Russian Is My Mt. Everest

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership at. From New York City, this is Lexicon Valley, a podcast about language I’m John McWhorter and you know, this is my last Lexicon Valley episode for Slate. Before we move to Book Smart and for this last Slate show, I want to indulge myself a bit while hopefully diverting you. It won’t surprise a lot of you who’ve been with me for a while. I want to finally just do a valentine to my favorite language on Earth, and that is not English, it is Russian. What gets me so much about this one language that of course, I did not grow up with. I have had no cultural experience with it in terms of living there, something like that. What is it about Russian? And you know what the real reason is? I could say something about wanting to get to know the souls of people in Moscow, etc. I could say that it was because I wanted access to the literature, which is partly true. But, you know, the truth is that languages for me to an extent, are my sports. And one of the things I like so much about Russian is that it’s like Mount Everest. It’s just so damn hard. And I want to get across to you a little bit of why it is and why that hard would be something that somebody would enjoy, like, you know, messing with a tooth that’s about to come out and enjoying the pain or, you know, like, frankly, if you ever tasted your own blood, I think most of us have. I’ve ventured that with earwax here and been told that most people haven’t. I’ve tried mine, but bologna, how it tastes. Well, you know, Russian is really hard in a way that gives pleasure. And it’s true that I first became interested in Russian way back in 1988 when I first read Anna Karenina, because I was curious about what this book Anna Karenina was that people seem to be talking about all the time. And I read it in English, but I really enjoyed it wasn’t any povero and full of Chomsky, it was the Constance Garnett. And I’m sitting there reading it. And these people became so real to me that I remember I was sitting on a bench in Washington Square. This is spring of nineteen eighty eight and the person next to me saw that I was reading that book and she just said to me, Oh look at Ann Veronica over there. And I looked up and actually expected to see them. They had become that real to me. But then when you enjoy a book that much and you’re clinically insane the way I am, then if it’s in translation, you think to yourself, well, I wonder what it really was like. I liked all these sentences. I was enjoying the things they were saying, but what did Tolstoy really write? So I started teaching myself and it was slow fits and starts me on that bench is nineteen eighty eight. It was 2002. When reading actually that book in Russian, I realized that I could do it more or less without a dictionary and that I was just seeing it instead of decoding. It took a while and even then, you know, I spoke like a chimpanzee. Now I can speak Russian like a rather talented and vocal chimpanzee. But goodness gracious, I don’t care how much the language hurts me because it is language nerd heaven. Let’s take just the opening of Anna Karenina, another famous remark that, you know, all happy families are alike. They’re like one another, but all unhappy families are unhappy in different ways. OK, so sebaceous li we’re seeing all happy families sebaceous. We’re seeing Pagosa, Dragna, Rukia are alike one to another. They’re this just lívia salmiya you shirtsleeve a plus for all unhappy families are unhappy in their own ways. So everything was kind of cooking at the Lansky’s house iest. Machado’s Vadum Yablonsky. Everything was kind of going to shit because, you know, it was Ngala, the woman the wife found out still Mu’s that her husband was in a connection in his own. So beeves Shelvey Dom, your friend Jonquil Kornienko with the French ety governess who had been living in their house or Vuolo Mucho. So the wife of the Vuolo Mujo explains to her husband, still, no, it’s nine a.m. that she cannot live with him in one house. So all happy families are alike. All unhappy families are unhappy in different ways. Everything was cooking at the Lansky’s house. The wife found out that the husband was in a relationship with the French governess living with them, and she announced she told the husband that she cannot live with him in one house. So just in that very beginning, there all these things where the lie and I say this with great love for the language, the language says to an English speaker, just fuck you. And so, for example, first two words, just leave, OK? You just leave. What is that? Sound off, this is what it is, I can go e I can go e there the same thing except ones up front and that is in the back. But what about the middle? There’s always the middle, frankly. Things are usually the middle. So if I call you, we stop it in the Middle East to the left, that little sound that is just lívia, that’s actually a sound in Russian. You have to be able to do it in English. It sounds like you’re trying to get something out of your throat or you’re trying to imitate a spider. That’s what Lucy used to do on I Love Lucy. She go like that in Russian. That’s an ordinary sound. And it’s not just in weird little words, it’s in the pronouns. So you be not T-, not too, but you have to be able to do that. Oh, OK. Thank you. Russian then all happy families say just leave will you see. So a e on those three words. Seet schuss lívia xianyi plural is indicated with three different sounds. So if you deal with Spanish, which is just, it’s very loving to the second language learner who speaks something like English, you’ve got like the White House’s Las Casas Blanca’s. How hard could that be. But in Russian a e and you just kind of have to know there are many different plurals and they’re going to pop up. Even when you say something as compact as every happy family, then there’s something that really is just a magnificent kick in the head. