Saturday, March 24, 2007

Nur Englisch

Both Idaho houses have passed and sent to the governor a classically stupid piece of legislation: declaring English the state's official language.

Of all the dumb things government sticks its nose into, surely the dumbest by far is trying to dictate the languages people speak. Language has a power of its own, subservient to no government. If English can't hold its own without official government sanction, then no legislation can save it. And if English can hold its own, then no legislation is needed.

If the Legislature would include useful provisions -- say, for example, criminal prosecution of people who use pronouns that don't match antecedents -- then I could get behind this bill. But the bill does not abridge American freedom to butcher our native tongue. It abridges only the freedom to speak another.


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Shane C. Mason said...

Again, I jus' want t' say that I agree wi' ye. 't bothers be t' nay ends that conservatives be havin' sailed' down th' path o' legislatin' behavior an' fear mongerin'.
Ya bilge rat who ortin' t' be keel hauled!

Anonymous said...

Because I live here in Baja Sonora (better known as the state of Arizona), I can understand what's going on in ID. We have passed the "English Only" law twice by a voter referendum. (It was thrown out by the courts the first time, and the second one is going through the legal system as we speak.)

Making English the state's official language only affects dealings with government, and doesn't have anything to do with everyday life (if you want to speak Ukranian in the privacy of your home or at a social gathering of fellow folks from the old country, this law isn't going to stop you). But if you want to get public assistance (i.e. welfare), all of the forms you use and the people you speak with must use English (which is the de facto language of this country since its founding). Interpreters are allowed in certain situations. (I don't know if this also goes for ballots, which are hard enough to understand in English, much less Spanish or even Navajo.)

This law is, to be perfectly honest, because this state is being overwhelmed by illegal aliens from Mexico, some of whom are bleeding the state dry paying for welfare and medical assistance. (These people are building the thousands of houses that are being filled by the other group of people who are overwhelming this state -- senior citizens from Iowa, Illinois and New York.)

If you go to South Phoenix, you'd think you're in a foreign country. Billboards, radio and TV stations, and business signs are all in Spanish -- and Spanish only. This is the USofA daggummit!!! (After all, we stole this part of the country from Mexico, fair and square!!! ;-) )

Anonymous said...

I'm mad. I'm DAMN mad. In fact, I'm mad as hell! Look, here I thought Montana was becoming wackier that Idaho! And all of a sudden Idaho one-UPs us! Come ON, Montana Lege! You've got the talent, you've got the material, you got the WACKOS! Our wackos, (whom I now refer to as wackoslackers), are falling down on the job. How DARE they left them spudchuckers outdo us in the wacko dept! I'll bet Idaho will even make Letterman with this. So, as we near the end of our session, I exhort lange, sales, sincrud, and ESPECIALLY jore to get out there at fight, fight, FIGHT! for the right to represent Montana in the wacko league! Otherwise, Montanans are gonna remember come November. Look, there's a Repubbie legisalator in Texas who introduced a bill stating that the earth does not revolve around the sun. AROUND THE FREAKIN' SUN! Now THAT'S a wacko! Jore, you can beat that can't you?! I've got confidence in Big Sky buffoons! Come ON, fellas. Do your stuff! I'm ashamed to call myself a Montanan after this. I want that title back! If you morons can't do it, SEND IN BUTCHER! Now THERE'S a fella that never quits!

Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers!

Dave Rye said...

A little too understated, Larry, as usual.

It's easy, and wrong, to ascribe bigotry to those who favor having English become the official language of a state or of the nation.

People who don't speak the dominant language of their own country will always be at a huge disadvantage for both jobs and social acceptance. Their lives will be confined to their own neighborhoods, with not much chance of breaking free to anything else.

A society with a multitude of primary languages, rather than a dominant one, has no chance of being anything close to adhesive. It would be a repeat of the Tower of Babel.

It used to be that immigrants and non-English speakers were eager to learn, and especially to have their children learn, the established language of their new country. Now that such is not the case among arrivals of the past quarter-century, some incentive from the government is a necessary idea. People choosing to handicap themselves occupationally and socially is one thing. Inflicting that handicap on their offspring is something else.

