Matt Brundage

Archive for the 'language' category

Thursday, 19 November 2009

A hip hop translation

I thought that it might be a good linguistic exercise to translate a particularly catchy hip hop track from back in the day. Anyone hazard to guess the song and artists behind it? Here’s a clue to get you started: It was nominated for a Grammy Award. I’ve deliberately excluded lyrical clues such as promotional utterances of record labels and nicknames.

Ferraris and Jaguars are brands of automobiles known to signify certain levels of wealth — or, at the very least, a high marginal propensity to consume. Thus, possession of these types of cars enhances my persona, especially convertibles with their tops down. Driving one of these vehicles recklessly while simultaneously shouting that money is of no substantial consequence helps to bring home the point.

Rolls Royce is another brand of automobile known to signify wealth. They should be driven aggressively while wearing flashy rings. I like the windows slightly open, implying that, unlike the Ferraris and Jaguars in the aforementioned verse, drop top Rolls Royces should be avoided. Again, I shout that money is of no substantial consequence.

I have an aversion to material goods that do not “gleam”, perhaps showing a preference for freshly painted and waxed sheet metal; chrome; gold, silver, and other precious metals; diamonds, and other gems. Price is not taken into consideration when acquiring material goods that gleam. After all, money is of no substantial consequence.

Recent forays into philanthropy consist of contributing financially to friends who are in prison. When my friends come home from prison, new cars are waiting for them. Money is of no substantial consequence to me.

Join us in flaunting our material goods. We travel all around the world, spending our money.

I wear Rolex watches, another outward sign of my material wealth. I contribute financially to my friends’ girlfriends. Perhaps “girlfriend” is too polite a word to use in this context. In any case, the amount of money that I contribute shows how much I love and care for my friends and their significant others. Do not bother praising me for these selfless actions. My income comes from many sources. I paid $100,000 for this bracelet. [Approximately $132,600 in today’s dollars.] Was it foolish of me to have purchased such an expensive piece of jewelry? Consider this: the reflective qualities of said bracelet will cause eye strain. My gun is solid platinum. Even the bullets gleam with gems and/or precious metals. You will die. Unseasoned acquaintances want to join my circle of friends and perhaps benefit from my material wealth. While I am not wholly averse to forming such associations, I prefer that my true friends possess “old money” and that their bank accounts be large. Like mine. My bank account balance is $1,000,000. [Approximately $1,326,200 in today’s dollars.] I have so much money that it fills up the trunk of my car! When I arrive at parties and such, my full trunk of money must look daunting to the average person. This is basic. I have been a free-spender since before the one hundred-dollar bill underwent a major redesign in March 1996. We have a lot of money. Where are the people who have professed hatred toward us?

One of the many benefits of “living the life” is that I get to eat cake that is thicker than the typical middle-class cake. [It’s the pudding.] In addition to eating thick cake, I eat crab while watching women dance in a suggestive manner. I do big things. My music production skills enable obscure music groups to become well-known. I am like a large dog, but instead of wearing a demeaning chain, I have a necklace — and a matching bracelet to boot! My friends admit that I am an important person — the type of person with whom any group of people would like to associate. I’m the type of person who does things that others won’t do, or are incapable of doing. I am so hot that I am hotter than a candle. For the remaining portion of this verse, I will continue to promote myself by using hyperbole. Now I will drop a Barry Manilow reference. Also, I swing every night.

A fellow rapper cannot truly be recognized until:

  1. One million units of his album are shipped to retailers [Unit shipments are what the RIAA uses to determine Gold and Platinum album status.]
  2. He enters into a relationship with a woman who sings r&b
  3. Said r&b woman has all the qualities that one would expect of a typical woman in her situation

Take me, for example. I entered into a relationship with a woman after she first admired my necklace. All of my jewelry is light gray — mostly platinum. Life is like a roll of the dice. Let’s play!

