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View Full Version : Ignorance, is it bliss?



Fazor
2007-Apr-05, 04:50 PM
Other people's ignornace...if it's bliss for them it certainly isn't for me. I've been away from college for a while. Now they're finally offering the last class I need for my associates degree, so I'm back at school after 2 years.

Anyway I'm reminded of a Louis Black joke about overhearing someone's statement that is so stupid (or in his case out of context) that it just naggs on you until you're head explodes. (His was "If it wasn't for my horse, I would have never spent those two years in college" or something along those lines).

Anyway I'm constantly overhearing animated discussions or debates about the dumbest things! While walking out to my car yesterday I heard one guy excidedly explaining to his friends why Spanish is the best language to learn because if you're ever in Europe there will always be someone who speaks spanish as a second language.

While his point might be valid, his reasoning wasn't. I heard him say that, for insance, if there's no one that speaks spanish someone who speaks Itallian will still be able to understand you because the languages are almsot the same. This is just ignorant. Yeah, they're both derived from latin and there's similarities, but they're far from the same. Portugese and Spanish have the same latin roots, but they're not interchangable. Spanish and French look and sound similar in many ways; they're not interchangable either. English also contains many latin roots.

Yet he was soo proud of himself for his great linguistic revalation; everyone who speaks a romantic-language understands Spanish!

It has been my experience that the similarities in how certian words look/sound across different languages can often be more confusing than helpfull. I don't know, maybe he's right and I'm the ignorant one. But these kind of stupid conversations erupt all over campus. Never before noticed how much a learning institution is a magnet for ignorance.

[note: i use "ignorance" instead of "stupidity" because the first means simply a lack of knowlege, the second infers an inability to understand knowlege. I'm giving the benefit of the doubt here].

Dr Nigel
2007-Apr-05, 05:38 PM
... While walking out to my car yesterday I heard one guy excidedly explaining to his friends why Spanish is the best language to learn because if you're ever in Europe there will always be someone who speaks spanish as a second language.

While his point might be valid,

Don't worry. It wasn't. There are more people in Europe who speak English as a second language than there are people who speak Spanish as either a first or second language.

Having said that, there is no excuse not to learn at least a few phrases of the local language of whichever European country you happen to be visiting. Except Swedish, because the one time I visited Sweden, all the Swedes had such good English that they had no interest in teaching me any Swedish (I think I ended up with just 4 or 5 very basic phrases at the end of a week).


his reasoning wasn't. I heard him say that, for insance, if there's no one that speaks spanish someone who speaks Itallian will still be able to understand you because the languages are almsot the same.

Obviously, this chap has never visited Spain or Italy.


This is just ignorant. Yeah, they're both derived from latin and there's similarities, but they're far from the same. Portugese and Spanish have the same latin roots, but they're not interchangable. Spanish and French look and sound similar in many ways; they're not interchangable either. English also contains many latin roots.

Agreed. I have heard, however, that it is possible to get by in Italy or Spain with a knowledge of classical Latin. You will, however, induce much hilarity among those to whom you try to speak.

My experience has been that a smattering of Latin (and knowledge of the Latin roots of some English words) has helped me understand written Italian, but spoken Italian is a different ball game.

All in all, my experience of other people's ignorance has been made all the more painful by my own more in-depth knowledge of certain topics. If I were ignorant on those topics, I believe other people's ignorance would cease to be painful. So, from this point of view, ignorance would be bliss.

Dr Nigel
2007-Apr-05, 05:40 PM
Oh, yes, I forgot: The most useful phrase of Italian I learnt was Due bicchiere di vino rosso de la cassa, per favore. (sp?)

Fazor
2007-Apr-05, 05:49 PM
Well, I guess there are advantages to other people's ignorance. For instance, after ranting I figured I should check and see just how similar Itallian and Spanish are. Learned that a lot of nouns were the same or similar, although most certainly pronounced differently. But the same is true for Spanish/French. But as you said, sharing common words is a long shot for being understandable to both speakers. Conjugation, sentance structure, pronounciation....Oh well. I hope one day he finds himself lost in Itally and woefully unable to communicate in Spanish (and too dull to try English instead ;)). And I 100% agree you should at least know some key phrases in the native tounge before you go anywhere.

HenrikOlsen
2007-Apr-05, 06:00 PM
Except Swedish, because the one time I visited Sweden, all the Swedes had such good English that they had no interest in teaching me any Swedish (I think I ended up with just 4 or 5 very basic phrases at the end of a week).
True of all of Scandinavia.


Oh, yes, I forgot: The most useful phrase of Italian I learnt was Due bicchiere di vino rosso de la cassa, per favore. (sp?)
I'm guessing "Two glasses of house red, please."

