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The many “Englishes”

Written By: Usree Bhattacharya on July 27, 2008 No Comment

A few days ago, I was flipping channels when I came upon a new Target ad:

Ordinarily, I have no patience to watch TV commercials; I usually watch two shows at a time so I can watch something else when a commercial is playing (yes, I know that’s a little extreme, but I am sure I am not the only person out there doing this). However, this particular commercial had me spell-bound, even if it lasted just a few seconds. What really stood out for me was the music…it was peppy, unique, and gripping.

I immediately began a search to locate the commercial online. My first stop was Google, that trusty search engine, where if something isn’t, it isn’t. I was convinced that the song was in Portuguese [it seemed to be in a language similar to Spanish-one I can recognize, if not understand too well-and Brazilian Portuguese seemed like a good bet]-it had what appeared to me a Brazilian feel. Coming up empty, I tried what seemed like a gazillion search terms on Youtube-“target commercial dance brazil,” “target brazil commercials,” “target college ad Portuguese”, to no avail. There were many Target commercials, but none of them was the one I was looking for. I began thinking maybe I was “off” on the language, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what other language it could be.

My next couple of days passed in a daze…I obsessed at every turn about that song, and my irritation at not being able to find the song online mounted. Then, three days ago, an infomercial for a CD set called “Tropical Thunder” was running on TV, and I was only half listening, absorbed as I was on catching up on the news online. Suddenly, I heard the unmistakable melody of the song I was searching for…and I (embarrassingly) “Eureka-ed” out loud as the name of the song and the artist flashed momentarily across the screen. I furiously typed in the name of the song “Calabria” by the artist “Enur,” expecting to be routed to non-English sites.

As I held my breath, a site offering up its lyrics popped up, and I clicked on the link. Imagine my astonishment when I read the lyrics, and could understand the words! I found the song on Youtube, then heard the song while reading the lyrics. [Watch the video here:

and read the lyrics here.]

I could make sense of almost all the words! It wasn’t in Portuguese after all!

Now having downloaded the song and having heard it many, many times, I am unsure why I didn’t think even once that it could be in English: was it the kind of music? The “tropical” beat? I don’t know. The idea that there are many “Englishes” is certainly not new to me…but the way Jamaican patois threw me off was a fun way of being reminded of it. In a life circumscribed by mostly “standard” academic English, it was good to pause and remember that that’s not the only kind out there.

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