I told the story on an earlier Field of Steve podcast about a moment of personal infamy on the football field. That story dealt with all the things that led up what, to me, was a decision to fail. What I didn’t get into in any great detail is what might have happened had I succeeded. I might have played more as the season wore on. I might have had other moments of glory that year.
It never occurred to me that one of the main reasons I think about that is because the English language gives me the ability to speak about that.
That’s because we have what we call the “subjunctive” case. Phuc Tran, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Vietnam, discusses how some of what we employ as language gives us strength, or limits us in ways we had not imagined. He says his parents’ Vietnamese language doesn’t have subjunctive, so they don’t have the burden of worrying about what might have been. The link here gives you access to the TED Radio Hour segment on Tran’s talk, and video of the talk itself. I do recommend.