We have A Word For That

One thing you cannot help but notice, if you travel, is that English is just about everyone’s second language. In many parts of the world, their second language is almost as common as their first. In Iceland, for example, you hear as much English in the streets as Icelandic. The locals just seem to assume that people they don’t know are going to prefer English, while people they know will prefer Icelandic. In effect, they have a public language and private language. This is something you see in many places.

It used to be that French was the language of diplomacy. It is where we get the expression lingua franca. Of course, long before that, Latin was the official language of global affairs. In the case of French, it was simply a matter of France being the dominant power on the Continent, so French was the language of diplomacy among Europeans, but not the rest of the world. Latin was the language of the Church, so while the whole of Europe was Catholic, it was a useful common tongue for diplomacy.

The rise of English is a slightly different matter. For sure, the Pax Americana has a lot to do with English becoming the diplomatic language of the West, but it does not explain it becoming the public language. That’s probably due to the rise of global corporations in the last fifty years. Many European countries started teaching English in schools, because it would be useful in the work place. American companies would be more inclined to hire a German who spoke some English than an Italian with no English.

Power and money are always good answers to most questions, because they are easy to understand and confirm things we like to believe about the world. We want to think that there are great benefits to being rich or powerful, like imposing your language and religion on those over whom you rule. There’s certainly some truth to it, but it does not explain everything. For example, the prevalence of English in the Nordic countries is much higher than in France or Italy. The Germans have a lot of English speakers too.

Another possibility for why English has becomes the universal language is the rise of science and technology as cultural forces. English is extremely useful in science, because of its precision and flexibility. English is a not a language with a lot of words that have two very different meanings. For example, study and studio mean entirely different things. In French you would use the same word and the context would make the distinction. Few words in English need context to have a full meaning.

The other thing about English is it adopts new words, either from other languages or out of the blue, with great speed. This post by paleontologist John Hawks is an amusing example of how the flexibility of language works with science and technology. Most languages don’t adopt loan words very well. Instead, they have to take existing words and combine them together to get something like the meaning of the new word. German is hilarious with this. Lots of Zungenbrechers in German with new words.

It is possible that English is a better language for science and technology, where new abstract concepts are common. It is easier to invent a new word or borrow a word, like synergy for example, and imbue it with a definition that captures the new idea, rather than force the new idea into the old grammar. The word synergy was kicking around psychology for a century, before it was picked up by tech companies and turned into a catchy word to describe involuntary cooperation through the use of technology.

Of course, the implication here is that English evolved with people who were better at science and technology. It’s certainly true that the Industrial Revolution started in England and first spread to northern Europe. It’s certainly true that northern Europeans remain the most inventive people on earth. This is probably just a coincidence or perhaps something to do with ecology, as everyone knows there are no differences between people anywhere at any time under any conditions. To suggest otherwise is bad.

Even so, the rapid adoption of English as the official second language in European countries with a common heritage is suggestive. These countries have also always had a high and low version of their languages as well. High German is thought to derive from the Suebi people. Low German, the various German dialects in central Europe, come from the other tribes. Perhaps having a public language and private language, a public custom and private custom, is the real root of this phenomenon, rather than modern technology.

Regardless of the cause, English is becoming the official language of the planet, even as the ratio of Europeans to everyone else rapidly shrinks. Communicating in English is more efficient and more accurate across the wide swath of humanity. There are exceptions at the fringes, but there always are. In the main, English is becoming the public language of the world. That means the elite of the future will be plucked from those with the cognitive skills best suited for mastering the complexity of English thought.

That’s the part you can see in your daily life. There are South Asians, for example, who have a delicate mastery of English. There are others who are comical eruptions of misnomers and butchered grammar. No matter how hard they try, they just can’t think in English or even pretend to think in English. As a result, their mastery of the language is limited to mimicry. Since language is about communicating abstract concepts, these people will never be able to rise to the upper reaches of the cognitive class.

This is usually where the bad people bring up the phrase Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which then results in the usual suspects leaping from the bushes yelling “That had been debunked!” In truth, the strong version has simply been dismissed, because it does not fit in with the blank slate argument. Spend time around people, who speak English as a second language, You will notice that some are thinking in English, while others are just interpreting their native thoughts into English sounds.