Note to up-and-coming MCs: It doesn’t matter if your albums merely went gold [In the US, this means 500,000 units were shipped to retailers.] or if you wear Rolex watches with diamonds and/or other gems. To get to my level of wealth, you will have to do much more. In fact, take your paycheck and double it. That’s approximately what I make. The trouble lies in the quality of your rapping. I’m a man who likes Mercedes-Benz automobiles with leather, real wood grain, and a frame that is made out of platinum. Honest! I proclaim loudly that money is of no substantial consequence. My teeth gleam from gems that my orthodontist affixed with cement. In addition, both of my wrists gleam from the assorted pieces of jewelry that I wear, including rings, chains, and bracelets. We have it made, so to speak.

Money is of no substantial consequence.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009


I’m becoming more and more of a snob every day. (Well, at least according to Annie.) I’d rather call it “discriminating taste” — or in its simplest form, just a preference for one thing over another.

  • I try to avoid high fructose corn syrup and other artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, partially hydrogenated oils (margarine), other “unnatural” fats, and needlessly processed food products with unpronounceable ingredients. Instead, I purchase “real”, “natural”, or “organic” whenever possible. I don’t mind paying a bit more for quality. For that, I am a food snob.
  • I won’t drink Merlot, Rosé (White Zinfandel), or wine that has been “embellished”. For that, I am a wine snob.
  • I am through with North American lagers. Instead, my gaze is fixed upon Ireland (Guinness) and Belgium (Chimay). For that, I am a beer snob.
  • I consume an enormous quantity of music, much of it esoteric. I typically get blank stares or polite nods when I try to describe my tastes to people. I value my vinyl records just as much as my CDs. I’m not the kind of music snob who categorizes his collection as classical, jazz, and “other”, but I am a snob nonetheless.
  • While my video collection is comparatively more mainstream than my music collection, certain “guidelines” still apply: Since the beginning of 2008, I have completely stopped purchasing DVDs and have moved on (without any hiccups) to Blu-ray. I’ve even been replacing my old DVDs with their Blu-ray versions. I will never stretch or crop the picture. I prefer to watch a film in its original, theatrical aspect ratio, whether that be 1.33:1, 1.85:1, 2.35:1, or any other variation. I cannot be happier that “Full-screen” DVDs are finally being phased out. I am frustrated with people who just don’t get it, especially those with capable widescreen televisions. For that, I am a film and video snob. In this regard, the label of snob may be warranted.
  • My requirements for church are becoming more and more specialized. While I’ve always been Catholic, my adherence to the “weekly requirement” hasn’t always been strict. And by that, I mean that, a few times a year, I would attend a non-Catholic church service and count that as my “weekly”. Never again. It’s even gotten to the point where I’m hesitant to attend a Novus Ordo Mass — especially if it’s in the vernacular; I need to hear the old Mass in Latin. For that, I am a church snob.
  • I’m a stickler for proper grammar usage — a great deal of my Wikipedia edits involve grammar corrections or diction in some form or another. I’ve corrected people in everyday conversation: I remember telling someone once that they had “split the infinitive.” Lately, I’ve been surprised at the frequency at which people use the word “less” when they really mean “fewer.” It boggles the mind. I have strong preferences toward the increased usage of both the serial comma and the subjunctive mood. For that, I am a grammar snob.

In addition, Annie says that I’m a snob in the following categories: cars, clothes, computers, paper shredders, razors, lamps, light bulbs, and books. That’s right. I’m officially a paper-shredder snob.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Favorites vs. Bookmarks

No doubt this topic has been covered before, but I’d like to delve into the semantics of Microsoft’s “Favorites” versus Netscape’s, Opera’s, Mozilla’s, and Apple’s “Bookmarks”. Despite Microsoft having used the name “Favorites” since 1995 — practically the fledgling days of the web — it never really caught on with the masses. The word just sounded clunky as a verb; people continued to use the verb “bookmark” long after they had dumped Mosaic and Netscape and embraced Internet Explorer en masse.

“Bookmarks” is elegant and descriptive in its specificity. The feature is implicitly defined by our prior knowledge of what an actual bookmark does. “Favorites” is bland and doesn’t really define the feature or what it does. “…a favorite what?”

I find it mildly disconcerting that the sites I happen to save within Microsoft Internet Explorer aren’t necessarily my favorite sites, yet the browser deems them as such. The nerve!

