New York

Semester two

Some people have signature phrases or words they tend to use, consciously or unconsciously. I remember from my childhood a local dignitary who was a frequent speaker at school events. He liberally sprinkled his speeches with the phrase “and if I may say so’, and all us kids would have fun counting how many times it occurred.
I have a few hallmark phrases myself; one of them is that pseudo-sporting metaphor ‘hit the ground running’. What started off as ironic usage has now unfortunately become part of my idiolect. But that’s exactly what life has been like the last few weeks, with the impenetrable red tape of starting a new semester, and getting back up to the world speed at which everything happens round here. During the same period Mike and Lilli came to visit so I had to prise myself out of my comfort zone – the square mile around the university – and go downtown, because that’s where people want to be. I have been a reluctant tourist so far, but, in my defence, study commitments don’t leave much time for that sort of thing. I am realising gradually that I will have to wait for visitors with a highly organised sightseeing schedule and explore the city with them.
In order to qualify for my international student visa I have to enrol in four classes a semester, which is a lot of reading and writing. This term one of my classes is Conversation Analysis, which studies how talk is structured into turns and sequences, and how speakers ‘get things done’. This involves a forensic analysis and transcription of people’s utterances, where we have to mark pitch change, micro pauses and something called ‘rush ons’. For a top-down person like me this attention to minute detail is challenging, and my first transcription was completed (semi-satisfactorily) only after a good deal of blood, sweat, and tears. But the classCA pic is conceptually very interesting and yesterday at the Nail Spa I found myself eavesdropping on two blokes having a pedicure (this is New York) and wishing I could record the conversation.

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