It’s pleasant to think that the dominance of English portends good things for native English speakers and their cousins in Europe, but the Suebi may be the better example. They left a lot of their culture, but none of their people. There are claims by some to be the decedents of the Subei, but there is no proof as of yet. Most likely, the Subei were wiped out by strangers who flowed over the borders.

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I have taken upon myself the task to learning German in the last few years. Started out as minimal need but then a personal challenge. It is a bit surprising in some sense the use of the same word to define many things similar. Gross for example, big large tall etc. Germans tell me they like to use English to sometimes more fully express some ideas. That said, we all have our favorite German words to express some thoughts, usually negative. My new favorite, Backpfeifengesicht, a face in need of a slap or punch. Germans are very critical of each… Read more »

Darth Curmudgeon
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Darth Curmudgeon

Pity about trying to get rid of the German accent, I find it very pleasant.

Steven N Sebelius
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Steven N Sebelius

“Hogan’s Heroes” with no German accents!!?

JohnTyler
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JohnTyler

Well, Obama obviously was a big fan of Sgt. Shultz; the “I know nothing” character.
Obama claimed ignorance on so many topics; his usual comment being he heard about it on the news or other bullshit excuse. Yet every morning he got briefed the the intelligence agencies.
He was easily the most mendacious prez in US history.

Untermensch
Guest

“Backpfeifengesicht, a face in need of a slap or punch.”

We have a word for that in English, too — it’s “billmaher,” which also means “insufferably smug,” and also “wrong about everything.”

After his usefully mask-slipping rant against the pathetic worthless goyim last week, I’d suggest that the word “billmaher” has expanded in its meaning, as English words often do.

It now also means “a face in need of a hammer, hot steam iron, or layer of molten copper”.

Member

I like where you are going there. Better yet for learners of German, include a photo of Maher to help remember.

Darth Curmudgeon
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Darth Curmudgeon

I’ve been confused then. I thought “billmaher” meant pedophile.
Actually this is one of those times where both definitions work.

Carrie
Guest

Good for you, David! The German language has different words for items that we English speakers would use the same word for. I can’t think of any good examples off the top of my head, so I googled it, and found that this [German] fellow said it better: https://www.quora.com/Why-is-the-German-language-considered-by-many-even-non-Germans-as-a-more-precise-language-than-either-English-or-French I learned French in high school as a pushback to all those nutters learning Spanish: “Hey! More people are speaking Spanish now! And with immigration, I can talk to my yard guy!” WHATEVER. And I was really lucky: went on a couple family vacations to France in the 80’s and 90’s… Read more »

Da Booby
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Arnold rode that accent all the way to the governor’ office!

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

My name iss Ah-nold
Und I am not a Khraut
But iff you don’t vote for me
I vill take you OUUTTT

Julian
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Julian

“It used to be that French was the language of diplomacy. It is where we get the expression lingua franca.”

No it isn’t. The Franks are owed that honour, not the modern French.

Drake
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Drake

The Normans had a lot to do French being spread around.

Member

Of all the floosies in the world the best ones are French. People talk. You hear things.

Shrugger
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Shrugger

On the singular meaning of English words, a cool exception to the norm is the phrase, “Filing magazines”. Applies to old-time librarians, but also to gunsmiths.

Drake
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Drake

I spent time in Sri Lanka. Learned a few useful phrases in the local languages (“One beer, cold – thank you) but English is usually sufficient. The Sinhalese and Tamils speak completely different languages – from different language families. Like India, they did not normally talk to each other. Once the Brits ran the place for a while, English became the public language used by the different ethnic groups to talk to each other.

Calsdad
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Calsdad

The reach of the British empire probably has a lot to do with the prevalence of English. The fact that the Americans took over just as that empire was dissipating just served to drive the point home. The Americans added Japan , Germany, and South Korea to the list of places where it really pays to know English after WW2. Then you can add the internet and high tech in general as an influencing factor. The internet as we know it is chock full of American homed websites and the tech companies that supply the infrastructure. If you wanted to… Read more »

pkudude99
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pkudude99

My company’s got some offices in India — 1 in Telugu-speaking Hyderabad, and another in Marathi-speaking Pune. Both locations use English as a common language, but even so… one of my co-workers who I dealt with regularly transferred from Hyderabad to Pune, and about 2 years later transferred back. His reason “I couldn’t learn the language there.”

My sister currently lives in Hindi-speaking Delhi, but she only speaks English. She says it’s usually not a problem, but that there are sometimes certain “cultural issues” that can crop up from time to time.

