Waltzing on the WebI'm feeling lighthearted and buoyant today, February 14, 2017, so I'm sharing with Forum members and my Facebook friends and fans this essay that I wrote way back in 2003 about the wonders of the then newly emergent World Wide Web.
I donât remember now if it was because the Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle had fallen in love with the English phonetics expert Professor Henry Higgins, or because she had miraculously acquired such exquisite English under his tutelage that she had convinced the crusty London upper class that she was a member of Hungarian royalty. But there she was ecstatically singing âI Could Have Danced All Nightâ in that magical bedroom scene of the 1964 movie production of the stage musical My Fair Lady
, waltzing all by herself and wondering what brought her so much joy: I could have danced all night, I could have danced all night
And still have begged for more. I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things Iâve never done before.
Iâll never know what made it so exciting,
Why all at once my heart took flightâŠ
For some reason, this was the image that came to mind when it dawned on me how wonderful and how indescribably powerful the World Wide Web is. That was seven years ago, when my four-year initiation with the personal computer and word processing finally led me to the joys of sending and receiving electronic mail on the Internet, and of entering its chat rooms to talk with friends and strangers in every imaginable place in the planet. I thought then that that
was the ultimate high, making my personal presence felt not only in my immediate neighborhood but also anywhere where there was a soul with a computer and a fax modem. But I was wrong. I was soon to discover an even bigger high: that with my personal computer and the Web, the whole world and most everything that it had to offer were now literally at my fingertips.
Like most people, I began using the computer as simply a more elegant and more efficient typewriter. That was when it was no longer possible for me to defend the merits of my portable Underwood against those of its digital counterpart. From there I progressed to making my computer do simple math and spreadsheet accounting for my family business at the time. Every now and then, of course, I would enjoy and amuse myself with the many ingenious games and diversions that could be played with it. Then, with the advent of the fax modem and the Internet, the computer became my indispensable personal communication tool. Not long afterwards, through the Web, it became my veritable passport to the world, my key to the immense body of knowledge and information whose surface I had barely scratched even long after I was through with college.
The beauty of the Web is that you can both literally and figuratively waltz on it while you discover its many treasures. With the click of the mouse you can saunter into any of its millions of sites and discover many things you have not known or rediscover those you have already forgotten, such as what the weather or the price of diapers was when you made your inauspicious debut into this planet, what movie or song album was the rage when you had your first crush, and how much was the price of a bottle of Coke when regular gasoline was 25 centavos to the liter. You can trot from one website to another to find out how much it will cost you to rent a flat in Reykjavik at this very moment, hire a mountain guide in Nepal for an ascent to Mt. Everest, or lease a car in Rome for a land tour of Europe all the way to Moscow. And at any time of day, without leaving your computer desk, you can enter the U.S. Library of Congress and pore over its more than 12 million bibliographic records of books and periodicals, get glimpses of the Smithsonian Institutionâs engaging bits of American natural history, or make a virtual tour of the fabulous art collections of the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The Web is especially a great boon to English learners in whatever exciting or exasperating stage of the language learning curve they find themselves right now. This is because English is the lingua franca of the Web, and the latter has everything the learner needs to know about English or anything written in Englishâfrom its many idioms and figures of speech to the peculiar conjugations of its irregular verbs, and from the secret feeding grounds of the aardvark to the doomed genetic path of the zebronkey. There are, moreover, hundreds of free English proficiency learning sites on the Web to help the learner perfect his English grammar and diction. And once through with your quest for better English, you can perhaps download the trial edition of the amazingly instructive Rosetta Stone
to learn a new language or two from its selection of no less than 22 foreign languages, ranging from French to Japanese and from Polynesian to Norwegian.
I used to snicker at Microsoftâs slogan, âWhere do you want to go today?â, as patronizing and pretentious, but now I know in my heart that it captures the fundamental truth about the Web. There truly is no limit to where you might want to roam and wander on it. My favorite Web search engine alone, Google, boasts of an accessible collection of 2,469,940,685 Web pagesâalmost 2.5 billion pages of knowledge and information, enough to fill hundreds of the biggest physical libraries on our planet! I have peeped every now and then at this hoard and I have discovered veritable gems, like the complete or substantive collections of the poetry and other works of the English poets John Donne, William Blake, and Dylan Thomas, the French poet Jacques Prevert, and the American poet Walt Whitman; the Perseus Project that had put together vast selections from the Greek literary classics; and entire Holy Bibles of every religious denomination.
All of my readings from grade school through college, in fact, would amount to only a tiny fraction of the readings that I have already done on the Web in the less than six years that I started mining it for its treasures. And I have been enjoying every minute of my freewheeling incursions into its pages, far better than when I had the likes of Professor Higgins telling me to my face to read my English textbook from cover to cover or else fail and repeat his English course. (2003)This essay first appeared in the English-usage column âEnglish Plain and Simpleâ by Jose A. Carillo in
The Manila Times sometime in 2003, Â© 2003 by Manila Times Publishing. It subsequently appeared as Chapter 1 in Part IV, Section 1 of the author's book
English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today's Global Language, Â© 2008 by Manila Times Publishing. All rights reserved.