where the writers are
The Ear of the Beholder

 

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

I've always thought that statement was overblown. For example, I've known a lot of people who claimed to be unimpressed with the looks of a young Farrah Fawcett. But I never met anyone who would brush her aside for a date with Bea Arthur.

Jennifer Aniston is to Brenda Vaccaro as Pamela Anderson is to Judi Densch as George Clooney is to Colin Mochrie as top-quality pizza is to that stuff you microwave at 7-11.

People like to brag about how individualistic their tastes are. But the truth is our tastes are a lot less original than we'd like to believe. Yes, I know that somewhere out there is a man who thinks Bea Arthur is the hottest woman who's ever walked the face of the earth and there's a person who thinks 7-11 microwave pizza is manna from heaven. But they're such rare anomalies that they cannot all by themselves prop up the far-reaching statement "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

And that's why I seldom talk about how I feel about spoken German, Russian, and Hebrew languages. I find them beautiful. But when I say so, people simply don't believe me. Many go so far as to correct me. No, they say, the Romance languages are beautiful. German, Russian, and Hebrew are harsh on the ears -- abrupt, unkind, and without music.

I've had people tell me straight up that I'm mistaken. Surely I'm confusing German with Italian. Or perhaps I've simply never heard spoken French.

Yes, the Romance languages are soft and lilting and very well-paced. But to my ear, a number of non-Romance languages are just as beautiful if not more so. I even like the sound of Arabic and Farsi (though not as much as any of the languages mentioned above) and I find Haitian Creole and Ibo (Nigeria) to have a sort of thumping, rhythmic beauty all their own.

I don't have an ear to appreciate Scandinavian or Far Eastern languages. And there's something about Brazilian Portuguese that weirds me out. (Every other word sounds, to me, French, while the words in between sound Spanish, and the accent sounds like neither. I find that fascinating but disorienting.)

George Clooney, charming as he is, is not my type. But I'll confess -- here and now for posterity -- that he's hotter than Kevin James if you'll just believe that I really do find the German, Russian, and Hebrew languages pretty.

Comments
9 Comment count
Comment Bubble Tip

It depends on the ears...

June, I loved the part about Brazilian Portuguese! So that´s the way it sounds to American ears. I´ve always been curious about that.
See, I´m a native speaker of a Romance language, and I find the sound of Germanic languages beautiful. I found a video on you tube of an actor who attempted to recreate Beowulf´s verses the way they were probably recited,centuries ago. I found that fascinating. If you´re interested, here´s the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y13cES7MMd8&feature=related

Comment Bubble Tip

Luciana, thank you for the

Luciana, thank you for the link!  I love Old English and try to hear the sound of modern English in it.  As for Brazilian Portuguese, my girlies had a Brazilian sitter when they were small (we all lived in student housing--this woman's husband was a visiting scholar).  The language sounded to me like Spanish-but-Not-Spanish, or Spanish that had been through a wind tunnel and not quite gotten the words shook out right yet; like seeing recognizable images in the tornado in the Wizard of Oz, I could hear words go by that I knew but they were against a background of fluffy, swirly words that I couldn't quite get straight.  And I also like the sound of Germanic languages, because my grandfather was German and so, to me, I hear the sound of his laughter behind the words (somehow, I always made him laugh).  When I hear German-accented English in the movies, it seems just that bit wrong because German-accented English should have loving laughter in it.  Susan

Comment Bubble Tip

That's so cool!

Thanks for sharing that link. I often wish I could hear SOME interpretation of how a dead language (esp Latin and Old English) might have sounded.

Very cool!

And I'm glad you enjoyed hearing my experience of Brazilian Portuguese. I have no idea whether other Americans hear it the same way. But whenever I hear a foreign language being spoken, I try to tune in and make out words. The first part of that process, of course, is making out the language. And I can speak a tiny bit of French and Spanish. So my ear wants to "find" those languages in BP, but always fails. I think I even remembering "hearing" Arabic in it, but I suspect that was totally of my own invention as I took a year of Arabic in college and so I'd naturally want to scan for it.

Anyway, merci for commenting!

Comment Bubble Tip

Love your analogy...

about George Clooney and Kevin James, June! And for the record, my ears are partial to the sounds of Argentine Spanish. It feels like a half-Italian, half-Irish lilt version of the Spanish I learned in school.

Shana
Shana McLean Moore
www.caffeinatedponderings.com
www.sunnysidecommunications.com

Comment Bubble Tip

Sorry I didn't see your comment sooner, Shana

I was involved with a man from Argentina for 6-1/2 years. I learned most of my Spanish from him. I still pronounce my Spanish Y sounds as J sounds just to show my allegiance to the brand.

Yes, they sure do make a pretty language even prettier. Also pertaining to the Spanish language, I also love how Spaniards pronounce their Ss at THs: "Uthted tiene rathon" (for usted tiene razon). So fun to listen to!

Comment Bubble Tip

Small nitpick

June, that cecero pronunciation is only used for z's and c's before i and e. Usted isn't pronounced "uthted" unless the Spaniard in question has an actual lisp. (Wikipedia has a better explanation here.) But it is beautiful!

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

Comment Bubble Tip

 

 

Comment Bubble Tip

You're taking me back, Huntington

I studied in Madrid my junior year of college and came back to UCSB so proud of my newly acquired accent. My problem was that I never quite had a natural flow with the Z, ci, ce rule and ended up being overzealous and applying it to the s, as well. The day I knew I had jumped the proverbial tiburon was the day I pronounced "especializacion" (major) as "ethpethialithathion," instead of "espethialiathathion." Que horror!

Shana
Shana McLean Moore
www.caffeinatedponderings.com
www.sunnysidecommunications.com

Comment Bubble Tip

And to you, June

Does this take you back: "Che, boludo, como andAS? Que hacES, vos?

I learned mine from a handsome porteno, as well. Que recuerdos...

Shana

Shana McLean Moore
www.caffeinatedponderings.com
www.sunnysidecommunications.com