Member

English is also a reasonably easy language to learn. Although I’ve read Spanish is the easiest, English has no gender and, except for pronouns, words never change their form according to their meaning in the sentence. Regular verb conjugations are also relatively simple in the present tense. The use of some of the more complex verb forms can be difficult, but these aren’t used all that often in ordinary conversation. There is a subjunctive mode, but it differs from the indicative only in some irregular verbs and it’s use is gradually dying out. Spelling can be a problem, as spelling… Read more »

George Orwell
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George Orwell

It still drives me nuts when people say “if I was there” instead of “if I were.” Sperg out.

Sean Detente
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But, irregardless, what if you weren’t actually there?

Apex Predator
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Apex Predator

I think you are misunderestimating his penultimate point for all intensive purposes here. It is a mute point.

Calsdad
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Calsdad

What if they’re there with all of their wares? Just don’t lose it because it becomes too loose to hold on to.

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

D.H. There are historical as well as grammatical reasons why some languages come to predominate. For example, in spelling German is superior to English. It is (or was) perfectly phonetic. A sound has one and only one letter string to record it in written German. Conversely, a written letter string has only one pronunciation in written (High) German. But, OTOH, the grammar of German is difficult to learn and remember, even for native German speakers, I’m told. For example, there are no general rules assigning the three German genders to nouns ‘needing’ them aside from the obvious (eg Mann is… Read more »

pkudude99
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pkudude99

I dunno, most native speakers can’t even accurately read the poem “The Chaos” aloud. Here’s the 1st 4 stanzas as a taste: Dearest creature in creation Studying English pronunciation, I will teach you in my verse Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse. I will keep you, Susy, busy, Make your head with heat grow dizzy; Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear; Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer. Pray, console your loving poet, Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! Just compare heart, hear and heard, Dies and diet, lord and word. Sword and sward, retain and Britain… Read more »

TomA
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TomA

In general (and over the long run), that which works, persists. And that which doesn’t work, becomes extinct.

Steve
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Steve

The British Empire must certainly be a primary cause of the near-universality of the English language.

DeBeers Diamonds
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DeBeers Diamonds

A lot has to do with London and New York being the financial centers. Singapore (English speaking) is also a prominent financial center. The Empire is the legacy cause of these cities prominence, but Beirut used to be a prominent financial market, until…well…you know…

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

Wouldn’t Portugal be the first global empire? They’re a bit miffed about being forgotten.

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Felix_Krull

For example, the prevalence of English in the Nordic countries is much higher than in France or Italy.

Subtitles. Small countries cannot afford to dub television and movies, so you get the basics from an early age. Similarywise, practically every textbook in tertiary education is in English, since translating them would be too expensive.

John Derbyshire
Member

One of my math books got translated into Finnish https://bit.ly/2NyAAaY This baffles me. Every educated Finnish person I ever met spoke flawless English. Uneducated people don’t read books about analytic number theory. ????

Member
Felix_Krull

Hard sciences is a different matter, most those books are translated in Denmark as well.

The difference is that they have a lot longer shelf life: you can basically use a 1950 math textbook with a few addenda stuck in. (It’s not a flawless solution: in my chemistry textbook, the translator had helpfully abbreviated ‘kilo’ to ‘kg’ – kilograms.)

In social sciences, there are hundreds of new textbooks coming out every year and after five years, they’re obsolete, displaced by the new hotness.

Which ought to tell you something about the difference between hard- and social sciences.

Drake
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Drake

Yes. In Sri Lanka, there were local newscasts in Sinhalese and English. But evening entertainment TV was all English. Knight Rider was probably the most popular show when I was there in 1986.

Walt
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Walt

The Nordics pick up UK terrestrial TV and radio without a problem. Their own TV shows are fairly awful in comparison. If French TV and radio had been beaming onto my appliances as a child, I would like to think I would have a better grasp (depending on the level of funny…)

Member

I first heard that English was the language of success back in the late seventies early eighties. At the time we were doing more business with Japanese manufacturers and European distributors. English was the language of business in most if not all emerging markets. Technology as in semiconductors and computer products was started in the West and commoditized in the East. Eventually the available money in selling those items became non existent for almost everyone except the manufacturers. All the money is in software now. To my knowledge all enterprise resource planning systems were created in the west. All based… Read more »

