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Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Evidence that Fran-Fran can talk about the can-can


Do you know about modal verbs?  It doesn't matter if you don't.  You won't have a less fulfilling life.  It's not like not knowing about green meaning go and red meaning stop, or that a wasp on the rim of your lemonade can is a bad sign, or that taking your earrings off over a sink means oops only one earring left, or that opening the door to a double-glazing salesperson means three hours off your life expectancy, or that letting a two year old dress herself means you have to accept her woolly jumper/tutu/wellies/flat cap ensemble.

I do know about modal verbs, but that's because I have to teach them at school, not because I woke up one day saying, 'Hey, I know what's missing from my life!  No wonder I've been feeling low.'

My boss told me today that she teaches modal verbs using the Beverley Knight song 'Shoulda Woulda Coulda'.  If you didn't know already what modal verbs were, does that give you a clue?

Just in case you'd care more for neck acne than for modals, but you like Beverley Knight and fancy a listen to a great tune, here she is singing it live.  It's ace.

A brief distraction from the worries of life, care of Beverley Knight

I'm not as inventive as my boss and, anyway, I have only just learned how to show a Youtube clip in class WITH sound.  So I've been teaching modals by asking what's the difference between 'I must do my homework ... I may do my homework ... I could do my homework ... I will do my homework ... I should do my homework ...'  Each one has a slightly different meaning and the modal verb changes the 'strength' of the word 'do', giving elements of choice or possibility.  Or taking them away.

(Of course, the answer is, 'I must do my homework.'  Whatever the question.)

Beverley Knight and my boss got me thinking.  What other songs have modals in?  What would happen if the modal was a different one?

Celine Dion's heart might have gone on.  But might not.

The Rolling Stones would have sung 'I Shouldn't Get No Satisfaction' and their scanning would have been all out of synch to add to the pre-existing grammar problems.

Boys II Men would have sung 'I Might Make Love to You' instead of 'I Will Make Love to You' and may not have got the chance to make love at all, with that kind of shilly-shallying around.

Pete Seeger would have discovered that singing 'We Could Overcome' didn't draw quite the crowds of the original.

Whitney Houston's 'I Must Always Love You' would have been a song about doing your duty and one you'd sing to an aunt you only just tolerated at Christmas or a mongrel you'd inherited when a friend turned out to be allergic and you took him on out of a feeling of obligation.

And those frilly ladies doing the can-can in gay Paris would have found things very awkward indeed.


Yes, they could could, while they were young.





And then the options for live entertainment got a bit more limited.





18 comments:

  1. Rod Stewart's old classic might not have been half so catchy if it was "Maggie Should" though "Maggie Might" or "Maggie Will" would give it very different connotations...

    P.S. I might watch The Voice more if it was presented by May I Am.

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    1. I see you're the first in line to post comments which are funnier than my actual post. Sigh.

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    2. The Proclaimers (hedging their bets): "I Might Walk 500 Miles..."

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  2. 'There should be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover....'(well, there should, except that they're gulls, and they're all scavanging off rubbish tips in Devizes.

    Lovely post. Btw I had a gorgeous boyfriend in my youth, who called me Fran-Fran. He used to leave me little notes addressed to 'Fran-Fran loveliest'.(My turn to sigh).

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    1. Oh crikey. If my boss reads your comment, I'm going to be Fran-Fran from now on, I just know it. She calls me Frannie already without my explicit permission. Your comment about the seagulls made me laugh. I will avoid Devizes (apart from Linguistic Devizes).

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  3. Elton John must have stayed on the farm. That's the only possible explanation for saying goodbye to the yellow brick road.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I have thought the same myself, often.

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  4. Very funny, and educational as well.

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    1. I wish my pupils said the same.

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  5. I recall once having a speciality lecture on collective bargaining negotiations based almost entirely on Paul Simon lyrics. I shoulda kept it, I suppose.

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    1. You shoulda. It sounds as though it needed Paul Simon lyrics to make it bearable and stop you all hanging yourselves from light fittings.

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  6. I never knew those words were called modals, but it hasn't hampered my life one bit.
    Although I've been thinking often enough that I woulda stayed in school if I coulda.

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    1. I shoulda done better at school, too. I hadda catch up later, unfortunately.

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  7. Don't know why, but I'm reminded of something my solicitor once quipped, "Where there's a will, there's a relative."

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    1. That reminds me of a joke about a man called John who keeps asking his dying father to remember him in his will. 'I definitely will, my son,' the dad says. John isn't satisfied and still keeps asking. 'John, I will not forget you,' says the dad. Again, John asks. 'Will you remember me in your will?' 'Yes, son. You can rely on me.' When the will is read out, John listens as all his relatives get a share of the inheritance, and then at the end, the solicitor says, 'And the last sentence is, 'John, I said I would remember you, and I have. Hi there, son.'

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  8. Dolly Parton " I should / would always love you ( but I don't ) "

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    1. Or, 'I might even love you' (if you bought me a Mercedes).

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    2. "I could love you... but there are conditions... "

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