Brianna Jentz
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Waiting for a Police Box to Whisk Me Away

October 9, 2010 @ 12:08 PM | Permalink


“Doctor Who” Language


There are very few Sci-fi television shows that have captivated my interest as much as the new version of “Doctor Who.” I do enjoy books and movies such as “Harry Potter” and “LOTR,” but those are considered fantasy and not sci-fi. Scientific fiction has perplexed me for quite a while and made me very leery to endeavor into its tricky world.. The closest I ever got was watching “Star Wars,” but I was never obsessed over it. The revival of “Doctor Who” by BBC television is different though. I'm not sure if it's the writing, time travel, or the fact that I have a star crush on David Tennant, but it fascinates me every time. Where else do you get a show about a blue police box and the possible destruction of a world? Every time The Doctor and his companion save the world with a sonic screwdriver while flying in the T.A.R.D.I.S. from a Dalek yelling “exterminate,” chills run down my spine. What if Queen Victoria had actually gave the directive that created Torchwood? What if William Shakespeare had been bewitched and that's how he came up with some of his ideas? What if there was a parallel world where Rose and the human version of The Doctor lived happily ever after? Wouldn't you agree that this would be fantastic?

Wait you don't know what a sonic screwdriver is? Please tell me you know what a Dalek is. No, how can this be? Do you live under a rock?

Even in this extreme case of “Doctor Who” mania (yes, I do really like Doctor Who), it is evident that not everyone speaks the same language. Before anyone asks the question, “do you live under a rock?” it should be remembered that not everyone shares the same culture. In this case, “Doctor Who” fans are part of a co-culture which has a shared language. Many fans would have a dominant culture that they ascribe to, but they would also understand the lingo of the co-culture. For instance an Englishman who is a fan would speak British English, but he/she would also understand words that are only on the show. He/She would understand that a T.A.R.D.I.S. is the Doctor's time machine that resembles a blue police box. Someone who has never seen the show would not know this. Television is a rather silly example, but it makes the point that language is a huge part of the symbols that make up culture. Language shapes the way that we see the world and how we communicate. I have studied French for a couple years and have learned parts of the syntax(grammar) and semantic(meaning of single words). Overall I have found this part simple, but when it comes to the pragmatic (meanings of full phrases), it becomes slightly harder. For example, the phrase “passer l'examen” looks very close to “pass an exam,” but it actually means “to take an exam.” There are many rules in French that are different than in English so it is very important to be aware.

Last night, I finished “Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone,” which is the “Brittish” version of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” There were no major differences that stood out to me. There was only one wording that really struck me. Hermoine Granger, the overachiever, kept telling Ron and Harry that they needed to do their “revisions” because the final tests were ten weeks away. It took me a second or two to figure out that she meant that they needed to be studying. When I hear the word “revisions” I think of editing for papers while J.K. Rowling's character meant “reviewing for exams.” If I had not realized that there was a difference in semantics I would have assumed that Ron and Harry were very bad paper writers and needed ten weeks to finish their edits.

Language is also very important for maintaining social relationships and defining gender roles. I see this clearly in the French language. Like English, there are more words for a female than there are for males. In English, there is Miss, Ms., and Mrs. while for men there is only Mr. In French the words for Females are Madame and Mademoiselle while for men it's Monsieur. Madame Gottlieb explained to me that the French female distinction is based on age not martial status like it is in the United States. Women in France are more respected when they get older. Still they are not viewed equally with men. There are two words in French equivalent to the English word “they.” Ils and Elles both mean “they,” but “elles” can only be used when the group is composed of all females. If there is even one male present “ils” must be used. I am happy that the American language does not have this distinction. I believe that a group is a group no matter the gender ratio.

Communication differences between men and women are more similar than they are different. It is not true that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” But back to talking about outer-space , The Doctor once saved the Earth from the Time Lords' return which would have caused the restart of the Time Lord and Dalek war. The Cybermen also invaded and tried to assimilate all human life into their ranks........ that's co-culture language :)


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