Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mistakery as a measure of fluentitude?

Here's a new one for the books: initiagate. I overheard this yesterday in the context of a jocular conversation shouted across an empty restaurant: "Well, she initiagated it!" I'm assuming this lovely coining is a portmanteau of initiate and instigate, and though the semantic gap it fills in the English lexicon is perhaps somewhat dubious, I still think it's useful to have around, and hilarious in a W sort of way.

Also interesting to me is the fact that the perpetrator (initiagator, even?) of this new term was not a native English speaker. I'm impressed by her ability to make such fluent English-style "mistakes," which raises a point in the definition of fluency that I had never really considered. There are a number of languages I would call myself fluent in, but I definitely don't think my speech errors in these languages are of the same ilk that native speakers would make. I'm intrigued -- I want to learn to speak better bad Polish. Or worse good Polish?

And to continue Adam's and my apparently neverending rant, why does no language textbook or reference grammar touch on this area? It seems a ridiculous oversight, the more I think about it.

1 comment:

rebecca said...

My boyfriend's first language is Serbian. His second is English. Aside from droping or misplacing articles all over the place (though that only shows in writing), he occasionally gets creative with nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Most of the time I let it slide. He gets his point across and he likes to play with words so it's hard to tell if he's making a mistake or just screwing around. But when I started saying "fastly", I put my foot down...

-Rebecca