by Ines Gallic
In many tongues a ubiquitous Mr Plod lurks round every crook & granny, making a blasted nuisance of itself. If English was/were your first language, chances are you'd've dissected a little frog at school, and remember with fond sighs how être with its je not suis joking, elle est tête-à-tête avec un punter lorsque vous - mes amis - êtes un sac tres fragrant de plonquers, etc.. (En standard Inglish the protagonists are, of course, Ah ain't, she his, youse are – with differences too familiar for words.) Now the old Spanish lingua - a little forked number if ever there was - has two be's for the price of one: ser & estar – the trick of learning which is which; while olmak (your Toikish to be) somewhere on its sojourn from the steps of Mangoolia to the shores of Lake Wozname has picked up the trick of disappearing up its own frigging Jarvis. It never ceases to piss one off how the world's various to be's give rule-breaking such a lousy character ref..
This work, however, which advertises itself as a practical piece of kit for incoming forgers & the like, sets aside philosophy and kicks off by giving a quick rundown on just how the old been differs from just about every other doing word with its root on the block.
Your English be just don't got an auxiliary, see. Not even a half-frozen jet-lag, bailing out of his wheel cowling, hits the old tarmac with a, If you please, Mr Nice Friendly Aeroport Chappie, be so good as to inform me, in which state do I be?
Such talk will only get thee, new arrival, consigned to the very lowest grade of Reception Centre, with scanty access to pretty young social workers and vicars in loose cassocks. No, the mistake you hopeful dodger have made is deploying yr do/does where it hain't wanted. Act dung & note à la Benny, Matey, the English grammar scuffers are dub hounds at spotting poorly schooled ex-colonials with de slexic auxiliaries.
But (that useful but overused conjunctive term), doobie-doobie careful when conversing with natives on arrival. First impressions last longer than a miser's Polo mint. To speak pukka English, you have to be able to work your tongue through the eye of a camel-hair needle, which doubtless, not even the poor old queen has ever succeeded at. And I aren't joking now, am I? Woe betide me if I was/were, hung, drawn & quartered like the rest who've dared criticise the way the dear navvies of these terribly dear islands speak. Don't be a dumb bum-plug with thine hosts, it's better to err & splutter on the side of deliberate stupidity than to pull the silver spoon from the baby's gob.
Ah-hem, generally, as stated above, doing our best to avoid philosophical digressions... the verb to be is not all slugs & marrows. As any has-been will tell you, there's a helluva lot to get away with using only am/is/are, plus the odd was/were, tacking a coupla discrete -ings & -ens, deploying the full set of modals & giving it a sharp pat or two on its bare infinitive. A former citizen of Geneva made a dozen extempore appearances on the middle-brow radio talk show, Half A Mo, without using a single verb beside be. He was later done for verbals and spent six months in Dungeonness writing his “Confessions of a Swiss Cheese” with just the one doing word throughout. Magnificent economy. Here's a random excerpt, reproduced with the kind permission of Schikser & Goy,
“Who on earth is in their right mind over this? And wherever would one be without that? Those of us who can't be Shaw, for example, or indeed any personal adjective, may be certain that there are few - if any – as time is short and, as it were, often, the expenditure of being is less nowadays than it has ever been. And I, furthermore, as I am, was and ever shall be besides myself with uncertainty over this. Oh! how all other possibilities being baseless, or as they may be, dubious of purpose, I would rather be utterly lost for words than even a trifle obtuse etc..”
Of course, pure philosophy of this type is something we have vowed to shun for the present. And we will continue to assert this, in spite of our little transgressions...
Listening Test #1
Now hear this.
Your first hearing can be a tremendous trauma for the un-deaf, so be cautioned, “You do have the right to remain silent.”
Flipping warrant officers are a pain in the speaking trumpet, like friendly taxi drivers and native hairdressers, the nosey so-and-so's. Should be included in a list of banned tortures. Don't be fooled by their chumminess, they are as sly as all comers. The trick is to say nothing, keep your eyes propped open with cocktail sticks, your ears sown back, and never be fooled into opening your greedy cake-hole. Even asking to go to the little boy's room can be misinterpreted. And don't say you want a lawyer. They'll go, “Wise move, that!” report you'd done a load in your kex and therefore must be guilty. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO PRACTICE YOUR RELATIVE CLAUSE AND INTONATION SKILLS. Box clever and act dumb. It will help if you know the Masonic hand signals for asylum seeker.