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Felix_Krull

Being born a native English-speaker is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, speaking the lingua franca as a first language puts you in a privileged class all of its own. On the other hand, foreigners (like yours truly) can invade your national conversations, rendering your public debate a global affair and making your conduct subject to global judgement. When your maternal language is small and insignificant, infiltrating your agora is extremely difficult – the language providing a defense against globalization and cultural depletion. If the globalists found out what was being said in the Danish MSM and in the… Read more »

DeBeers Diamonds
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DeBeers Diamonds

In my anecdotal experience, Europeans are well informed about the US presidential politics, and keyed into a Manichean hatred of social conservatives. The rest of American politics is a Byzantine mystery to them, though to be fair many Americans are just as clueless. The lack of a Fox News International means that foreigners get an entirely one-sided view of America.

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Felix_Krull

The lack of a Fox News International means that foreigners get an entirely one-sided view of America. True, although Fox is accessible on the internet; Tucker Carlson is a big hit with Danish dissidents, and he’s even being quoted in the public broadcaster from time to time. But then, imagine how distorted the views of the American public is on politics in non-Anglophone countries, where they can’t even read the news or understand what the pundits and the politicians say, and never mind the alt-media. I doubt one in a hundred Americans could tell you how a multi-party parliamentary democracy… Read more »

DeBeers Diamonds
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DeBeers Diamonds

The US is such a big country that keeping up with the politics in neighboring states, let alone other countries, is probably too much of an ask for your average normie. Only a fraction of our voters participate in party primaries. Many people think that candidates are selected in “smoke filled rooms” by a small group of elites.

US conservatives love complaining about the powerless NPR, they couldn’t last a day against a BBC or a DW.

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Felix_Krull

The US is such a big country that keeping up with the politics in neighboring states, let alone other countries, is probably too much of an ask for your average normie.

Naturally so. I have no idea, or even interest in, what’s going on in a country like Romania, so why would your average American spend time and energy on Denmark?

There’s a reason I’m commenting almost exclusively on English websites: interesting stuff rarely happens in Denmark, and the decisions taken in Washington, have far greater impact on my life than any taken in Copenhagen.

Member
Felix_Krull

That’s another aspect of being bilingual: you automatically appropriate some of the culture and identity of the language you speak: thus, when I speak or think in English, I feel almost American – it’s a weird bifurcation of identity.

I suspect this is how American Jews must experience their identity: having a cultural safe space, but still feeling entitled to speak as if you were an American. I often think (or did, until recently) of Trump as ‘my’ president, with the same right to rag on him as Americans have.

DeBeers Diamonds
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DeBeers Diamonds

That’s interesting, do they teach English with the British manner or the American manner?

To a certain extent the American President is not just “party leader” in the US but the titular leader of their respective left or right in every Western country. The fact that May doesn’t respect Trump in the fashion of Thatcher/Reagan is awful for the success of both parties. The fact Putin hasn’t been invited to DC, while Bibi has twice, is an even bigger disappointment for me.

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Felix_Krull

British English. It’s more posh.

Most of the books I’ve read are in American, so apart from the spelling, I can’t really tell the difference anymore. I try to avoid using words like ‘suspenders’.

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

The missus hates that I say ‘trousers’ and not ‘pants’, so I only say ‘trousers’, of course.

She replies with, “Ever-what!”

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

In the recent past when many Americans were recently off the boat from Europe and maintained some ties to the proverbial “Old Country” US interest in the affairs of Europe was a big deal . Now with a good chunk of he population from non European places and a population of European extracted people who are disconnected from Europe having not been near the place in decades our interest is slowly waning For now Muh Russia and of course the globalist bankers will keep the US involved in that region but this will change and I suspect the new people… Read more »

Alzaebo
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Alzaebo

If you’re few, you get your enemies to kill each other.

After weakening them in various ways, selling vices, breaking bonds, undercutting wages (slaves), monopoly networks (cartels), undermining coin (banking), war debt, schizo storytelling (Narrative), etc etc.

Hey, it works. But what about the sacrifice of our own?
No worry, all of our seed will be resurrected at the Final Triumph. A little pain now, then lords for eternity.

