He/She/It: They all Float Down Here

I saw IT last week, only it was actually Ça, considering I saw it in a cinema in Liège. English-language films are generally dubbed here, but as it was a somewhat arty cinema, they were proud to offer the VO (version originale) with French and Dutch subtitles. Having two sets of subtitles taking up space on the screen is quite distracting, but it’s an interesting opportunity to compare English, French, and Dutch at the same time.

Watching a film with subtitles in a language you know is always a little odd, as they never translate things exactly, largely because such a thing is basically impossible. Even so, there are always one or two choices the subtitler makes which boggle the mind. I don’t recall anything like that in this case, but there was one necessary difference in translation that intrigued me.

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Who’da Thunk it!?

The English language has a complicated relationship with rules. Almost every major grammar rule you can think has at least a few exceptions. But then there are a few unwritten rules that English speakers adhere strictly to, even when we’re not aware of it. Still, English isn’t generally a stickler for the rules, which makes sense considering it’s quite a mongrel language. This is why I prefer to think of English as having patterns and trends, as opposed to rules. Today, I want to look at one of those trends. To do so, I’ll begin by asking you to consider what the following words have in common:

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