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. So Calzadilla nice. Just Lívia that’s unhappy. It’s just Lívia. Shemya family is unhappy in its own way, is unhappy is it’s just the first time. It’s nice just leaving the second time. It’s, it’s just why. Because with an adjective it’s different if it’s before the noun as opposed to if it’s a predicate for those of you who know a little bit of schoolbook grammar, attributive adjective, the red book of adjective, the book is read so attributive unhappy unhappy family is is just leaving steamier. But if the family is unhappy then the family is, it’s just leaving and it’s a different form and the accent is different. It just does that to you and you find yourself just in all. It’s like when Starwars first came out and first of all it was originally called Starwars. There’s the back shift in just to see the opening credits. That was a special effect at the time. Well, it’s just Lívia. It’s just leave. And the fact that there are people who actually speak this language without effort, absolutely amazing. Then little things like the wife found out you it ngala. OK, now if I were the wife and let’s say that that meant that I was a husband, let’s say I was a muj, then it would be Mou’s ous null. That’s find out. But if you’re a woman who’s now doesn’t work, who’s Ngala. In other words, you’ve even got gender on the verbs in Russian. If you’re used to romance languages, you know that French does a little of that. But when Spanish not in that way, whereas in Russian, if you’re in the past, you have to indicate whether it’s masculine and feminine. Jannah, who’s Ngala? Not just Agena was not. Then there’s case. And that means that Russian is one of those languages like Latin and Greek, where to put it in a really goofy way, the nouns conjugate just like the verbs. You have to know all these endings. And so the husband was in a liaison. So Muj will notice that most of his fiancee, the husband, was in, you know, connections with this governess, Mouche. But then a little while later, the wife of the Villa Muleshoe, she tells the husband Mujo, the all is because she’s telling it to him. You have to stick that little thing on there. And of course, that little thing is different, depending on what flavor of noun it is. And to an extent, you just have to master this. Russian just gives you this. And then, of course, there’s irregularity all over the place. It is Mount Everest. And finally, just a little thing like she can’t live with him in one house, Varnum Dong in one house, the Adnam Doumbia. Now, you would think that if you’re talking about one house and you’re thinking about Spanish and like Casablanca house waiter, well then it would be something like Varnum Dohm Mom. Or if it’s going to be Daumier, it’s going to be yet. Don’t you know Varnum, Daumier. Both of them are four locations in one house. But if it’s an adjective like the one is here, then you have om. But then on the noun itself it’s yeah. This just goes on and on. So you have to think about this sort of thing, you know, how far are you going to get with something like. Duolingo, you know, with all due respect, with a language that presents you with this much, you just have to be immersed in it. You’ve got to really have a whole lot of input to get this right and not have a stroke while you’re speaking it. It’s this language where, frankly, it’s like it’s got a whip and it’s it’s beating you into submission. It’s like you’re taking orders from it. It’s like it’s 1935 and there’s a song nobody cares about even then called I’d Love to Take Orders from You, written by Harry Warren and Al Dubin. And it’s as if because it’s played in Looney Tunes and in a really ancient musical that nobody cares about called Shipmates Forever, that you love this song and you’ve loved it for a very long time. And you feel like for your last late episode playing the person who introduced it, Al Jolson, actually singing it over 80 years ago. So that’s the explanation for the quality here. This is him doing it on the radio. This is I’d love to take orders from you. And I do mean you

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S2: look at that, then I’ll be back here. Oh, my God, I’m so proud of you. And I don’t know. I’d love to borrow from you. I know that that’s one thing I have learned. But I’m going in for a plan that I got from her that brought out. Oh, my God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Got idea you.