Carrie
Guest

Correction: Europeans BELIEVE they are well-informed. They agree with the views of the MSNBCs and biased BBCs of the world. Having European friends, most of them are blnded by their views, such that they cannot –still, after two years– cannot wrap their minds around how or why The Donald was elected; where that came from is a mystery to them. With some similarity to America, Euros in the big cities are more Leftist, and the smaller towns and villages are more socially (and otherwise ) conservative. But by & large, western Europe has a long history of being a SOCIAL-market… Read more »

DeBeers Diamonds
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DeBeers Diamonds

Something like around half of all Americans attend a religious service weekly, while in Europe even Poland is about one-third.

When Euros visit the US, they tend to favor National Parks, Disney and a few major cities. Contact with the “real America” is at a minimum, they aren’t coming for deer season. Conversely, rural red state residents are probably the least likely to visit Europe, and most Americans (including myself) don’t have a passport.

Al from da Nort
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Al from da Nort

Carrie;
Also amusing is the general European lack of geographic knowledge of N America, particularly its size. I still remember trying to convince a visiting French family that they couldn’t drive from New York City to Yellowstone in a day (it’s almost 2,000 miles – 3,300 km).

While in Germany in my military days I was conversing (in bad German) with a Dutch gentleman about how far my permanent duty station was from my home. When I told him it was 1,500 km he refused to believe me. “Why, that’s as far away as Moscow_!” he said

Member

I met a German guy in college and we became sorta friends. Maybe it’s just stereotype but he did seem to want every conversation to be serious and thought-through. Sometimes you’re just not in the mood or the timing’s not right. I remember walking out of a movie we’d just seen and he asks, “Well, what did you think?” As I pushed open the big exit doors I said, “I enjoyed it.” He said, “ENJOYED? What does that MEAN? That’s a favorite word here isn’t it. “Enjoyed”, “Had fun” “Liked”. You’ve conveyed NOTHING about the movie, do you understand that?”… Read more »

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Felix_Krull

Maybe it’s just stereotype

Not at all. They are notorious for not having a lick of humor. I suspect that’s why they make the best cars in the world: they take it VERY seriously.

Member
Felix_Krull

One of my friends applied for a job in Austria. The interviewer warned him: “We have an Italian sense of histrionics and a German sense of humor.”

JohnTyler
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JohnTyler

Germans consider Austrians inferior and inbred.
Northern Germans look down on southern Germans as inferior.
Must be a Prussian thing.

Ask a German what they think of Yanks and they all say the same thing; friendly but superficial.

Member
Felix_Krull

Northern Germans look down on southern Germans as inferior.

The Bavarians aren’t too fond of Prussians either.

Ask a German what they think of Yanks and they all say the same thing; friendly but superficial.

Well, pretty much everybody thinks that, even Americans.

Member

Agree on the humor part. Though they seem to like unsubtle bawdy humor. I was at a polite Thanksgiving dinner table in mixed company. 3 Germans and about 13 Americans. One of the old ladies mentioned something about being 16. A German guy kinda interrupts and says, “I don’t know. The only thing I remember about being 16 was having an erection all the time!” Huge laughter from himself and the other Germans. Uncomfortable smiles from everyone else. But yeah, agree on the somber manner. I’ve seen a lot of German pop music interview shows. They interview rock bands as… Read more »

Member
Felix_Krull

Skip to 6:15 for the typical German rockstar interview question.

Hahaha!

Poor Pete! How the hell do you respond to something like that, when you’re no longer allowed to use heavy bombers?

Member

But the up side to this is dating German women. If they’re in the mood, they get right to the point.

Member
Felix_Krull

The downside is that they’re into pee and strap-ons.

#NotStereotyping

A.B. Prosper
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A.B. Prosper

You should see German porn. Half of it is no sex and enough industrial rubber and metal for a tire factory.

That said I think German women aren’t that attractive for the most part , at least as far as I can tell. I think its the feminism and cultural self hate myself

Bavarian’s kind of exempted at times.

The traditional ones do have their charms and Frauke Petry formerly of the AFD , wife, mother of five fights to save Germany is attractive in a middle aged stern way

George Orwell
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George Orwell

Another good example is the French verb “gagner.” It means both to earn and to win, two very different and potentially opposite meanings in English. We would never say “I earned the lottery jackpot.” Well, most anglophone whites would not, anyway.

JohnTyler
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JohnTyler

Given how the French pronounce their words, they could easily eliminate half of the alphabet and nothing would change in how the pronounce their French words.

