Saturday, March 03, 2012

17. The haves and have-nots around us (II)

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Looking back at the photo which opens the first part of this topic, I somehow feel that most of you decoded the be-have-do triad in terms of notions rather than tools for constructing utterances; yet their uses are by far more numerous as modal, and auxiliary verbs than notional verbs. This is indeed tricky business, and – of course – we are taken back to our attempt at getting verbal, at least in order to make sure we’re on the right track.
Grammaring again!
Let’s get notional now for just a little while, and look for answers to such questions as:
What comes first to our mind when we say I am? Do we really decode it as existence?
What do we first think of when we take in I do? Is it action, or else some echo of a previous question?
How many times does I have evoke by itself something which ‘doesn’t mean anything’?
What is needed in order for us to understand them as tools?

While waiting for your answers, I am about to become a bit philosophical: what seems to be more important, being (that is to say, existing), having (that is, possessing), or else doing (visually, taking a course of action)?
At the end of the day, what does it take for one to enjoy the ‘simple thing’ of reading these lines?                               

Aaron and Candy Spelling's mansion
A study in contrasts 
[adapted from New Success at First Certificate,
by Robert O’Neill, Michael Duckworth & Kathy Gude]

   Aaron Spelling is said to have been the richest and most successful television producer in Hollywood and, in a city famous for its wealth, his wife, Candy, has been known as the biggest spender. A few years ago they paid more than $10 million for the huge house Bing Crosby used to live in. Then they had it torn down so that an even bigger, more wonderful mansion could be built. Not only does it have a more luxurious swimming-pool but an indoor ice-skating rink and a private zoo, as well. The final bill came to more than $25 million.
They say that a few years ago – surely before 2006 (the year Aaron Spelling passed away) – on a typically warm Californian Christmas Eve, Candy had a huge amount of real snow delivered to the Spelling mansion and spread all over the green lawns so that their children could enjoy 'a white Christmas'.
Not so long ago Candy decided she needed a few more clothes. She had a whole fashion show flown out to her from New York, along with the designer and three models. Not only did she buy the entire collection but - so the story goes at least - the bags and hats the models travelled with, as well. A lot of people in Hollywood wonder what she is going to buy next.
'What more can she possibly want?' others ask.
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    Martin and Rebecca Granger used to teach in a tough secondary school in London. A few years ago, they moved to a small cottage in Cornwall, in the extreme south-west of England. ‘We got tired of trying to make kids learn things they had no interest in’ Martin says. Martin's mother had died, leaving the cottage to them. 'It was in a terrible state when we came. There were leaks in the roof. There wasn't even an indoor loo. * Rebecca and I have rebuilt the place with our own hands.’
 It is a pleasant, small place by the sea. In their large garden they grow most of their own vegetables and keep a goat. They also make all their own clothes. ‘Money is still a problem, but we've learned to get by on very little,’ Rebecca says. She does some part-time teaching in a school in the village nearby. Martin paints water-colours of the wild Atlantic and the brilliant sunsets they see almost every day. He has sold a few recently.
 They both say that what they value most is their freedom from the rat race and the pressures of life in a big city. Only one thing really bothers them, and that is the invasion of tourists every summer.
‘We've been very happy here, but we might emigrate to New Zealand, where we'd be even further away from it all,’ Rebecca says.
* lavatory.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

16. The haves and have-nots around us (I)


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Let’s get verbal for a while, shall we?
This is an invitation for everybody to step into a room whose door has been skilfully masked within the patterns on the walls: it is as if it didn’t exist until you became aware of its being there. Nobody – well, almost nobody – thought about it, simply because it was taken for granted; now, while looking around the room you readily realize there’s a window to this new reality. So, let’s go over to the window and look out: are you in for what will surely turn out to be a breathtaking adventure?
The air in the room is thick with form, use, and meaning. The first strong perfume tickling our nostrils takes the shape of a verb coming to our rescue: the auxiliary! How could we avoid it when we want to talk about things that happened some time in a period from the past up to now, often with present results?! Mark my words: impossible.
(1)               Have you ever been to Australia?
How long have you been together?
Our taxi hasn’t arrived yet.
Other situations are still continuing, although they started in the past: I’ve been waiting for you for half an hour.
But this is not all: we may want to talk about situations in the past and express possibility, desirability, deduction (that is, modality), and this will take us deeper into the wonders wafting in the room:
(2)               I can’t find my umbrella; I must have left it on the train.
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Now, I know what you’re thinking: why…
  (3)       do I have to go on reading all this [that is, (lack of) obligation]? Well, because it is necessary, not to say obligatory – even if the obligation has been imposed on you. There’s no other way that I know of when you want to…
(4)       have language explained to you (that is, causative); with a little bit of luck, you’ll eventually…
(5)             have a good time (that is, experience something) while reading on!
Last but not least, what about
(6)           having-full-stop” – that is, indeed, a completely different matter, even if we talk about possessing, or owning things, relationships, illnesses – you name it.
And it all comes in one tight package: I have, (s)he/it has, I had, I’ve had, (s)he’s had, I’m having. But things don’t stop there, simply because we have to finish our thoughts every time and, while doing it, new blocks of information must be added if and only if we want to obtain meaning.
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