Gillianren
2007-Apr-05, 06:04 PM
Everyone gets that quote wrong anyway. The quote is properly, "Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise." I realize that it's come down as the idiom "ignorance is bliss," but the original makes a point that the latter does not. Not every situation would be one in which ignorance was bliss, now, would it?

Actually, I speak a bit of Spanish--less than I used to, sad to say--and I have a hard time understanding Portugese when it's spoken because the pronunciation is so different. I can just about manage to read some of it when it's written, and French is right out. (Actually, French reads, to me, like a cross between English and Spanish, much though they'd hate to know that. If it's any consolation to the French, it's because English contains so much French, not the other way 'round. I still don't know much of it.) True, they're all rooted in Latin, but that's only a very little help, and not just because I don't actually know Latin.

All that said, Spanish is a terribly useful language to speak in this country and most of the countries you can reach by road from it.

Fazor
2007-Apr-05, 06:12 PM
All that said, Spanish is a terribly useful language to speak in this country and most of the countries you can reach by road from it.

I agree there, that's why I studied it for seven years (altho my understanding would lead you to think that I learned spanish from the taco bell menu). So I didn't disagree with his point, just with his logic. And to me, a valid point based on invalid logic is just as upsetting as a bad point.

SeanF
2007-Apr-05, 07:10 PM
Ignorance, is it bliss?
I don't know, and I'm very happy not knowing. :D

Peter Wilson
2007-Apr-05, 11:29 PM
Ignorance, is it bliss?

Couln't tell ya...never been ignorant :whistle:



(ducking as tomatos pelt the stage)

Dr Nigel
2007-Apr-06, 03:44 PM
True of all of Scandinavia.

Hmm, yes, the Danes and Finns I have met also had very good English. I've never met any Norwegians, nor ever visited Norway or Finnland.


I'm guessing "Two glasses of house red, please."

Yes. You can see why it is so useful. In Florence, the house red is often a rather nice Chianti...

Dr Nigel
2007-Apr-06, 03:48 PM
... While walking out to my car yesterday I heard one guy excidedly explaining to his friends why Spanish is the best language to learn because ...

A thought has just occurred to me. Maybe he heard somewhere that Spanish was the best language to learn when visiting the Americas (It's only Brazil, the US and Canada where the first language of most people is something else), but got confused about which continent was being referred to. In his mind, he then had to make up a reason for why Spanish was the best language to learn when visiting Europe...

Well, it was just a thought.

Fazor
2007-Apr-06, 04:02 PM
A thought has just occurred to me. Maybe he heard somewhere that Spanish was the best language to learn when visiting the Americas (It's only Brazil, the US and Canada where the first language of most people is something else), but got confused about which continent was being referred to. In his mind, he then had to make up a reason for why Spanish was the best language to learn when visiting Europe...

Well, it was just a thought.

Possible. But still makes it an ignorant (remember, uninformed not stupid) statement. But I still think the culprit was seeing how close the languages look on paper, on a vocabulary basis.

If you ask me, the most usefull language would still be latin, because if you know latin you can recognize the roots of many words of many languages. But again, I didn't necessarily disagree wiht his point that knowing Spanish allows you to speak with a wide base of people. Just disagree with his reasoning.

It's like saying the sky is blue because of the reflection of the earth's oceans, which we all know make up ~97% of earth. I agree, the sky IS indeed blue. But not for that reason.

CJSF
2007-Apr-06, 04:04 PM
We have someone here at work who is prone to what I think are "malapropisms." He once said "Arrogance is bliss" while referring to some members of another work-group. We thought it was so funny. Even though he meant ignorance, arrogance fit just as well.

But I did not know the original full quote. Thanks Gillian.

CJSF

Gillianren
2007-Apr-07, 11:29 PM
But I did not know the original full quote. Thanks Gillian.

You're quite welcome. I like educating where and as I can--and it feels to those of us who know it that no one knows the original full quote!

Noclevername
2007-Apr-11, 11:43 PM
If ignorance was truly bliss, the world would be a much happier place than it is.

Ignorance does not equal stupidity, but if a person grows up with too much ignorance, it can lead to stupidity by damaging (or failing to develop) the ability of critical thinking. The brain's like a muscle, it has to be exercised or it'll atrophy.

Noclevername
2007-Apr-11, 11:46 PM
I've recently moved from New England (where I grew up) to rural Indiana; I can understand the written language, but the spoken version is confusing. So much for Monoculture ;).

Dr Nigel
2007-Apr-12, 08:21 AM
If you think that's a challenge, try visiting the UK. Go to Bristol, Glasgow and Newcastle. Try to work out what the people are saying. Then remember that these cities are no more than 400 miles apart (the approximate distance from Glasgow to Bristol).

