Food for Thought

An English-only United States would mean rewriting the dictionary

| July 13, 2006

Quesadillas. Fettuccini. Tomatoes. If the 'language police' had their way, these foreign-born terms for foods on dinner tables across the United States would be ousted faster than the latest batch of immigrants attempting to cross the Mexican/US border.

Sound ridiculous? It's happened before, syndicated columnist Walter Brasch writes in a piece published by the radical internet newsletter Dissident Voice. During World War I, German sauerkraut morphed into 'victory cabbage,' while in 2003, general animosity toward the French led Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) to declare french toast and fries 'freedom toast' and 'freedom fries' in all House of Representatives restaurants.

Similarly minded politicians have gone a step farther, routing taxpayer dollars toward passing legislation in 'hundreds of towns and half of the states' to enshrine English as the official language, Brasch reports.

Those not content with simply imposing one of the world's 6,800 tongues on all US residents will appreciate President Bush's efforts to stunt language learning, Brasch writes. By eradicating the Bilingual Education Act, which encouraged students to study both English and their mother tongue, a critical academic asset was lost. And although the current administration proclaims no child will be left behind, the kids' native languages certainly will be.

Brasch points out that most Americans have no qualms about sporting shoes from Thailand, waving Chinese-produced US flags, and cruising through town in imported automobiles (not to mention the foreign gasoline that's fueling them). Plus modern English, like the United States itself, was derived from a melting pot of international peoples and speech: 75,000 'English' words come from foreign shores, from the Dutch's 'icebergs' to the Czechs' 'robots,' not to mention a plethora of musical terms and animals.

'By 'rephrasing' our linguistic and cultural base to demand an ethnocentric America,' Brasch concludes, 'we destroy a nation founded upon liberty and developed by immigrants.' -- Kristen Mueller

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Related Link:
Pa. House's 'Official Language' Bill Speaks Up For English

Related Links from the Utne Archive:
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