WikiLeaks’ document dump of emails from Syrian government officials has so far been light on scandalous details about either the Assad family or the opposition. But today’s release did provide one unexpected revelation: Bashar al-Assad appears to be an avid student, and critic, of English. It’s not exactly George Orwell’s "Politics and the English Language," but the Syrian president forwarded the following Internet joke to his translator with the subject line "ENGLISH IS A STUPID LANGUAGE!"
Let’s face it. English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant,
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England.
We sometimes take English for granted,
But if we examine its paradoxes we find that
Quicksand takes you down slowly
Boxing rings are square
And a guinea pig is nighther from Guinea nor is it aa pig.
If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing?
If the plural of tooth is teeth
Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth?
If the teacher taught,
Why didn’t the preacher praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What the heck does a humanitarian eat?
Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways,
And drive on parkways?
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day,
And cold as hell on another?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down.
And in which you fill IN a form
By filling it OUT.
And a bell is only heard once it GOES!
English was invented by people, not computers
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn’t a race at all)
That is why when the stars are out they are visible
But when the lights are out they are invisible.
And why is it that when I wind up my watch, it starts,
But when I wind up this poem,
Assad also seems to have a fascination with American idioms (admittedly tricky devils). In another email to his translator, he includes a multiple-choice quiz with such questions as: "My friend likes hardcore trance music but it’s not (my preference)." A) my cup of tea B) a fine kettle of fish C) the icing on the cake D) the cream of the crop.
Assad appears to be a very good student — there are reportedly more than 800 emails between him and his translator in the WikiLeaks files.
Blake Hounshell is managing editor at Foreign Policy, having formerly been Web editor. Hounshell oversees ForeignPolicy.com and has commissioned and edited numerous cover stories for the print magazine, including National Magazine Award finalist "Why Do They Hate Us?" by Mona Eltahawy. He also edits The Cable, FP's first foray into daily original reporting, and was editor of Colum Lynch's Turtle Bay, which in 2011 won a National Magazine award for best reporting in a digital format.
Blake joined Foreign Policy in 2006 after living in Cairo, where he studied Arabic, missed his Steelers finally win one for the thumb, and worked for the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies. Blake was a 2011 finalist for the Livingston Awards prize for young journalists for his reporting on the Arab uprisings, and his Twitter feed was named one of Time magazine's "140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2011." Under his leadership, in 2008, Passport, FP's flagship blog, won Media Industry Newsletter's "Best of the Web" award in the blog category. Along with Elizabeth Dickinson, he edited Southern Tiger: Chile's Fight for a Democratic and Prosperous Future, the memoirs of former Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012.
A graduate of Yale University, Blake speaks mangled Arabic and French, is an avid runner, and lives in Washington with his wife, musician Sandy Choi, and their toddler, David. Follow him on Twitter @blakehounshell.| Passport |