We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Thanksgiving is about the weird ancient America...
What we built here wasn’t only good — it was better, better than anything the world had seen, and we shouldn’t give a second’s hearing to those who say otherwise. Yes, even with slavery, the mistreatment of the Indians, and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”: better. A world better.
"English is not normal - No, English isn’t uniquely vibrant or mighty or adaptable. But it really is weirder than pretty much every other language."
I'm generally a fan of John McWhorter but this is nothing more than a puff piece.
He lost me at "In countries where English isn’t spoken, there is no such thing as a 'spelling bee' competition." Patently untrue: spelling competitions are common to many languages. The French have a Dictée Campus Eiffel which, being a dictée, requires correctly spelling entire passages of text. The Dutch have a national spelling competition too. The winners are routinely Flemish and that's because (as a Dutch friend of mine once noted) they are very nationalistic about the language, living as they do in Belgium where they vie with French.
And by the way, being a French speaker, I can tell you that I routinely hear all about the exceptionalism and unique attributes of the French language ad nauseam.
Neither English nor French nor Dutch nor any other language is intrinsically any more "special" than another.
The unique vibrance of English was that like the people who speak it, at least until recent decades, it wasn't under the thumb of the State or "elite" as other languages, such as French, are. What some call weird is really just individualistic.
"The unique vibrance of English was that like the people who speak it, at least until recent decades, it wasn't under the thumb of the State or 'elite' as other languages, such as French, are. What some call weird is really just individualistic."
Language discrimination - judging someone solely by their accent, dialect and grammar - is just as common in English as it is in French or any other language.
And English is no more "individualistic" either, whatever that's supposed to mean.
We try to save the planet because until we get large enough and round enough to hold our own atmospheres, we need the planet. And I know, many are we along in their quest to achieve atmosphere, but I caution against such hubris. Your head will be cold, your feet will be frozen and will that be a hurricane in your pants or are you just glad to see me?
After pretty extensive travel, I have concluded that it is easy to speak English badly and still be sort of understood (think offshore call centers or taxi drivers Abroad), but really hard to speak English well, even as a native speaker. Perhaps this is why we so admire non-native speakers whose spoken English is so polished - I still remember hearing the late German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt address an audience in London, and being amazed at the perfection of his spoken English.
"I have concluded that it is easy to speak English badly and still be sort of understood [...] but really hard to speak English well, even as a native speaker."
Depends on what you mean by well.
Incidentally, it's really hard to speak German "well" too, even for a native speaker.
The excellence of Schmidt's English boils down to a combination of hard work, lots of practice and above average intelligence. Also, as is so often the case, the global importance of English as a lingua franca makes it a career imperative to master for the ambitious.
By contrast, English speakers are generally not motivated to learn another language with quite the same application. Why bother? Everybody speaks English anyway. Right?
It's purt difficult to be a good English speaker. Droppin' gs from the end of ing words, slurring, eliding, and drawlin' Southern don't help nary a bit. I am mea culpa on all accounts. I am and sound like a hick yokel. No matter how I try I cannot get better.
That is what is so nice about the written word--one can almost seem of average intelligence if they are just able to put one perfectly spelled word after another into the proper arrangement. It can be learned or it can be a gift. Jack London said that.
On no account is English easy. I do not speak another language but of all the lilts, accents and burrs that I have heard I do not believe there is a tongue that compares.
Alliteration and onomatopoeia could not sound so sweet uttered gruffly or grunted gingerly in a language with too many vowels.