Friday, June 19, 2020

Changing Language

Language changes. I strongly suspect change comes faster when a culture is highly mobile like ours is.  There is a quote out there in the world about English rifling through the pockets of other languages, but in its original form, the quote is super problematic for it's sexism and attempt to somehow shame sex workers. I prefer the mental image of English as a thief willing to sneak up on another language, club it over the head, and take everything it could find. 

It's how we got hurricane. And geyser. From entirely different parts of the world. Imagine trying to learn English as a second language and having someone tell you, "No, no. That word's Japanese. Yeah, that word's Icelandic. And that one? That one's -- hell we have no idea where that one came from. Sorry." 

Then add in the variations and dialects associated with the language. The UK has one version of English. The US another. Australia yet another. The we add in Canada and the Caribbean region and I defy you, if you aren't practiced in hearing it, to decipher a southern Creole dialect speaking what's supposed to be English. You'll understand my sympathy for anyone trying to learn English. The language makes no damned sense. 

While I occasionally feel like some old curmudgeon yelling, "You kids get off my linguistic lawn!" I'm learning to not mind the ground of my language shifting beneath my feet. It's been rightly pointed out that rigid, codified grammar is a form of oppression. Insisting on "The One True Way" of language devalues the speakers of other dialects. For the longest time, the most common impression most people had of anyone who spoke with a Southern accent was that they were less intelligent. Now think about how grammar rules are used against Black culture and the dialects that have grown out of Black experience in this country. It absolutely casts Black language and culture as lesser. As something to be mocked and laughed at. Instead of listened to and appreciated for the original music it brings to the whole of the English language.