S1: OK, what else? Well, Russian is all about aspect, and those of you who’ve been listening for even a little while know that I discussed the difference between tense and aspect in a show fairly recently. Slovik is all over aspect. So think about French and Spanish. And for we English speakers, one of the weirdest things is that difference between the imperfect and the preterit. And so they were studying over a long period of time when the bell rang boom. So as to the album and so Estaban, that’s an imperfect ending. Quando sono la campagna when sounded the bell boom. So no, that all is a different set of endings imperfect versus preterit that which was going on and then ba boom preterit it happened. That difference in past’s as we think of it, is not really a difference in past’s. The preterit is the past tense. The imperfect is aspect. So not when it happened, but in what way it was happening and especially whether it was continuous or ba boom. This thing is in Russian. That distinction is very much cooked into the language too much more explicitly than in English. But they do it in a more complicated way. They do it with a prefix on the verb instead of with these endings on the verb. And at first it seems pretty easy because that prefix is the same for I. You he she it we all and they. And so I was writing, you know, I was walking along writing a book and so peaceful Bissel and then I wrote a letter a not bizarre you have to put the NA. So I was writing when the bell rang your Pithole when the bell rang. But then I wrote a letter, I scratched down a letter, not Beisel right there. So it’s not so you think, well you know, no big whoop just now, but then try another verb. So I was reading it was a long day. I was just sitting there, Cheatle Gittel, OK, I read the book and I finished it. I took that book and I read a test and I finished it. Not just Cheatle Perrucci it’ll now it’s not nuts. It’ll like it was with not Pithole with the writing paroxetine. Why you just have to know. And there’s a whole series of these prefixes and sometimes the difference is one that makes sense to us because we use different words for the so called imperfect and the PT.. One is Ngala, that is a woman saying that she knew Ngala was Nalla is the wife, and Anna Karenina, the wife who found out that her husband was doing what he was doing, but she didn’t know she was nullah. That means that you’re knowing. I’ve known for a long time the two plus two equals four. But then boom, I know I found out that my husband was cheating nulla nulla. But not not Nala. Not personal Uzun. You have to know and they just go on and on. There’s a whole collection of these and you have to know which one to use to make it the bottom. And then on top of that, a lot of them can have specific meanings. And so not only are you bought a booming, but you’re lending a nuance and so you start to master this sort of thing. So, for example, pissants, that’s for writing. And notice I didn’t say Besart, I said P. S P such you have to stick that little you at the end. And if you don’t, you sound like an idiot. So pisspot that’s moves from the Archie comic books trying to learn Russian wrong voice from his. Let’s try this pizza. OK, that’s the best he could do but really has to be p such p such. It’s you start to enjoy doing it. But God it’s called the soft sign. I don’t find anything soft about it. It should be called the arbitrary punishing sign. In any case, writing sucks, but not business, as I said, is to write something down pit episodes. That means to write it again. So you know, pizzle ok then P.D.A. I wrote it down again. Battleborn Pissants duppy sets. That’s to finish writing because duh means until you can you can besets because the just little sermon’s from and so that means copy. You’re writing from something you know. And then there’s pissants, zappy sets, zappy sets means to scribble it down, like to write it down real fast. And frankly I don’t know what that means. It confuses me. It worries me. Will pass it by or pissants leave this that is out. And so you write out of something, you excerpt. So you have all those. But then there’s something else. Every time you add one of those prefixes, you’re making it baboon. So suppose your bottom booming it. But then also you’re giving it this meaning like to write it again or something like that. Suppose you want to write something again or scribble it down or copy it. But then over a long period of time, because you don’t always just copy something once, sometimes your whole job is copying, like whatever they’re doing where Scrooge works and you can’t get off for Christmas, you can tell a lot of it is. Well, they’re doing it a lot. Suppose you want to do it over time. Well, then you have this ending that you use to make it imperfect, so to speak. So, you know, I’m just kind of looking, gazing smartly. It’s OK. Oh, I took a look, but a boom, it’s right there. OK, but suppose I want to, like, take lots of look, suppose I’m driving and I keep taking looks in the mirror. So that’s but I’m doing it over time. It’s kind of like the students who are studying over time. I’m taking a look in the mirror or they’re that woman who you keep taking a look at across the room in Albuquerque in an alternate version of how you met her. How would you do that? You’re not just postmodernists. You’re smart. Relax. That’s not Lutts. That means that you bought a boom something over a period of time. And so you have to have that to you know what? I want to make sure, you know, I’m not misrepresenting myself. I have been told by somebody that when I speak Russian, I sound like a child and they say it affectionately. But just to show you, I’m not showing off. I’m just trying to show you one of my toys. We linguists know about languages, even if we speak them like child’s always important to know that that is what I’m trying to indicate. In any case, it’s time for another clip. This is nineteen thirty. It’s not going to go on too long. As I warn you, this one is antique again and perhaps not as charmingly as the last one would be to at least some people. This is Rudy Vallee who was once Drak and now he’s utterly forgotten. And it’s nineteen thirty, which is a very long time ago. He’s singing a ballad called A Little Kiss each morning. And I won’t give you too much of this one, but it makes me think and I’ve always liked it each morning and each night the.

