Re: two nations divided by a common tongue

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Tue Jan 25 2000 - 00:42:17 MST

From: Damien Broderick <> Sun, 23 Jan 2000

>Aargh - I just worked out what was going wrong in this exchange:
>Damien (not fluent in American)

Don't be too hard on yourself, Damien! Sometimes, someone may not even
think that English is your native tongue!

Late last Fall, I received a referee comment on my big paper,
(that comes out of part of my thesis):

        <<The English, while clear, is a little awkward in a few
        places, and would benefit from proofreading by a native
        English speaker.>>

Imagine the crushing blow...! Not only because English _is_ my
native language, but in addition, I've been actively practicing my
science journalist writing skills for the last decade, and now
consider myself to be somewhat of a science journalist.

What could I say to comment like that? The best I could do was
find some humor in the whole ego-crushing experience, and
so, I said the following in my response:

"I (Amara) _am_ a native English speaker, the only native English
speaker out of the author list, actually. Perhaps my California
roots lend to my speech sounding foreign (as California is
considered by many Americans to be like a foreign country).

I proof-read our paper, and I edited it to read as smoothly as
possible, given the English that I know."

Some of my co-authors were scratching their heads trying to figure
out what this referee was talking about, and they began to conclude
that perhaps this referee wanted me to get a "true" native English
speaker to proof-read my paper -- that is, a proof-reader from England!

I have to say that this referee's comment and the upheaval to my
sense-of-self turned my rather grinding
editing/writing/calculating/time-sink paper into a big humorous
experience. Years from now, when this paper is at the bottom of my
dust-heap of science papers, I will remember this particular paper
most by this one referee's comment.


By the way, a couple of years ago I discovered a really interesting
and entertaining book about the English language. You might like
it too:

_Mother Tongue: English and how it Got that Way_ by Bill Bryson


Amara Graps | Max-Planck-Institut fuer Kernphysik
Interplanetary Dust Group | Saupfercheckweg 1
+49-6221-516-543 | 69117 Heidelberg, GERMANY *
        "Never fight an inanimate object." - P. J. O'Rourke

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:02:39 MDT