E4R: Answers to Pop Quiz #1


If you haven’t taken the Pop Quiz already, then go ahead and do so before reading further because what follows are the ANSWERS. Yay! Three cheers for answers.

Ready?

If you’re a highly educated person you probably missed that I mischievously put an “extra” question on the test. I deliberately embed all kinds of textual “Easter eggs” in just about everything I write, mostly to make me giggle with glee but also because they are a reward for readers who enjoy such things.

Therefore if you’re highly educated you’ve probably taken a lot of tests and are very obedient and thus began with the number 1. And therefore you might’ve missed this phrase in the introduction:

real sentences that I’ve heard spoken with my own ears

I have indeed heard these sentences with my own ears but they were not spoken by my own ears, which is what this sentence is implying. To be absolutely clear I would have to write “with my own ears, I have heard the following real sentences spoken”. Did you catch that one? Yay, three cheers and a sloppy wet kiss for you.

Okay, onto the numbered parts of the test!

Number 1 is based on a mix-up of prepositions, quite common by native speakers of Romanian. Ieri am fost la mall is certainly correct. The problem is that the preposition “la” sometimes is translated as “at” in English and sometimes it’s not.

Prepositions are just tricky buggers like that, as they never quite translate “one for one” as many nouns and verbs do. You might remember my post on transportation prepositions for many such examples.

In English however to “go at” something (usually someone) means to either physically or verbally attack that thing (or person). Therefore “going at the mall”, as odd as it sounds, could equally mean answers A, B or D and be perfectly legitimate (grammatically speaking). I am curious what the mall had to say in response though or whether it just ignored you as usual, unfeeling bastard that it is!

Number 2 – Again based on mistakes that native Romanian speakers make as they translate “word for word”. In correct Romanian it is perfectly fine to say they made a movie “dupa” a book or “after” the book but the correct translation of what is meant there would be answer A because in English we say “based upon” to mean the same thing in this context.

Answer B is a bit of trickery on my part because while the question has the words “movie, book” in that order, answer B actually reverses the chronology of these events. In other words, in the question the movie came first then the book while in answer B the book came first and then the movie. This is why careful reading (or listening) is important!

Answer C is the literal translation because “after” means something that falls chronologically subsequent to the first thing. First came the movie and then after that came the book (and then came the chicken and then the egg, just so we’re all clear).

Answer D could also be a literal translation because it’s unclear what “they” are doing with the book. We know that they “made” a movie but we’re not quite sure what they did with the book. It is however implied that they “made” (wrote? published? read?) the book first and then made a movie.

Number 3 – This is from an old audio recording which I’ve unfortunately lost and cannot find online anywhere. It was from the band Outkast goofing around in the studio and talking about one time when a local (white) sheriff from Augusta (a city in Georgia) stopped the band and asked them lots of questions, including the question from number three on the quiz.

The main thing to understand here is that the phrasing of number three is clearly AAVE or the way some American black people talk (including of course the members of Outkast). This is an important contextual clue which can help you understand what the speaker is trying to say.

The reason the white sheriff was inquiring about teeth was because of a fashion that does not exist in Romania or Europe (and hence making this question difficult for some people to parse), which is the wearing of (quite often costly) gold or precious metal teeth, known by their slang term grills. Therefore the white sheriff is boggled and amazed at the amount of money that these black rappers have spent on their teeth.

Answer A is close to the original meaning by the sheriff but “dental work” implies a more standard bit of dentistry for practical or aesthetic purposes while grills serve a purely decorative function.

Answers B and D both reference the fact that “be costing” sounds like the gerund form of the verb in standard English and thus it implies an ongoing event.

Answer C would probably be closest to what the sheriff was actually asking, assuming he was speaking in the prestige dialect and not the way actual white sheriffs from rural towns in Georgia speak.

Incidentally there’s a lot of odd divisions when it comes to referring to one’s body parts, in both English and Romanian. Romanians say “wash the hands” where the owner of hands (you) is implied using a reflexive verb while English speakers say “wash my hands” to be more direct. But English speakers say “I got hit in the shoulder” implying one’s own body, hence the humorous reference to the mouth paying for the dental work rather than the person to whom the mouth belongs :P

Number 4 – For some reason a lot of native Romanian speakers mix up gendered personal pronouns, namely “he” and “she” in this case. Why this is so, I have no idea as the English forms do not resemble the Romanian forms (el and ea, respectively) so there doesn’t seem to be any logic to it.

Nonetheless, I have heard this “pronoun switch” a lot over the years and I and fellow native English speakers have had a lot of fun trying to guess what the supposed “true meaning” of these switched pronouns is, hence answers A, B, C and D. Long story short, this question was written just because it made me laugh. I mean what exactly are you supposed to think when someone says “my father, she is a good man”?

I realize that there are barely any words in English with a grammatical gender so please don’t screw up the few that do exist! :)

Number 5 – A classic bit of misdirection due to the fact that in English the grammar is vague enough that the meaning is entirely unclear. Therefore this is more of a mistake a native speaker would make rather than a Romanian because in Romanian (due to its complicated as fuck but actually quite precise grammar) the noun performing the deed (discovering the painting) is always crystal clear.

