BROKEN TONGUE

Certain friends send me private messages explaining that my latest written work needs a good editor. I always respond, asking about the glitch. Happy if they’ve been disturbed by a spelling error. But that’s not what this is about. When I discover, as I invariably do, that what so offends them is intentional when I wrote the words or the story, I don’t justify. I don’t even reply.

The Subtle Bigotry of the English Language

Inglan is a bitch
Dere’s no escapin it
Inglan is a bitch
Deres no runnin whey fram it

Mi get a lickle jab in a bih otell
An awftah a while, mi woz doin quite well
Dem staat mi aaf as a dish-washah
But w’n mi tek a stack,
mi noh tun clack-watchah

Linton Kwesi Johnson

Certain friends send me private messages explaining that my latest written work needs a good editor. I always respond, asking about the glitch. Happy if they’ve been disturbed by a spelling error. But that’s not what this is about. When I discover, as I invariably do, that what so offends them is intentional when I wrote the words or the story, I don’t justify. I don’t even reply.

I understand the need for certain stops. Certain punctuation. Even my daughter will pull me up with Mother! if I use ain’t instead of is not, or isn’t. But the English language is an absolute mongrel of pompous stealth and misappropriation. So I’ll write er gar, ya mucky feeblie blarner ruckin stuckler fucker, yer all drookit!  and feel no remorse.

When I was a wee child I was forced to attend a private kindergarten, was told, through the thin line of the headmistress’s juiceless lips, that German Shepherds patrolled just outside the gate and that they would rip me apart if I tried to leave the grounds without permission. I endured elocution lessons, because the sprawling drawl of this young colony was becoming louder. The offensive laziness of the lower classes. And there. Bigotry inherent in language.

Today’s new cool is allowing your dialect to be popular, Eh by goom lad.

I have tarot clients from all around the world. Immigrants and refugees, with strong accents that require acute listening to understand. But. And here’s the crossroads. I ONLY speak English. I can count in five languages, say hello in as many and could also ask for a cafe con leche when in Spain. The people who have learned English as a second language are amazing. And I am the fool.

So when you write—if you write—banish the bastards who correct your dialect. Be loud and proud!

We are only now beginning to free ourselves from an archaic academia, steeped in Latin, the verbiage of conquerors, rapists and thieves.  Bigots. And many studies, like biology, botany and medicine, retain their roots in that language. Dead as a body buried in landfill. The fucking empire is dead. The final death-roll of this antediluvian crocodile is this adhesion to grammatical correctness. The jutting chin of rapacious privilege exposing genitals for us all to admire, saying My cock is bigger than your cock.

Next time you hear that subtle inner voice pigeon-holing another person, by their ability to speak this mongrel tongue, as under-educated or not sufficiently literate, go look in the mirror. I done it, once upon a time. Or should I say I did?

You get time, read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s work at this link.  Robin is a Potawatomi woman, and a scholar, and trying to get her brain around the Anishinaabe language. Realizing the sorrow of a vast forgetting, when she explains Puhpowee. When I first read her, I was writing Initiation. Fuck me. I thought the sender, my adviser on that writing at the time, was hinting. I’d promised, please understand, that I could story the language of wildness and freedom now. I was a grown up. Didn’t need to denigrate the shadow anymore. So, under advisement, I rewrote as much as I could, eradicating ‘it’ as often as possible.

When I contacted her much later, proud of myself and thankful as a puppy she’d sent me Robin’s essay, she’d come back with, Oh. No, Ly. Sorry. I just thought it was a good article. It? GOOD?

Me? I’m a Celt, but also an absolute mongrel, smattered with the pale skin and blue veins of the Breton, Parisi, Irish and Albanach, freckled with Viking logging activity. My mother’s people spoke Lanky. I love language. Mainly because of etymology. To know the true meaning of the so-called slang word chook is from the old Irish cheogh, and that means hen.

You lose your native tongue? Someone’s stolen your identity and said you ain’t good enough.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.