The Kink Kontroversy

Band: The Kinks
Album: The Kink Kontroversy
Best song: “Where Have All The Good Times Gone?”
Worst song: The opening track is blues rock. Not the Kinks’ best work.

English is an amazing language. From what I understand, it’s really difficult to learn when not your first language. It’s the language of Shakespeare and the Beatles and a million other geniuses. It’s wide-ranging and — at least until China becomes our benevolent overlords — remains the language of international business. A lot of that has to do with the United States’ standing in the world, as well as the colonialism of the British.

According to the Oxford Dictionary people, English probably has the most words of any language. The explanation is twofold. The first bit:

The reason for this is historical. English was originally a Germanic language, related to Dutch and German, and it shares much of its grammar and basic vocabulary with those languages. However, after the Norman Conquest in 1066 it was hugely influenced by Norman French, which became the language of the ruling class for a considerable period, and by Latin, which was the language of scholarship and of the Church. Very large numbers of French and Latin words entered the language. Consequently, English has a much larger vocabulary than either the Germanic languages or the members of the Romance language family to which French belongs.

Not that anyone asked (no one did), but I’m totally OK with this part. It’s history and whatever.

Secondarily, Oxford says “English is also very ready to accommodate foreign words, and as it has become an international language, it has absorbed vocabulary from a large number of other sources. ” This is the part that bothers me a bit.

It’s a really good thing that I’m not in and don’t want to be in the “having children” business. While I fancy myself a pretty open-minded cat, I tend to get really annoyed at people messing with first name spelling and the entire notion of boutique/trendy first names. My general feeling is this: We, as a language, have decided on a certain set of rules for names. PLease follow these rules and stop confusing me. Stop it with the -ayden thing, people.

It’s been said before, but giving a kid a name is not a shortcut to giving a kid a personality. The kid is going to be unique as s/he is going to be, regardless of whether you misspell his/her name. Davyd is not going to be any more interesting/special/erudite/ than if you spelled his fucking name correctly. The only difference is that everyone is going to resent him at the DMV, school, etc. for having a hard-to-spell name. The delineator is surname, everyone. Get with it.

This is all muddied up with the notion of pronunciation. I once went on a date with a girl called Abra. Abra is a Hebrew or Arabic name and it’s pronounced with a soft a. This young woman pronounced it like a shortened version of Abraham. The conversation went as follows, on said date:

Her: A-bra.
Me: But it’s a Hebrew name, right? Like Abra Moore. Soft a.
Her: But we don’t speak Hebrew. It’s English.
Me: (dumbfounded)

Other examples: Sandra, Juan, Mohammed. All names from different languages. All pronounced wildly incorrectly in English.

Moreover, in other languages, there are rules about where an accent is used on a word (Romance languages tend to pit the accent on the penultimate syllable, for example) and use accent marks (´) to indicate otherwise. In English, we mangle these borrowed words all the goddamned time. Shit, look at my last name. The vast majority of my family in the States pronounces it — including me, unless pressed — in some bizarre mangled, Anglicized form. When, indeed, my last name is pronounced like this.

I’ve got nothing really important to say about this, it’s just been bothering me for a bit. Like I said, I prefer to think of myself as an open-minded cat, but language is something with rules, you know?

The Kinks are probably the most English band to ever come out of England, though The Kink Kontroversy it the album that showed their transition best from garage rock upstarts/innovators to the smart Britons that they ecame on Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur. Ray Davies showed some signs of the poetic and intelligent on Kink Kontroversy on songs like “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” and “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” while still relying on hard power chords on “Til the End of the Day.”

The album also has one of the five best covers of all time.

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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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