"e pluribus unum" applies to languages as well as cultures.

ajtooley said...

anonymous gets the point. It's not about telling people what they can and can't do in the privacy of their own homes or in their own social groups, but rather stemming the flow of demands that each government document be translated at public expense into a dozen or more different languages.

anonymous erhält den Punkt. Er nicht über erklärt Leute, was sie Dose und nicht im Privatleben ihrer eigenen Häuser oder in ihren eigenen Sozialgruppen, aber den Fluß der Nachfragen eher in aufhalten tun können, die jedes Regierung Dokument an den Staatsausgaben in Dutzend oder unterschiedlichere Sprachen übersetzt wird.

anonymous obtient le point. Il au sujet n'indique pas derrière des personnes ce qu'elles bidon et ne peuvent pas faire dans l'intimité de leurs propres maisons ou leurs propres groupes sociaux, mais en refoulant plutôt l'écoulement des demandes que chaque document de gouvernement soit traduit à un coût public en des langues douzaine ou plus différents.

anonymous ottiene il punto. Circa non sta dicendo alla gente a che cosa latta e non possono fare nella segretezza delle loro proprie sedi o nei loro propri gruppi sociali, ma piuttosto nello staccamento del flusso dal gambo delle richieste che ogni documento di governo è tradotto a spesa pubblica in lingue dozzina o più differenti.

anonymous consigue el punto. Sobre no está diciendo a gente lo que él lata y no puede hacer en la aislamiento de sus propios hogares o en sus propios grupos sociales, sino algo provenir el flujo de las demandas que cada documento del gobierno se traduzca en el costo público idiomas docena o más diversos.

anonymous krijgt het punt. Het is niet over het vertellen van mensen wat zij en in de privacy van hun eigen huizen of in hun eigen sociale groepen kunnen niet kunnen doen, maar eerder het stammen de stroom van eisen dat elk overheidsdocument op openbare kosten in dozijn of meer verschillende talen wordt vertaald.

anonymous começa o ponto. Sobre não está dizendo a povos o que lata e não pode fazer na privacidade de seus próprios repousos ou em seus próprios grupos sociais, mas rather em stemming o fluxo das demandas que cada original do governo seja traduzido na despesa pública umas línguas em uma dúzia ou mais diferentes.

Anonymous said...

Dave, "understated"?? You really think so? Geez. I'll try harder next time.


Vince said...

To Dave Rye:

Should we change "e pluribus unum" to English?

Dave Rye said...

Good line, Vince. It even made ME smile.

Truth is, until a generation or so ago, there was a quiet understanding that most educated Americans knew at least a smattering of Latin. The obsolescence of that idea now stands as one more example of the dumbing down of America.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I remember MY Latin! Semper ubi, sub ubi! Remember that one? Or did you never tip a few in the old Grandmas?! Is it still there?


Dave Rye said...

I've never been much of a drinker, Larry. (I became a coffee-and-nicotine addict to make up for it, I guess.) I was only in Grandma's two or three times because friends insisted. Too crowded, too noisy, and too full of peanut shells. It is long gone. I think the building got moved from 16th St. West to a spot next to Firestone Lanes, and the location for a while became "Brandy's" supper club, and is now a casino.

I get the "always" and "under" parts, but I'm going to have to guess on the "ubi" part. Something to do with intoxication?

Anonymous said...

Dave, don't quote me on this, but I was told that Semper ubi Sub ubi means always wear underwear! Anyway, that's what it was supposed to mean. But my Latin is about as strong as my Greek. And it's all Greek to me!


Chuck Rightmire said...

I'm late getting into this but I have to agree that a statute dictating the official language or languages of a country is not a bad idea. In some countries, such as the Phillippines with 57 languages, people learn in their native tongue, I understand, while learning the official Tagalog(?). Government business can be conducted in several languages, I believe, in India which also has a number of languages and dialects. So maybe we also need an official language. As an avowed liberal, I think it makes sense to provide information in a more structured way when it comes to government. If you have studied a foreign language, you know that our understandings of the world come with the language we speak, which is why English is full of words derived from other sources which better explain certain concepts such as raison d'etre or entr' acte.
And one final note: Arizona cannot be Baja Sonora as long as we consider the north pole the top of the world. It would be alta Sonora.

Anonymous said...

Right on Chuck! I noticed that about Alta Sonora myself.

Ed in Iowa