Why don’cha speak English?

By John Gascoyne

Politely stated, English is a polyglot language – a tongue derived from many sources, many parent tongues.

Less politely said, ours is a mongrel language, a convoluted bastard tongue resulting from someone doing a cannonball in the gene pool.

John Gascoyne is a writer and lawyer in Fort Collins, Colo. Learn more about him…

Thus, when someone archly asks, “Why don’cha speak English?” they are, however unknowingly, demanding you speak a tongue with deep roots in Spanish, Greek, Italian, German, French, Latin and, yes, the sometimes indecipherable English that is spoken in England. Other languages have contributed to the verbal and written stew.

Before the commie-crazed and hyper-religious days of Dwight D. Eisenhower, our nation’s motto was “E Pluribus Unum” – “From many comes one.” This original and still-beautiful motto speaks of a country populated by immigrants from many other nations coming together as one homogenized and functioning social entity. (For this discussion, we’ll stick with the Doris Day happy, happy view – and not talk about thousands of people who were kidnapped and brought here, the many thousands who originally owned the place and were largely subjugated after we got here.)

E Pluribus Unum could also be said fairly of the English language – one tongue born of a great many other tongues.

Try explaining this to a Bunny Bread-white person who is yelling at someone else: “Speak English, this is America and that’s the only language we allow.” The common Facebook rendering of such an encounter most often deals with someone having the audacity to speak Spanish in public. Speakers of other tongues, while less numerous, still have to deal with the same nonsense.

Perhaps an armchair trek around the country will reveal some reality problems in speaking the redneck conception of our common language. Let’s start with names in English – as spoken in the U.S. – that sound disturbingly Spanish.

If you live in Colorado, as too many of us do, you’re living in a state that, in pure American English, should be called Dark Red. Moving on, we learn that, properly, California needs to be called Lime Oven; Nevada – Snow-covered and Florida – Land of Flowers. The name of the state known as New Mexico comes from Nuevo Mexico, and Texas was originally a Native American name, later Hispanicized.

“We need to be able to stand next to someone being criticized for using their own beautiful native tongue, to put a hand on their shoulder and just stand there with them.”

Around the nation, there are many, many dozens of Spanish-named towns, cities, counties, islands, rivers, and lakes. If we decide to cater to the “pure” English aficionados, we’ll need to organize a great many re-naming committees. One of the most eye-catching changes will occur when the Sangre de Cristos Mountains become the Blood of Christ Mountains.

Recently, there have been instances of Native Americans using their own language and being chastised for not “speaking American.”

It would be nice to think that pointing out some of these realities to the haters would help them to shut the hell up. We’re beyond that. Thanks mostly to the loser of the popular vote, a scary percentage of our fellow Americans are caught in a downward spiral of mind-crippling fear. Unable to admit to or contend with that fear, their default position is to spew hate-filled vitriol.

We’ll either get over, through, and past this nonsense or we won’t. In the meantime, we need to be able to stand next to someone being criticized for using their own beautiful native tongue, to put a hand on their shoulder and just stand there with them.


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