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S3: No one will, they

S2: want

S3: me to look

S2: as if I may, and they have crossed on Friday morning. Old.

S1: I’m sitting here talking about how hard Russia is and a very natural question would be, why is it so hard? Why does the language do this? Does it have something to do with being Russian? And, you know, no, that’s not it at all. The question is not why Russian is so hard, but why English is comparatively easy. And of course, no language is easy, but English is easy other than Russian. Why is that? And the truth is, it’s really not what we think. It’s not that Russian is hard. It’s that English is weird. That is one of my most treasured insights. And it wasn’t mine. It is Stephan Goyette, who’s also a linguist. I don’t think he listens to this, who first made me think of things this way. And you want people who can blow your mind. It’s the counterintuitive that makes science fun. And this is something that has driven a lot of how I look at language. And it really is that a language left to its own devices become something which, from the perspective of English, seems almost maddeningly difficult. So if you’ve got a feminine noun and of course it doesn’t mean only things that are biologically feminine, just things a car is feminine. Musina, OK, Machina. Now, if you’re talking about like the color of the car, then you add an ending machine. It’s that again, even when the little ending you have to do that weird little sound. So machine. OK, fine. And you can think of it’s just the equivalent of love and it’s just that I use a suffix. All right. But then if you want to say the color of the cars and so it’s of but more than one thing, it’s not machine or machine or machine or something like that. It’s that you don’t have an ending. So the color of the car is the color machine. The color of the cars is the color machine and then nothing machine. It’s almost like it’s trying. And the thing is, languages are like this. So in the Indo-European family that begins on the steps of Ukraine, Latin is like that. Greek is like that. Lithuanian is definitely like that. Old Persian was very much like this. Sanskrit is like this. Old English was pretty much like this. An Icelandic still is. And so we have English the way it is now when we’re told that it’s because language is simplify over time that old English was like Latin, but that it was natural for old English to just kind of take it easy because of the enlightenment or penicillin or something. But that’s not really the way things work. If it were just natural for languages to simplify, then wouldn’t all of them be dust by now? What makes a language like English, as I’ve said on the show before, is when a language has a whole lot of adults learn it at a certain point. Adults aren’t as good at learning languages as children. And so it where’s the language down not to dust, but to something that it would not be if it had been allowed to mind its own business. Modern English is what happened when Vikings came and beat the hell out of old English. Spanish is less fearsome than Latin, fearsome, but less. And that’s because Latin was imposed on people who had their own languages. Thank you very much, many of whom were grownups. This never happened with Slovic. Slovik is the way languages normally are. And so actually the truth is Slovik is a family and the other Slavic languages are harder. It’s funny. So Melania Trump’s Slovenian, that’s another one of the Slavic family, technically subfamily of Indo-European and Slovenian has what’s called a dual. So not only are things singular and plural, but then you have a whole other set of endings. If they’re just two of things or if you have occasion to work with or actually try to learn Polish or Czech, you find that, wow, like you already know, some Russian think this is even harder than Russian. That’s the impression that you have. There’s only one Slavic language that gives you any kind of break in this way, and that’s Bulgarian for some reason in Bulgarian, the case endings are gone so, so to speak. The nouns don’t conjugate anymore. Nobody knows just what happened to Bulgarian. Something must have happened to Bulgaria. And I’ve always wanted to, you know, retire and work on figuring that out. But I’m sure that somebody smarter than me will have figured out by then. But then in Bulgarian, the verbs are just as bad as in Russian, if not worse. And please understand that there is no actual value judgment. But I mean, basically that in Bulgarian, it’s just as much a matter of climbing almost vertically into the sky, like on Mount Everest as with Russian. Now, you might think, wait a minute, hasn’t Russian been spread around quite a bit like Bulgarian seems to be mining its own business, but Russian has been imposed on a great many people. And yes, that’s true. But most of that has happened via education, formal education. Russian has been imposed on most of those people in a school setting. So there have been all sorts of ways that Russian has surely been spoken by people who it was imposed upon. When they’re adults, but it hasn’t made it to paper. If