Compared to Britain, the US does have a monoculture. True, there are differences in American accents that even we can detect, but we have bigger differences over shorter distances.

For instance, to someone who grew up in Newcastle, the accents are different when you go from Newcastle across the river to Gateshead, then a mere 10 miles away to Sunderland. I can't tell the difference, but I didn't grow up in this area.

Maksutov
2007-Apr-12, 08:53 AM
Re ignorance and bliss, Meredith Willson once wrote
I spark, I hiss:
How can ignorance be compared to bliss?
I spark, I fizz
for the lady who knows what time it is.
I cheer, I rave
for the virtue I'm too late to save.
The sadder-but-wiser-girl for me.This is from the show that won the Best Musical Award in 1957. New York critics thought "West Side Story" should have gotten the award, but instead thought conservative America preferred "The Music Man".

Guess they didn't pay much attention to the lyrics.

Tog
2007-Apr-12, 09:31 AM
If you think that's a challenge, try visiting the UK. Go to Bristol, Glasgow and Newcastle. Try to work out what the people are saying. Then remember that these cities are no more than 400 miles apart (the approximate distance from Glasgow to Bristol).

Compared to Britain, the US does have a monoculture. True, there are differences in American accents that even we can detect, but we have bigger differences over shorter distances.

For instance, to someone who grew up in Newcastle, the accents are different when you go from Newcastle across the river to Gateshead, then a mere 10 miles away to Sunderland. I can't tell the difference, but I didn't grow up in this area.

I have started to collect accents over the last few years. When I hear a new one I'll aske the person where they are from. When I hear one I think I recognize, I'll try and guess. I can pretty much nail the Birmingham accent. It has a very distictive sound to me. We had a truck driver from Liverpool, so that one is pretty easy. Welsh is a no brainer (as a region) and a Londoner the GF writes to on MySpace described it a rather unflattering but wickedly funny way, though I don't think I can elaborate on it here.:p I'm getting better at the Home Counties, but there were two that really threw me off recently. One was a man who had an obvious British accent, but he spoke like Patrick Steward. The most indentifiable bit was the very long vowels. We talked for a bit and he said that it mainly because he went to a very specialized school. He didn't really want to elaborate, but he dropped the hint that if I were to really listen to Prince Charles speak, I would probably hear a very similar accent.

The other was a man from Budapest. I had never heard a real Hungarian acent before. The only ones I have heard all sounded like bad TV Russian. his accent actually sounded Scandanavian. I thought maybe Finland. We also end up talking at length and he was saying that he was once on a Trans-Atlantic cruise with two men, and American and and an Englishman, whose accents were so different that they actually found it easier to talk in French.

Dr Nigel
2007-Apr-12, 04:39 PM
... Welsh is a no brainer (as a region)

:lol:


...
The other was a man from Budapest. I had never heard a real Hungarian acent before. The only ones I have heard all sounded like bad TV Russian. his accent actually sounded Scandanavian. I thought maybe Finland...

Funny you should say that: I seem to recall reading somewhere that Hungarian is the only other European language to which Finnish is related.

Gillianren
2007-Apr-12, 09:21 PM
I had never heard a real Hungarian acent before.

What, you've never heard Bela Lugosi talk?

HenrikOlsen
2007-Apr-13, 05:25 AM
:lol:
Funny you should say that: I seem to recall reading somewhere that Hungarian is the only other European language to which Finnish is related.
Depends on how you define European, here's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Finno-Ugric_languages.png) a distribution of the finno-ugric (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finno_Ugric) languages.

Tog
2007-Apr-13, 06:38 AM
What, you've never heard Bela Lugosi talk?

If I have, it was before I developed an interest in accents. I would have to say that I honestly don't know.

Dr Nigel
2007-Apr-13, 07:28 AM
Depends on how you define European, here's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Finno-Ugric_languages.png) a distribution of the finno-ugric (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finno_Ugric) languages.

Thanks for the links, Henrik. That's quite interesting.

Isn't Wikipedia wonderful?

mugaliens
2007-Apr-13, 10:48 PM
Yet he was soo proud of himself for his great linguistic revalation; everyone who speaks a romantic-language understands Spanish!

I'm fluent in Spanish, but was raised in Italy (first three years). While visiting relatives, I was able to understand the Italian after the first two days, but my Spanish responses (thoroughly understood by all people in Spain) were met with "what the..." looks on the faces of my hosts, even after they understood I was speaking Spanish to them.

One host finally said to me in Italian, which I understood, "We know you understand our Italian, but we can't understand Spanish, even when it's spoken by someone from Spain."