Last Friday I was travelling home by train. As we approached the mountains that separate Asturias from the great plains of Central Spain, I struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to me, who I’d seen using English in a message he’d been writing on his phone.
He turned out to be an American businessman from Chicago, and almost immediately he remarked on the vast fields of wheat we were passing through, and their similarity to the areas of the Midwest he was from. We then got on talking about the usual things – climate change, Brexit, Brexit, climate change, and so on.
As we were talking about the wheat all around us, he started to tell me about the corn they grew in his part of the States. By AmE ‘corn’ I knew he meant BrE maize, and so I wasn’t surprised when he told me that by now it would be 7 to 8 feet high in the fields. I’d seen this so many times in films, with people running between the rows of corn for one or other reason.
What I didn’t expect though, was his next revelation. Following on from something I’d said about climate change, he told me that in the area where he farmed they’d had ‘bumper craps’ for the last three years.
I confess I was thrown for a few seconds while I frantically searched for some sort of logic. If there could be no joy in prolonged constipation, what was the fun of abundant depositions? Then the accent machine kicked in, I realised that his vowels (or ‘bowels’ as my Spanish students would say) weren’t the same as mine, and everything slipped back into place. The incident left me wondering, though, if in the end we might not have to revise the Lingua Franca Core to include certain vowel qualities to accompany the long vowel in ‘her’, which is the only quality Jenkins 2000 LFC stipulated. Then again, it’s probably not worth the effort; a lot of people think the LFC is a load of crap anyway.