somebody who’s using Russian as a second language has to write it down to represent their version of Russian in their society, then it comes out the way Russian does in Moscow because Russian has been taught all over the place and now there’s Russian media all over the place. Whereas with old English, when the Vikings started beating it up, writing was for a very elite group of people. There was essentially no such thing as school and no such thing as media. It was an oral world, and in an oral world, more dramatic things can happen more quickly than when writing holds things back. I mean, frankly, it’s all very much like a lullaby and rhythm, which it is it. But I want to play this clip. It’s my favorite clip of the wonderful Art Tatum, and it makes me very happy. It’s just so close and warm. It’s the sort of thing that you should give people as gifts. This is Lullaby in Rhythm. And you know, another interesting thing about Russian is that you learn about how languages get standardized in similar ways all over the world. You find something so exotic from your perspective, but then you get these certain stories that are the same. And so, for example, there was a time when the Latin of the Slavic group, which was called Old Church Slavonic, that was what you wrote and then Russian was something that you just talked just like the ancestors of Polish and and everything else. So you wrote an old church, Slavonic, Russian was just something oral that you chop potatoes and died in. There were all sorts of dialects of it, different ones spoken in Moscow, a bunch of different ones spoken in Kiev, the one spoken in Kiev, where the prestigious ones for a while, very much like for a very long time, you wrote in Latin and then you spoke in French or Spanish, and nobody would have dared put French and Spanish on the page in any real way. All English was that way to for a long time. It’s become increasingly clear. Real English was English with things like do you go to school? Do you play the clarinet? Of course, they wouldn’t have been talking about that. But all sorts of things that are typical of the modern language rather than old English, all those things would have happened while you still wrote in this antique version on the page that was normal then and it still is now. Languages like Thommo, languages like Indonesian. The way you write in the way even educated people speak casually are vastly different. And so that was the situation quite normal then. Peter the Great wanted the language to be more cosmopolitan. He wanted it to face westward and he wanted to do this without the language relying so much on French. So in, for example, war and peace, you know, sometimes the book seems half French because the people in it would have used so much French in their lives with Russian as the casual language that you used with servants. But this meant if Russian was going to be a language that could fulfill all domains, then you had to create things out of whole cloth. And so, for example, Nikolai Karamzin, he was a historian, but he also, like many historians in that time, had a linguistic bent and he created a lot of vocabulary that wasn’t there before. So, for example, to develop, we get that from French, develop it. So that is to UN to undo Vuolo. It is to whine like a watch. So it’s something unwinding de Vuolo paying. Well, he created the word today, whereas Vitya Horas is the UN and the Vitya is the winding roads of EU. So today in Russian ordinary Russian, that’s development. But you needed to create words like that so that people wouldn’t just say develop and have what many people thought of at the time as a somehow artificial Russian in English. Nobody had any problem with that. And so we just they developed. But Peter the Great wanted something that was more local than that. So you had all sorts of little things. And sometimes it created things that didn’t make any sense, just like standardisation has in English. So, for example, many people insist on saying often instead of often because the tea is on the page, quite understandable. But then you don’t talk about whistling a happy tune. So it’s kind of arbitrary. But there are ways that Russian spelling holds back on what people ordinarily would have said to. So, for example, you look up in the sky and the sky is neba, it’s Aniba. Now, the way that word had developed on its own was yoba. If you had a year and then a following er then it became Oh so Nuova, that’s kind of what it should be. And in a great many words in Russian with that same year er it is now you know. But standardizations said no Nuova is wrong, we’re going to say Neba. And so that’s how you have to say sky. Now nobody cared that the word for sky was also used for the palette. You can understand that the palette is kind of the sky of your mouth. Well, they let that go. So you don’t talk about the Neba in your mouth. You talk about the Nuba, the Nuba that was allowed to go on by itself. But for the sky, it’s Aniba. Here is one salute to the five years that I’ve been hosting this show. We’ve got to have one more fun back shift. Listen here to how someone said gridlock a very long time ago.

