Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Language sufficiently foreign sounds like monkeys

Okay, bear with me on this one. The premise is from an old Sherlock Holmes film where people are viciously attacked and witnesses describe a short, muscular man talking in a strange, foreign language. The good detective quizes them about what it sounds like "Romanian?", "Peruvian?". Upon further questioning they admit they have never heard any of these languages, it's just what they imagine it would sound like.

Fast forward about a hour because the that's how the Basil Rathbone SH stories were arranged. The 'clue' is early on and the rest is just prancing around for the cast. The answer is that it is a trained attack monkey/ape, hence its sounds were never inteligble speech but given the presumption of human origin, were attributed to unknown foreigners. (Hey, it's an old film).

I was reminded of this on the bus today as the usual unwillingness of people to move away from the doors (why is that?) caused a jam at the front and the driver had to shout a bit to get things moving. Now, I'm reasonably accostomed to Chinese, Malay, a spot of Hindi, Philipino, but whatever he was barking out was something completely different. Possiby Hokkien as there are a lot of native-Hokkien speaking bus drivers for some reason. Still, the tone left little to the imagination.