Thursday, 31 May 2007

When to Use the Perfect Tense

I recently wrote this for a former co-worker’s friend, who is Vietnamese. The friend had insisted upon using the present perfect tense in instances where the simple past tense would have been more appropriate.

Think of “perfect” as meaning “complete”: that is, the action being described has been completed, or will be completed.

People typically use the perfect tense when the action they are describing has some relevance to the present moment. Perfect tense also lends a sense of “immediacy” to the verb phrase and gives the impression that either an action has been completed recently or that the action is intrinsically linked to the current moment.

For example, notice the distinction between
Simple Past tense: I studied for my test.
Present perfect tense: I have studied for my test.
The latter phrase gives the impression that the studying has recently taken place and that you are prepared for the test. The former phrase is ambiguous because is gives no clue to when the studying took place or if you are finished studying.

Another example:
Simple Past tense: I embarked on a long journey.
Present perfect tense: I have embarked on a long journey.
The latter phrase gives the impression that you are still on the journey. The former phrase is ambiguous, because it can mean something that happened in the distant past: “I was 16 years old when I left home. I embarked on a long journey and sailed to Spain…” In that context, you wouldn’t say “I have embarked on a long journey…” because the action is not immediate and has no direct relevance to the present moment.

For more information:

Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Off the Wiki deep end

Now I know that I’m a true Wikipedia addict: I created an account on the Spanish Wikipedia to help out with music and album categorization. I took Spanish for two years in high school, but I can hardly say that I know the language. This should be muy interesante.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Riddle me this

Why are there about 441,000 hits on Google for the phrase “riddle me this“, but absolutely no results for the likely answer, “I riddled him that“?

Thursday, 30 March 2006


Amazon wishlist goes German on me‘s wishlist goes German on me… It’s funny that the other options aren’t in German, only the first, translated as “I must have.” Amazon does have a German site, so there must be a cross-pollination thing going on or something.

Saturday, 10 December 2005

Case Study: John Lennon’s If I Fell

Beatles' If I FellLennon starts off the song with “If I fell in love with you…” Fell in this context is incorrect. He had two choices — he could have used the subjunctive mood: “If I were to fall in love…” or the implied future tense: “If I fall in love…” He chose the simple past tense — when coupled with “If”, it seems as if John is uncertain about whether or not he fell. Not the intended meaning, I’m sure.

The implied future tense of “If I fall in love…” make the most sense, both grammatically and rhythmically. Furthermore, it parallels the second and third verses, which start with the implied future tenses of “If I give my heart…” and “If I trust in you…”, respectively.

Many inconsistencies abound in the last verse:

So I hope you see that I
would love to love you
And that she will cry
when she learns we are two
If I fell in love with you

He uses the explicit future tense “will cry” with the past tense “If I fell”. Shouldn’t it be “..she will cry… if I fall in love”? The listener knows that John has already fallen in love with this new girl. But he has to temper his emotions and not reveal his new love to said girl. “If I fall in love…” would have made a good improvement, but “When I fall in love…” would have been the kicker, as would “When I give my heart to you…”, and “When I trust in you…” This makes sense because John predicts that “she will cry when she learns we are two.” Notice he said “when” and not “if”. Choose either the hypothetical “if” or the inevitable “when” and use it consistently throughout the song.

Sunday, 18 September 2005

Subjunctive Mood

The subjunctive mood is not limited to the hypothetical. For instance, the clauses “it is important that you tell the truth” and “I suggest that we open the windows” express the subjunctive mood in the subordinate clauses. The subjunctive mood is still used frequently, albeit obliviously.

Hypothetical subjunctives are necessary to delineate from the past tenses of verbs. For instance, the If-clause “if I were a carpenter” expresses the hypothetical, while the If-clause “if I was a carpenter” expresses uncertainty about the past.

The Bedford Handbook notes that “in the subjunctive mood, there is only one past-tense form of be: were (never was).” (342) Bedford also acknowledges that the subjunctive “causes problems for writers” (342) (because at first, they don’t appear grammatical), is used less often than indicative or imperative moods (341), and was “once more widely used.” (343)

Examples of subjunctive mood

Source: Hacker, Diana. The Bedford Handbook – sixth edition. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002.