Be ready for all manner of provocations. They'll impute the lifestyle of your dear mama, claim your bro's a tailor of suicide vests, or that your sis has swapped sides and is working in the canteen at GCHQ. Sonic attack should be resisted with nothing more than a few puzzled looks and the occasional raised eyebrow.
The meaning of be is all-purpose and may be employed however, wherever, whenever & by whomsoever the fancy takes it. Note, therefore, the following statements: I am a right stickler. Botany and insanity are frequent bedfellows. Don't be silly, Billy, crap is brown & smelly. That post office isn't open any more. Hain't Arriet's andwriting arf-arted? I'm not all ears on Sundays. Our geese aren't all that hungry. And that so-called curry, btw, was pricey for a yellow chunder. His sandals were cheap plastic jobs made in France. The captain wasn't exactly onboard at the time. Weren't the Williamses mean with the sauce? Have you been here all along, you snivelling little twerp? What has that blasted cat been up to? If I'd been in your shoes, I'd've been furious. He should be on by now. It's impossible, she can't be pregnant again! For gawdsake, now you're just being awkward.
Also of note is the preponderance of naming and descriptive terms, the spacial and temporal location of things and states; the admixing of frequency & intensity adverbs; plus the tailgating of occasional phrasal particles.
What be don't mean, though, is harder to pinpoint as it's a bleeding auxiliary and has got itself mixed up with all kinds of cheesey gerunds and toffee-nosed participles - many of which are clearly action nouns and adjectives - but many more are just crying out to be pinned to the inside of your locker. I mean, what does “There's a gone chick!” mean at the foot of our stairs? Or, for that matter, “He's smoking hot!”
This kind of distortion don't just start and end with the hip talk of beatniks. Once Post-Modernism takes hold, all kinds of dodgy beings muscle in on the scene. But there's nothing new under the sun. You can thank that prince of wimps Omelet for bringing existence into question with his succinct turn of the infinitive. Nope, prefixing -moan, -wail, -smirch and -off in petulant whines, the Danish wannabe succeeds in nothing but his own belittlement. To be or not to be, chummy, make yr bloody mind up - before we're all becalmed on your celebrity a-sides, besides & - don't wait for it – seasides (eg let Bognor be buggered).
Writing Test #1
Never sign a statement, just claim you've momentarily forgot your silly name. Try to organise at least some of the words into sentences. If you are right handed, it goes without saying, write with your left foot. Use punctuation, apostrophes, inkblots and doodles to enhance your gist. Above all, appear to write like an over-educated three-year old with attitude. If you can't think of a word, draw its picture using abstract art techniques where necessary. But don't try to be Picasso, a cross between Raphael's early Vatican work and a David Shrigley will do nicely.
Don't be hog-tied by the intro/main-body/conclusion stereotype. Include a whole paragraph of topic sentences if the fancy takes you.
chapter two: "to have and have got"
Hemingway had his. Or put it another way, he almost did. Is it simply more U to stutter, I have a talent, than to say I've got it!? If the reverse is true, do you go, I haven't/don't have/haven't got/hain't got - or even - don't gotta time for one? And if you're really in need, do you have/have you got or simply have you any idea what we're on about here?
I mean, aren't alternatives supposed to be.... alternative? Wouldn't you expect these various options to offer some concrete nuances? I mean, do you get it? (And, whatever you do, don't get gotten on me.)
The fact is, the verb to have preserves some of the old school features of to be in its casebook. It can be used with or without the auxiliary do/does, or it can be deployed as an auxiliary with another verb entirely - get - to mean pretty much the same thing: possession.
Now, as any fool will tell you, ninety percent of the law is possession, possession & possession. That's roughly thirty percent each to stolen goods, illegal substances and the tools of the trade (that's any firearms, jelly, jammies, and/or the odd bot - for all you happy cyber crims out there caught with your red hooks on the boodle).
Sir Ronnie, the late left-footed train rotter, having served most of his sentence on the beach at Copper Cabana, presented himself to the crew of HMS Danae by asking if they ad Red Barrel aboard (there's taste for ya)...