Furor Over Language All Over Again

Furor Over Language All Over Again

October 15, 2011 Diary 0

The swimsuits and long gowns be damned. Sure, I love me some pretty dresses – but I also love me some Q&A!

I really don’t care about how the Q&A portion purportedly brings out personality traits or the true poise of pageant contestants. There might actually be a pool of Q&A questions somewhere out there, all of them dealing with love for one’s country, race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and self – all of them jumbled up and contrasted with each other in an attempt to create a question that should be pondered on instead of being answered in seconds.

Well, no, not really.

I’m still waiting for that question that makes pageant contestants squirm like leeches in peanut butter. “What characteristic would you change?” is always going to be answered with something to the tune of, “I love myself and I won’t change anything.” “Would you change anything for the one you love?” is always going to get a reply along the lines of, “If a person loved me, he would love me for who I am, with no changes.”

Etcetera, etcetera, blah blah blaaaah.

I want a really hard question out there. “What is the volume of a building in the form of a cylinder placed atop a regular cube, where each side of the cube is twice the height of the cylinder? Use X to represent your answer.”

Heck, yeah.

You want real poise? “What would you do if you fell down flat on your face in front of the Queen, and, in the process, mistakenly took her dress for support and tore it off of her?” That would be – unrealistic. But it would be scary!

You want ethics? “Your favorite charity is running out of money, but a major philanthropist is willing to fund it forever – ONLY if you help him build a chain of abortion clinics. Will you take the money? Why or why not?” No, it’s not funny – but it’s a hard question, and one that can be answered on a variety of fronts.

What about innovation? “What new portion would you add to the Ms. Universe pageant? What would you take out? Why?” Personally, I’d ditch the swimsuit portion and have a debate amongst all the candidates. That would be awesome!

Question quality aside, pageant Q&As are pretty fun to watch. What I get annoyed with, however, are people who whine about the answers afterward. In the recent Ms. Universe, for instance, people started complimenting Ms. Philippines on her ability to answer the question without needing an interpreter – then ended their day by speculating on whether she would have won the crown had she chosen to speak in Tagalog instead.

Oh boy, here we go again.

Is English really the universal language that every candidate must know? Should all candidates in a beauty contest be well versed in English? Is being well versed in English a sign of education?

An interpreter, if anything, might embellish an answer if they favor a candidate. But wouldn’t we have had people protesting an interpreter’s interpretation if they watched the pageant and disagreed with how the interpreter translated the contestant’s answer? An interpreter might also provide a good buffering zone: contestants are nervous when they step up to the Q&A plate, and having an interpreter around could give the contestants a few seconds of breathing space before they have to tackle the question.

So, if anything, Ms. Philippines did not have an edge because she knew English. That would be classist and elitist, to tell the truth. Ms. Philippines had an edge because she answered the question within seconds, and with no interpreter to give her some breathing space before she had to answer it. Her answer was to the point. Regardless of her language of choice, she might have simply been a direct person who knew that she was pressed for time and couldn’t beat around the bush with a poorly-crafted answer (or worse, a non-answer).

And now, for some major (major) work…