On behalf of my girlfriend (also an engineer) and I, I would like to thank you for your comics! They are wonderful, and we have enjoyed them immensely over the last couple of years!
It's good that Trev's arm is improving. But surely if you're going to hit a bank, you'd need a mask, gun and a getaway driver? You certainly would in the UK! Funny how the same phrase has different connotations in two countries ostensibly speaking the same language, isn't it?
In Canada it depends entirely on who you're talking to. If you were associating with the sort of people who would hit a bank in that sense, it would have that meaning. In more pleasant company "Hit the X" means "go to X (and do whatever one normally does at an X)". In such company, one would use the term "knock over" or "rob" for robbing a bank.
And, in general, one must admit that English is probably the most varied languages in the world right now - mainly because of the distance between all those English speaking ex-colonies allowing for vast disparities in dialect. I don't think any other country has managed to spread its language so far, get everyone speaking their language and then let it collapse. Rome, maybe, but they built a much more coherent empire.
"English is probably the most varied languages in the world right now" -- interesting that you should also mention Ancient Rome in this context! While there are interesting and sometimes confusing differences between variants of English spoken in the various remnants of the British Empire, those differences are nothing compared to what happened to Latin after the Roman Empire. Try getting around in France speaking nothing but Italian! Who knows what 2000 years will do to modern English?
I was actually referring more along the lines of scale of the respective empires. There have been bigger territories, like Genghis and Alexander, but those tended to disintegrate before there was much social impact on the locals. Rome and the British Empire are probably the two biggest empires that took territory and held it long enough to get a substantial portion of the population speaking English before letting it fall apart.
That said, I imagine that if travel were as restricted now as it was back after the fall of Rome, we'd end up with Australian and South African and Canadian and American (and at least a dozen others, to cover just the large ex-British colonies) as mutually incomprehensible languages. However, with modern globalization, odds are much of the world is going to end up speaking some kind of fusion of Chinese and English. (I know, Firefly kinda did that, but honestly, half the world conducts business in English as it stands, and everyone wants to do business with China, so those 2 languages have the best chances in a fully globalized world.)
In reality, the reason that English hasn't collapsed is precisely *because* it's unconstrained by rules; it develops over time, taking account of the need for new and revised meanings - even if that is a bit confusing at times. The French language will eventually die out, simply because les immortels de L'Académie française try to preserve it the way it was centuries ago. If you want a meeting with one of the immortals, try saying 'Je vais vous répondre le week-end.' and watch the sparks fly... The French parliament debated protection of the regional dialects of France in 2008, and the academy objected furiously. And they lost. But that doesn't stop them, oh no...
On the other hand, the Academy does do one thing for the French. It's a hell of a lot easier to learn the rules of grammar in the language. English appears to have rules that are defined by quantum mechanics solutions: I before E except after C's full version works out to something like:
I comes after E because of preceeding C 25.8% of the time
I comes after E because of being required to produce an "ey" sound 57.3% of the time
I comes after E because it feels like it the remaining percentage of the time.
(Compare this to the position of an electron, which includes a small probability that puts the electron something along the lines of "anywhere but the orbital everyone thinks it's in." English has a higher percentage, but the point is they share that characteristic of having a probability of breaking what one assumes *should* be for a reason that isn't readily available. (I'm sure people who know the ins and outs of Quantum know why the electron spends a fraction of a percent of its time not in its orbital, but there's also etymologists who can (probably) explain why "weird", "their" and several dozen other words completely break the I before E rule and it's standard exceptions.))
I honestly don't understand why they bother with phonics. Given the lack of rules that actually work, teaching us a method of sounding out words, then having us memorize spellings and grammar rules and the like is a much better option.
Linguistic watchdogs like the French Academy try to keep the language at least somewhat organized, while English is a total mess. (On behalf of all of us, I apologize to the people trying to learn English after growing up and losing that mental elasticity that makes kids so good at picking things up)
That said, if you *really* want to offend a representative of the Academy (or indeed, the majority of Frenchmen), go to Quebec, learn french the way they speak it, then go to France. You way want to polish up on your martial arts skills while you're in Quebec, though; you may need them. :p
The whole point is that the language *shouldn't* be forcibly organised - that's where it will eventually break down. I agree that the use of 'rules' is a little suspect - just learning the words works better. I think one of the problems with the rules is that there probably is a little more logic to them, but it's all to do with other rules about modifiers, etc. Okay, some of the spellings are a little arcane, as are some of the meaning changes for very little spelling change. But before Samuel Johnson came along, things were a lot worse... but the difference between him and the Academie is that he *didn't* say that we couldn't have any more words!
Trevor has been feeling much better, thanks to everyone who sent your concerns! The first two weeks were really rough, but he's out of his sling now and into phisio. :)