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S4: Well, I didn’t even know. I made up a word. I called it two words I call the gridlock. And 14 years earlier, there was a transit strike and it was a mess. The police had control of handling the city’s response in nineteen eighty. I wanted the traffic scientists to have control, so I needed to to create something that City Hall could could be afraid of. So I called the gridlock two words and I had a gridlock prevention plan. And soon the media caught on to the word, made it. One word, and before you know it, dictionaries, encyclopedias and others started calling me, where did this word come from?

S1: Now we get to the touching part, which is that this is my last episode of Lexicon Valley for Slate. We are now moving to Book Smart. That’s Book Smart Studios Dog. You’ll be getting Lexicon Valley and Me and perhaps quirky information, although aimed somewhat more in a topical direction. But it’ll be the same show and the same me. And I want to thank Slate for being so accommodating of my schedule and eccentricities over these five years. I want to thank Slate, frankly, for the occasional raises that I got for doing this. And I want to give a special thank you to June Thomas, who was a wonderful colleague. And I also want to say that starting on Tuesday, July 21st, Slate will be premiering a new language podcast with a different name and different hosts. Keep a lookout for it. The final clip for Slate. It is could it be I’m Falling in Love, which I’ve probably played 17 times, but it’s one of my very favorite songs in the world, and it actually is serving a purpose.

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S3: You have begun to feel so strange.

S2: Every time I speak your name.

S3: That’s funny, you say that you also have to the. What do. Each man, I pray that will never come out. Well, plenty, Glover will say, you feel the same way, too. And I wonder what it means for.

