Quote of the Day

Union Jack

Non-British English-speakers, I have a weapon for you:

Language … cannot become bastardized in any country where intelligence is active and where there is no obstacle to progress.
It will change, yes, and by changing, it will simply follow the current formed by the passing of time, which is revolutionary and irresistible.”

This was quoted in a paper called “Total Spanish: The Politics of a Pan-Hispanic Grammar,” by José del Valle, in the May 2009 PMLA, but the person who wrote it is Juan María Gutiérrez of Argentina. He was thinking of South American Spanish in relation to Spain, but it applies equally well to English spoken outside of the United Kingdom. (The phrase I removed was “closely related to ideas”, which was set off by commas.)

Yes, I do sometimes get tired of “jokes” by British folks about other people’s native English. It’s such a kneejerk response for a handful of British people that I have a few friends whom I try not to remind that I (an American) teach English for a living. These jokes are sometimes funny and harmless, but often they betray a lack of knowledge about the history of English (even within England), let alone any grasp of how languages grow and change. Of course, your really snarky “friends” will then get on you about whether your country has any active intelligence, but at that point they’ve probably proven themselves to be actively hostile rather than just kidding around.

But this quote is a double-edged sword: if you use it to defend your North American, Australian, or similar English, then you need to keep it in mind when you encounter Indian English, Singaporean English, Filipino English, and all of the other native Englishes in the world.

P. S. If you’re a British person who doesn’t do this to your other-English-speaking friends, then please accept my gratitude, as well my apologies for all the times “English” gets equated with “American”. I know that’s obnoxious and wrong, whether it occurs in person or in default software settings, and I’m sure that’s the source of some of the soreness!





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