Saturday, January 15, 2011

You say tomato and I say tomaito...

Thanks to Junior G for the inspiration and (again) my children for pointing this one out to me. This thought-provoking and satirical piece demonstrates how individual differences in pronouncing words can have some nasty consequences.

'Milk' or 'Mulk' by Julian Smith.

Here is another (somewhat less confronting) clip from Susanna which shows how pronunciation impacts on language:

And another from Julia about what happens when you get it wrong while trying to speak in another language - in this case, Mandarin.  This one comes from the popular television program, the Big Bang Theory,




Anonymous said...

Re: The Milk video clip
This was a sick and stupid attempt at humor made worse by the fact that this is a university (academic) site. Gun violence is never appropriate to make a point. How do I explain this to my 9 year old grandson.

Andrea Duff said...

Dear Anonymous

Thank you for your comment - it was really appreciated because it provides us with some opportunities to examine the purpose and use of YouTube clips on the Grammar Gang, along with the use of a blog as a medium for teaching in higher education.

First, let me say no member of the Grammar Gang condones the use of violence of one human being against another.

Secondly, it is our intention to engage - not cause offence.

The popular 'Milk or Mulk' clip is a satirical take on the emphasis we might put on pronunciation and its differences. Because of its over-the-top use of violence, the clip also makes a comment about the inappropriate nature of violence with the participants in the clip explicitly referring to this.

Quite a number of authors and artists adopt a satirical use of violence to make similar points about its appropriacy. Quentin Tarantino is one such director who explores the use of violence in a critical and confronting way. Roman Polanski's interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth is another way violence is exploited. So too, Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange.

In an adult learning environment, we are expected
be critical learners and able to make distinctions between ethics, morality and also the various genres of writing and the devices used to make a point.

Modern (and arguably contentious) examples of the exploitation of violence include South Park; Family Guy, American Dad, The Simpsons and a range of other television programs. One would be loathe to let a 9-year-old watch these but a teenager, for example, might have learned more critical ways to interpret the devices used.

Smith (2010 p. 282) cites Ferdig and Trammel who believe that the success of a blog lies in 'promoting interactivity [which is] conversational [and] a mode of interaction more conducive to improved student and teacher relationships, higher order thinking and greater flexibility in teaching and learning'.

Some of our posts certainly promote conversation and we see evidence of interaction through our comments, reactions and polls.

However, we take on board the controversial nature of the clip and, instead, have decided to link to (rather than embed) it. We have swapped it (5 501,636 viewers since 2009) for another which makes the same point using different humor (4,945,280 viewers since 2008)

To view or not will ultimately be the choice of our blog readers.

Thank you for participating in our blogocracy, and wish you - and your grandson - well.

Andrea (on behalf of the Grammar Gang)

Julia Miller said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous, and your reply, Andrea. In response to our reader's final question, 'How do I explain this to my 9 year old grandson?', I'm guessing this is a rhetorical question, but personally, if I found material offensive when my children were younger, I would use it as a teaching opportunity, so I'd explain about satire, say that people have differences of opinion in this area, and teach my child to exercise judgement regarding what is acceptable, according to the guidelines I felt appropriate (which of course differ from person to person). When children are older, of course, they make their own judgements, which are often different to ours.
I always like to make the most of any teaching opportunity!