S1: There’s someone out there who knows this episode is for her. She’s used my shows as lessons for her students, which is the last thing I ever thought these podcasts would be for. And more to the point, she has heard me in these episodes of Lexicon Valley and gotten whatever that person is elated that she gets me because I get her sweetheart. This last late show was for you. You can reach us at Lexicon Valley at Slate Dotcom, that’s Lexicon Valley at Slate Dotcom to listen to past shows and subscribe or just to reach out, go to Slate dot com slash Lexicon Valley Mike. Vuolo has been, as always, the editor and I have been and will continue to be John McWhorter. And remember, this isn’t an ending, but a new beginning. See all of you next here in the Valley at Book Smart Studios dot org. Special. But. For my final Slate plus episode, I want to share with you the English equivalent of this business in Russian of putting certain prefixes on a verb and getting all these different meanings. And so PDP such is to write something again, dopiest is to actually finish writing something. All of that can sound kind of exotic when we’re talking about a language like Russian. But Russian and English are both Indo-European languages. They’re derived from the same ancestor and English has that same material. It’s just that the word order is different. And so it seems like it’s a different thing. But where Russian has those prefixes, we have what we think of as prepositions, but they’re often used as what we often call particles in verb particle constructions. And really there are aspects of this in English that are harder than what often goes on in Russian in terms of what the combination of the verb and the piece of stuff means. And so I gave you that little list with the verb for to write in Russian. Well, how about with our get. So what does get mean? I ask you and you think, well it means to obtain something. Sure. Or it also means to become something. But think about what happens with get when you combine it with prepositions and imagine coming to English from another language and having to deal with this. So for example get OK. It means to obtain. So get up. Well no here it’s become so become up now it can mean to get yourself up off the floor. But the first meaning we think of is to arise from sleep. So it’s more specific than you’d expect. And you just kind of have to know there are all sorts of things that could have happened to get up, but it ended up meaning to awaken and get out of bed, get out. OK, so it means that you are to become out of something. But you could say that you’re getting out of, you know, a plastic bubble or something like that. But really, we think of get out, meaning a command to leave. That’s how it’s really specialized. We think first of get out of here as opposed to I got out of the box that I had my self sent in or something like that. So these arbitrary specificities get over. What does that mean? Does it mean that you just step over a corpse or somebody’s sleeping? No, get over idiomatically means that you succeeded through vaguely unsavory means. You got over. You just have to know, get about about seems thoroughly innocent preposition but get about. Well it got about that Mrs. Astor didn’t have enough gowns or something like that. It got about that he had lost all of his money. Well you just kind of have to know get through. OK, can I get through, can I pass through you two people. That’s one thing. But get through really means to survive. That’s the first meaning that we would think of the sorts of things that I have gone through. I mean, that all very idiomatic and all of it’s about putting get and prepositions together. And you’d think that these would be predictable meanings. But they’re unpredictable. Language is all about things like that in English is no exception. Despite what Vikings did to it starting in 1787 A.D. get off. You can get off of a bus, but get off is also as in enjoying something that on some level you should and you’re getting off. I’ll just leave that there. Or to get at it means to irritate. It doesn’t really mean to obtain access to get at really most immediately means that it Narz ignores at you. What about bye. I am by the waterside. OK, get by. Well get by. No actually it means survive again. It means that you are using not enough money to put enough food on the table to keep people full. Much more specific than anything we would predict if we were just presented with get and buy. You just kind of have to know. Get down. Sure, get down from the chair. But also down as in close to your essence, something funky. It vaguely has something to do with sex. You’re on the dance floor in nineteen seventy five and you’re getting down. There’s a Jeffersons episode where Wizzy says to George, Oh George, let’s get down. And she doesn’t mean that they’re going to get down off of a chair. They go out onto the floor and as they said back then, boogie to get into. Well it could mean that you’re putting yourself inside of something. But really it means to get into a subject. I got into ornithology or I got into finance or something like that and finally get up to that would actually throw you somebody gave it to you if you were learning English from Swedish and didn’t have a clue yet, get up to mean something a little bit naughty. Think about other things. Get up too. Could have meant. But it means that all of that just with. It’ll get and if you think about it, this brings us back to that question I’ve often brought up. How many words does English have? How many words does a language have? Well, here you might say, well, there’s get and then there’s often at and by and down. But with the way get combines with every single one of those little words, you can see that each one of those combinations really is a word in itself with two pieces. So these things are always fascinating. English is always fascinating. I hope you have found language always fascinating and that you will follow me to find it ever more fascinating at Book Smart Studios dot org.