Mark M. Orkin.
Volume 11 Number 4.
Mark Orkin's credentials as a serious linguist are impeccable, to whit, his Speaking Canadian French (General, 1971) and Speaking Canadian English (General, 1970). His other forays in the peculiarities of pronunciation have, of course, been much more popular. After a staggering 85,000 copy sale of Canajan, Eh?, followed by French Canajan, He? (Lester & Orpen, 1975) and Murrican, Huh? (Lester & Orpen, 1976), we are now treated to a second updated edition of his first success, whimsically and appropriately illustrated by Isaac Bickerstaff. No doubt these books have done much to popularize the science of linguistics by making the untutored more sensitive to typical language patterns. When we say "bidder" we mean "not sweet": a "bodaydo" is "a plant with farinaceous tubers used as food," and so on for page after page, alphabetically arranged. And just in case this sort of thing may pall, there are occasional flights of whimsical fancy and even perspicacious social commentary. Thus, a "beink" is "a building where Canajans keep their money. The traveller who pauses at a crossroads in the Oddawa Valley and sees on the four corners a beer-hall, a Catholic church, a grocery store, and a beink, knows that he has at last reached a town in the Canajan heartland."
"Half acid rain" invokes a fanciful description of its discovery by a "Russian sign tist" and its being a source of "mutual recriminations between Canajans and Mare Cans who, at last report, were each waiting for the other to clean up its half of the act first." Sometimes the phonetic makes no sense without the explanation. "Hugh Ess" is what we call "the Mare Can nation." And sometimes it takes another's more perceptive eye for the phonetic to help you catch the sense. Thus "Bling Yule" (bilingual) seems impenetrable at first even with the explanation "Adjective applied to a French Canajan who has been obliged to learn English to make a living."
The book is good fun in small doses. Understandably the technique is laboriously repetitive, the effect too frequently strained. And I would like to submit that it may be positively subversive to put this in the hands of already benighted students, who would find too ample justification and argument for their all too imperfect speech and writing habits. Still, to his credit, Orkin is no Henry Higgins. He is mercifully unprescriptive. He does not even bother to dally with Higgins's question but leaves it in the limbo to which it justly belongs. There may be a message there for all of us.
Ralph J. Wintrob, Zion Heights J. H. S., Willowdale, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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