The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Sep 19, 2007

Linguistic Snobbery

Much has been made of the steady encroachment of English into the world's languages. While conservative bodies and national academies rue the use (and abuse) of their native tongues with the addition of English, the youth seem to think it is cool to adopt Anglicisms.

For instance, introducing the odd English word into conversation is considered hip in France. Of course, the counterculture lampoons this (e.g. the immensely popular film Brice de Nice). The Académie Française pompously bemoans these foreign accretions, as does the equivalent academy in Spain (which faces occasional rebellion from Spanish-speakers in Latin America anyway). It appears that the Russians are now falling prey as well.

I know several Russian Jews who emigrated to Israel and speak a Russified Hebrew quite at odds with the rest of their countrymen. They have forgotten their Yiddish, but find that Russian serves as a neat enhancement to (and differentiator from) their Israeli compatriots. To the purist this is similar to the appalling Hinglish that passes for popular speech amongst, say, newsreaders at Zee.

In Britain, that solid bastion of political correctness, various worthies want everybody to be allowed to speak (and indeed teach) whatever form of English they like. After all, think-tanks such as Demos who propose this free-for-all have grown up on a steady diet of postmodern criticism and hermeneutic theory, so every interpretation is as valuable as any other. Bring on therefore your Ebonics, your Spanglish and every other pidgin, and let Babel flourish!

Now I think that accretions to a language enrich it (after all, where would English be without Norman French, Greek, Hindi and so on?) But what's the point of teaching Ebonics or Hinglish instead of standard English? Bring up a generation of people who are mutually unintelligible? What bollocks.


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