30 September 2002
David Blunkett has a greater problem with language in the home than he realises. While he frets over immigrant families failing to chatter away in English over the dinner table, he ignores the horrifying truth that hardly anyone, at least in my house, speaks the language properly anymore. If we do get them all round the dinner table at one time it sounds like a meeting of some bizarre international commission for whaling perhaps, or snowboarding.
A lifetime of Australian soaps means that Subjudice cannot finish a sentence without it going up at the end? So everything she says sounds like a question? Even the most banal statement - "No worries mummy, I don't have any homework to do tonight?" - becomes imbued with uncertainty, as if she is constantly seeking affirmation. It's almost the title of an academic study isn't it? 'All you need is Neighbours: Australian soaps and their contribution to the societal dislocation of teenage unease'. It'll all end in drugs, I suppose. Or fundamentalist religion.
Meanwhile, Deminimus has taken up karate and is fascinated with all things eastern. He is currently pursuing the way of the warrior, so he speaks little, preferring to listen to the sound of the world, and what a relief that is, I can tell you. He prefaces all his statements with a short, formal bow, and ends them with an explosive "Hai!" involving a complicated scissoring of the legs and a lethal one-two with the hands that can dispatch unwary table lamps to the great car boot sale in the sky if they're lurking too near. It can be disconcerting when he's ordering us all a Happy Meal at McDonald's. I could see two mothers mouthing: "Epilepsy, such a shame," at each other after swimming the other day.
Liability has chosen the other side of the world, specifically MTV, for her cultural influences, and has reinvented herself as a tiny ghetto-fabulous 'ho', wandering round a lot in my feather boa and hotpants, which are actually an old pair of Deminimus's shorts cut à la Brazilian football team c. 1972, and referring to her school friends as "my bitches". Mind you, I know for a fact you can get that sort of language from our own dear Radio One. I'm quite looking forward to her grandmother actually washing her mouth out with soap, as she's always threatened to do.
And what can we say of the Lawyer? Solicitors, of course, never express themselves in English, choosing instead a complicated quasi-technical speak involving tricky clauses and much verbing of nouns, such as interfacing with the next door neighbour, migrating the plates to the dishwasher, and so on. I think the Lawyer gets a lot of his language tips from all the appeals for money and bank account details from Nigeria clogging up our email at home. They tend to start "Dear and reverend sir, your assistance is craved pertinent to a business proposition of profound magnitude", and go on to describe horrible plane crashes and money resting in dodgy accounts. I'm sure there's a way we can stop them, but we are, alas, defeated by technology.
Then there's the fact that no husband ever tells you anything anyway, so it doesn't matter whether he speaks English or Chinese, you'll still never know that great aunt Ida is coming to stay for two weeks, or that he's remortgaged the house.
And Lawyers will still abandon English for Latin if they feel it clarifies things. "Will you be building it in situ?" the Lawyer asked the man we've employed to put up a new garden shed.
"No mate, I'll be building it in your garden," he replied.