Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Many years ago at work I made reference to the Magna Carta. Within mere seconds it became obvious that my colleague didn't have the foggiest idea what that was.
I was flabbergasted. Apparently, because she identified herself as other than American, she had no interest whatsoever in American and English culture, literature, and history. The Magna Carta was just one of those things that 'majority people' found important.
Shakespeare also was unknown to her. Dickens, Maugham, Jefferson, Jackson, Chelsea, Chappaquiddick - ditto.
The list of things of which she had no whit was nearly endless.

I suspect that she wasn't very happy in her 'non-majority' subculture.
The more so as standard English was her first and only language.
She was quite white, by the way. Whitey-white-white.
But very proud to be not like us.

The language you speak determines the broader cultural world to which you belong.

Certainly many Indians are quite Anglo-American - albeit with an irritating tendency to quote from poets like Keats and Shelley to whom we have never exposed ourselves, and a very nasty habit of being blisteringly boring about cricket, which is as silly as baseball but without the hotdogs or the crackerjack.

Philippinos, Canadians, Aussies, Irish, New Zealanders, and many others, are quite at ease using normal U.S. English on a regular basis.
Well, maybe not the Aussies...... but at least some of them are willing to try.

English-language texts determine our world-view, and colour our perceptions.
If you are NOT a fluent speaker of English, much on my blog makes scant sense at all.
Not that it makes significantly more sense if you are, but there are probably things I have said which only fit for those who speak alike.

My mother never mastered Dutch - a bit of a lacune for someone living in Holland.
Yes, she could speak it after a fashion - but the horrible barbaric dialect of the locals in Valkenswaard was entirely beyond her. To my father and myself it was a mellifluous public and private medium, to her it was nobbut ghastly catscreeching and the sound of someone choking on their own blood.

That is what any language resembles to most non-speakers.


If you cannot understand an iota of any western lingo, the two most beautiful words in English may very well be 'Syphilis' and 'Diarrhoea'.
Indeed so.
But they are probably not suitable as children's names.

What you speak on a daily basis is not necessarily the language of your dreams.
Often I find myself awaking with a foreign tongue in my mouth.
Some languages are more closely associated with tastes, scenes, images, and experiences, than others.

Rendang is imperfectly translated as 'seethed meat', and siu ngaap is not the same as roast duck, even if it is.
But jacht, kaapstander, and bolwerk, though odd, you already know - yacht, capstan, and bulwark as well as boulevard.
Typhoon, ketchup, hurricane, and salsa have already made a full transition into daily speech.

There are locutions in your mother's mother tongue that are just waiting to get a word in edgewise too.

Go ahead - let them enter.

There's plenty of room.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


e-kvetcher said...

>Often I find myself awaking with a foreign tongue in my mouth.

Context is everything in these posts...

lexicologically amphibious said...

"Chlamydia" is another euphonious English word which would probably be inappropriate for naming one's child.

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