Answer A is rationally ridiculous but technically possible based on the way the original sentence was written.

Answer B is clearly what is implied but that’s only because you know trees can’t “discover” things in this sense. If the original sentence was “the painting was discovered by the man” then it would be unclear whether variation A or B was the one meant by the speaker.

Answer C is me having fun with the verb “discover” because just like Van Gogh’s paintings, sometimes it takes someone else to recognize the worth of something before it is popularly accepted by society at large (*informationcascadecoughcough*)

Answer D is mocking the fact that many Europeans love to boast about how they “discovered” lands that were inhabited for centuries if not millennia by aboriginal peoples who certainly as hell were quite aware of where they had been living all of their lives and did not require any outside assistance to “discover” it.

Now if you’re Romanian and you remember that the category of these posts is “English for Romanians” you may wonder why these sorts of things (i.e. mistake native speakers would make) are included. Well, there are several answers, one being that if you’re speaking English it’s likely at some point you will speak it with a native (instead of just parroting it back to your teacher in Romania) and it’s good to be prepared for what kind of mistakes you could encounter.

But secondly, as I’ve mentioned (seemingly) about a thousand times, sometimes it is the act of making these mistakes which gives you the appearance of being a better speaker of English, due to the fact that speaking English correctly is a dead giveaway that you’re a foreigner (or the Queen of England, and you look nothing like her). Think of these mistakes as a kind of “camouflage” to help you blend in, such as the following:

Number 6 – Again this is a mistake made extremely mega super often by native speakers and never by speakers of Romanian because of the inherit nature of Romanian grammar.

I’d say about 99% of all native English speakers cannot get it into their fucking heads the difference between “I, me and myself” and therefore find themselves completely unable to understand noun cases in languages such as Romanian. You can say the words “vocative” and “dative” all day long and it’s like asking a blind person to understand the word “blue”.

Answer A is grammatically correct but would sound awkward to a native speaker because they believe that the word “I” can only be used to begin a sentence and never any other time whatsoever no matter what, even if your hair is on fire and the first fireman on the scene is a particularly fastidious stickler for personal pronouns and so you must speak correctly or else you’ll die an agonizing death.

Answer B is what is implied in the original because “my daughters love me” is certainly a valid sentence and what’s added on is the fact that they also love “the same TV show” seemingly with equal measure.

Answer C is my parody of AAVE with that the “false gerund” (verbs ending in -ing) again similar to number 3 above about the teeth.

If you really stretch the possible “correct” interpretations of number 6 and add a comma then you might get answer D from “My daughters’ love, the same TV as me”.

Number 7 – This one is another classic that is open to different interpretations based on where the pause is when spoken.

Answer A is a perfectly acceptable interpretation because “world” and “news” are two separate and unrelated nouns. “End of the world” is the topic of the news.

Answer B is predicated upon the fact that “world news” could be a single thing even though it’s two words. There are a lot of compound (two or more words treated as one thing/action) nouns and verbs in English, which can sometimes be tricky.

For example “turn on” is a compound verb. In America it has two senses. Therefore “I turned the light on” would mean activating the light to the “on” position while “I turned on the light” would mean that one stimulated the light in a sexual way ;)

Answer C is again a stretch but also valid, made more comprehensible by the use of a question mark, “It’s the end of the world? News!”

Long story short = be exceedingly cautious when using compound nouns or verbs.

AND NOW YOU KNOW!

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3 Responses »

  1. I always like these kind of articles to make more improvements in my english (i’m a beginner,i admit that,teaching freely myself here on the net watching others and from the movies downloaded from the net with romanian subtitles).
    To understand a foreign language,we must be careful with those native speakers of that language how they write and speak their language.

  2. Listen the “song of the day” (my opinion,of course!:)):
    Fleet Foxes – Mykonos (from the album Sun Giant-2009)
    search on youtube…it’s free there to find it.
    The song made my day,really!

  3. Well, Sam, thank you for teaching us. I am right now in the US and I attend an ESOL class. In the same class there are people from other countries too and I noticed that they make the same mistake with these pronouns “she” and “he”. It is not specific to Romanians. There is also explicable why Romanians make so many mistakes when they speak English. First of all they speak the language occasionally, so without daily practice nobody can be really fluent. Second, they use Romanian language word order. This comes naturally to them and especially for the beginners it’s unavoidable.They practically translate word by word. Again, this is not common only to Romanians. I still struggle with this though I have been here for almost 4 years. Probably, as I know from you (thanks again!), because I learn the language as an adult not as a child, I will never be able to speak it perfectly right. Yes, I did have those crushing inferiority feelings you noticed we Romanians have when we are not sure about our own abilities but now I feel better as long as I can have a decent conversation and I can make myself understood. I could have written this message in Romanian but I have preferred to practice my English writing skills. Otherwise, there are little opportunities for me to do it. How many times, so far, did I make you smile with my English horrors, I mean errors? Oh, and prepositions like at, to, in etc still are killing me, too. I hate them!! I rarely get them right. Again, this is not specific only to Romanians…
    Acum, stii!

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