Nathan bumped into his new neighbour while he was raking leaves in his front yard. Raul was staring thoughtfully into space as he returned from his adult English class.
“How is your ESL course?” asked Nathan.
Raul frowned “Not very well.”
“English is a crazy language.”
Nathan shrugged. “I guess it’s best you come to grips with that now.”
“Nothing means what it says. People drive in parkways and park in driveways. How does that make sense?” asked Raul.
“I hadn’t really thought about that,” said Nathan as he gathered a pile of leaves.
“What about this? One goose, two geese. But not one moose, two meese.”
“Sure, but how often are you gonna use that?”
“Oh yeah? If I refuse, am I speaking of garbage, or that I don’t want to do something?”
“It depends on how you say it.”
Raul helped Nathan fill the yard bag. “Sow, lead, wind, tear all mean something different if you say it differently. Why can’t it mean only one thing?”
“Don’t worry. It’ll gets easier the more you use it,” said Nathan.
“Why are there no apples in pineapples? And things burn up and down at the same time?”
“I’ve never really understood that either,” said Nathan.
“You know what else confuses me? People say one thing and they mean the opposite,” said Raul.
“I don’t follow.”
“Take the phrase ‘don’t take this the wrong way’. That means they want you to take it the wrong way. It’s kinda like saying ‘don’t be offended.’ What ever they say is going to be offensive. Get it?” asked Raul.
“That’s called irony.”
Raul frowned. “I don’t like it. It’s very confusing.”
Nathan thought for a second. “I suppose it depends on the context. It could also be sarcasm, or maybe metaphor. Oh, and then there’s slang. ‘Cool’ and ‘hot’ are terms for something good.”
“Are you okay?” asked Nathan.
Raul’s shoulders dropped. “Maybe it would be easier if I learned sign language.”