Aliens, Sting and the modern Hamlet dilemma

Aliens, Sting and the modern Hamlet dilemma

Imagine you are on a road trip in the USA and you are in a desperate need of making a stop. You drive to this parking lot, searching for an empty spot, when you see this:

Only aliens can park here? Suddenly, you remember Hamlet agonizing over existential issues while talking to a skull and the following question pops to mind: to park or not to park?

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And here’s why: According to my English dictionary and Sting you can. Why would Sting sing: “Oh, I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York” otherwise?

You see Semantics is on your side here because the word alien refers not only to extraterrestrial creatures but also to humans that come from another country. So, no one is going to give you a parking ticket, right?

BUT, according to that little guy on the sign, who is definitely not human, you can’t. A bit confused? Well, while Semantics tells you that you can, Pragmatics comes to the picture and tells you that you can’t. In order to decide what a word really means you must put it into context. And what’s the context here? You can only park if you fly in a UFO and have the good looks of that extraterrestrial! So, If I were you, I’d go park somewhere else!

The whole alien situation here is to make a point. We should always stress  the importance of context to our students. In order to understand what someone really wants to say we have to take into consideration the context. And you’ll probably want to advise them against using Google translate because they may come up with sentences like “Miss, I can’t hear you because there are vacations” (a student of mine used Google translate in a chat during distance learning, wanting to show off. As a speaker of Greek I understood what she wanted to say but I doubt anyone else would: She couldn’t hear me because her internet connection was coming and going).

And here’s a Sting worksheet: You can share it or download it as a pdf file! 

Englishman in New York by STING

1 Comment

  1. Βαρβάρα

    Wonderful article, loved the Sting worksheet!💗

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