English has come a long, long way…

I often wonder what would happen if Shakespeare was transported in a time machine to our world today. What would you think? How would you react?

Yeah, Willie would probably tell me “you have too much free time if you spend it thinking about those flights of fancy”. But only after finding his feet.

You see, Willie would be surprised at some of the comforts we take for granted. For example, that box we entered. The doors close by themselves… as if by magic. When they open, we are magically in a different place.

“What do you call this contraption?” Willie would ask altogether surprisingly.

An elevator. You’d think nothing would affect a man who just landed his time machine 400 years in the future.

“Ah, I see. It wasn’t magic after all. It lifted us up, because it’s an elevator.”

This Willie guy is pretty good with his English, isn’t he? But that won’t get you far these days. A hundred years ago, even fifty, he could have cracked almost every new word by tracing its roots (often to Greek or Latin). But not today.

“What are those…those…those, things?”

Well, that’s a TV, with a VCR and a DVD player. There, is a CD player, an AM and FM radio, and an amplifier. This is a PC, with CDRW and floppy drives, a powerful CPU, A and C drives, and more RAM than a MAC.

“What? Your alphabet seems a bit confusing.”

Once upon a time, the meaning of a word could always be guessed simply by tracing the entomology of the word to its lowest roots.

“You mean ‘etymology,’ right? Entomology is the study of insects and critters.”

I knew it.

I took out a ‘Kleenex’ because I had a runny nose.

“But how does your nose run?”

I guess in the same way that I drive down an avenue and park in the driveway. Or how it doesn’t matter if we fill out a form or fill out a form… either way, the tax collector gets the last laugh.

I offered to take Willie for a ride.

“That’s more like it. There’s nothing like a horse under the butt.”

No no no. We no longer ride horses. That is a barbaric way to treat such majestic beasts. Now we drive cars… and kill horses with exhaust.

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

Take a seat in the BMW, Willie, while I turn on the air conditioning and rev up the RPMs of this old V6. Before you know it, we’ll be doing 100 mph down the 102.

“More letters and numbers. Will words become redundant in the future?”

quite As life became more and more complicated, words became more and more complicated. Very soon it took several minutes to pronounce a single government department. So the actual word groups had to be replaced with acronyms: the first letter of each word. Pass me CANDY.

“What does CANDY mean?”

Candy, actually. But maybe he should leave old Willie guessing. After all, there is much to discover in this brave new world. Like why are there so few sundials around. And why some people sleep on the street, while others go up 34 floors to an office tower to sleep at their desks. And how do they shrink those liquor bottles for the airlines?

“What is an RSVP? And ASAP? And TLC?”

She had to find the right way to explain to him that all these crazy letters actually made some kind of sense.

Internal Revenue Department Review of Transfer Systems.

“Ah, IDIOTS. Now I really understand!”

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