Song of Theirselves


I’ve been at Amsterdam dinners where everyone is speaking brilliant English, but the minute I leave the table they switch back to Dutch. If all we know is English, we won’t know what the rest of the world is saying about us.

(Pamela Druckerman, “Parlez-Vous Anglais? Yes, Of Course,” NYTimes, 8-10-19)

The constipated grammarian holding out for correctitude is low-hanging fruit for parody. It’s fun to adopt the pose. He — or of course it could be “she” because of the accident of gender, or “they” in a travesty of number — is a milquetoast chewing tepid tea and crumble over a dog-eared book of rules.

Most people now learn English to communicate with other nonnative speakers — and even many of their teachers aren’t native — so they acquire few expressions and idioms.

English is being invaded by nonnatives! The language shrivels as it burgeons, shrinks as it grows, morphs as it sloughs. Worldwide, English is blasting a path of coinage, assimilation, and soon-to-be-standard barbarisms like “discussing about” in  advanced and “shithole” countries alike.

Here’s one of the most delightful points of this informative article:

Linguist Jennifer Jenkins writes that “at European Union conferences, nonnatives who can easily understand each other’s English switch on their translation headphones when someone from Britain or Ireland takes the stage.

It’s a phenomenon I have experienced more than once. I may have understood roughly half of the dialog spoken by my sister Anglophones in “Derry Girls.”

(c) 2019 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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