oxford Street. I was quiet the whole way, taking it in, listening to snatches of conversation and people watching, along with some practically automatic wistful window shopping... and do you know?

It slowly dawned on me that I was not hearing a single word of English. Now I can manage to shop and order food in several languages. I recognise more, but there were languages I was hearing I didn’t even recognise.

Maybe the English speakers just weren’t talking?. I wasn’t, but then I was not with anyone and I don’t do an upmarket 'bag lady having animated conversation with herself' routine. Apart obviously from the perfectly normal thinking out loud "Hmmnn... The red or the black?" sort of thing, that I wasn't doing just then.

I kept thinking “this can’t keep up”... but it did. In the heart of a capital city of a nation who’s first official language is English.

It made me think of the tower of Babel... only stretched out along the ground instead.

What did I do in the end? A very quick shot of “retail therapy” before I had to be somewhere else ^_^ They spoke English in the store.

* Image of Oxford Street courtesy of Wikimedia here


jmb said...

What a turn up for the books Miss Moggs! How the world is changing.

I assume if they are not tourists they will soon be speaking or already speak English. I wonder what the percentage of people who live in the UK and do not have English as their mother tongue is. No doubt we would be surprised.

Anonymous said...

"Itu memang satu pengalaman yang amat mengkagumkan."

Just to add to the babel. The above translates, "Now that is an astounding experience."

Recently I saw a TV program n great British cooking and they were showing how to cook curry. In another program, someone refered to curry as the British National dish.

Moggs Tigerpaw said...

JMB, I figure they were most probably tourists in Oxford St.

LGS, I guess Curry, or "Indian" cuisine, as eaten in the UK is essentially part Brit. I think that sort of thing is called "Fusion"?, it's had a few hundred years to develop.

I do remember being pretty dissapointed the first time I had "Indian" cuisine in the East coast US, it only seemed to have a vague passing resemblance to what you would get in the UK...

Compared to that, in my experience I don't think good Chinese, Italian, Greek, and so on are really any different wherever you eat them.

Steve Hayes said...

In 1966 I went to the UK and got a job driving buses in London. I didn't expect culture shock -- after all, they speak English, don't they? But in Brixton garage, where I was based, about a third were English, a third Irish, and a third West Indian. And when they were speaking among themselves I couldn't understand a word they said.

Liz said...

'Apart obviously from the perfectly normal thinking out loud "Hmmnn... The red or the black?" sort of thing'

That's a relief. I was beginning to think I was odd.