Member

The biggest educational mistake I made was taking 6 years of Spanish in middle and high schools. I should have taken Latin instead. First, there is much less worth reading in Spanish relative to Latin. Second, Latin has utility in some of the sciences, law, and history. Last, Latin is much better as getting to the root of English words borrowed via the French/Normans. Spanish is useful if you plan on running a landscaping company and plan to hire illegals. If one of them says, “That’s not my yob, man!” you can inform them in their own tongue that it… Read more »

Dutch
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Dutch

My heritage is German, Austrian, and Dutch. So everything with me is this weird combo of a big frikkin deal (the German), it has to be just so (Austrian) and “who cares?” (Dutch). Wifee is French and Irish, so there is a lot of “who cares” along with holding up airs and acting proper (the French), along with a fierce streak and getting really angry about odd little things, along with a “never forget” attitude and knowing how to throw a party (the Irish). Our place gets interesting at times.

Carrie
Guest

@DUTCH
That’s a fantastic synopsis of attributes from the different Euro cultures.

I see myself in there not from my genetic roots (Irish, Dutch, and Eastern European), but b/c of the influence that traveling, living, and working in France (and later Germany) during my h.s., college, and early career, have had on my personality, and way of doing things.

Really interesting.

Alex
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Alex

As I was reading this post, this story from the Economist popped up in my feed – https://www.economist.com/leaders/2019/02/23/the-perils-of-learning-in-english

Tykebomb
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Tykebomb

Didn’t the Suebi end up in Portugal during the migration period? Or did they get Visigothed too?

The Babe
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The Babe

Most languages don’t adopt loan words very well. Chinese, indeed, can’t take too many transliterated loan words without sounding ridiculous, so it has responded with a mountain of calques–that is, newly fabricated words that translate the English roots into Chinese characters. For example, when the English “paywall” became popular, they just took the Chinese words for “pay” and “wall” and slammed them together, and–voila–they had a new word with exactly the same meaning and usage as the English word. It’s one of the reasons why they’re catching up with us in science and technology. They translate popular western books immediately,… Read more »

Compsci
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Compsci

Zman, your thoughts certainly ring true. Was thinking of George Orwell and his concept of “Newspeak” in 1984 while reading. Erase or redefine a word’s meaning and control the “prols” very ability to resist Big Brother. Being Dutch, I remember my immigrant grandfather speaking English as his second language. He never did get all the nuances quite right and often fell into direct translation of his Dutch language thoughts. My favorite was his response to a food he did not like to eat. He would respond. “it doesn’t taste me well”. :-). None the less, he and my grandmother made… Read more »

The Babe
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The Babe

We shouldn’t forget Steve Sailer’s warning that the English language could become a “Trojan Horse” to carry terrible left-wing ideas to foreign countries:

http://www.unz.com/isteve/english-as-a-trojan-horse-in-japan/

You could argue more generally that English has become the language of globohomo, and actually works to eradicate even the Anglo-Saxon culture that it arose from (as Zman suggests at the end of the post.)

Yves Vannes
Member

Did you spend the weekend at the Seaside Inn, the Ocean Hotel or the Atlantic? How many ways are there to solve and prove the Pythagorean Theorem? If I gave 3 different conductors the same Bruckner symphony how much would they vary? If I gave the same symphony to the same conductor at the ages of 30, 50 and 70 how differently would he interpret them? S-W seems to be an overstatement. Shades of meaning doesn’t necessarily mean thinking in a different paradigm. I assume most on this blog think in English. Compare how you thought about race and politics… Read more »

JEB
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JEB

Could you explain the connection you see between the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and blank slatism? I don’t see it myself.

And why are you so convinced that the strong version of the hypothesis has not been debunked? The best single source of information I’ve found that addresses this question is Through the Language Glass, which endorses a weak version of the hypothesis while rejecting the strong version. I found the book to be well written, persuasive, and entirely non-political. If you disagree with this position on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, what is your own position, and what are you basing it on?

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

I give credit for the English influence in Germany not from science as much as pop culture, especially music that became popular in the 60’s. And anyone who’s spent some quality time in Europe will know the Dutch are probably the best English speakers on the Continent. Most European countries re-broadcast American shows, but I believe only the Dutch do so in the original language along with Dutch sub-titles. While in Germany, France or Italy, the actors are dubbed in the native language. Along with American and British pop culture, the Germans also benefited from the American service men being… Read more »

Member
Felix_Krull

They are probably the most stubborn with their attitude “When in France, one must speak French!”

That was true twenty years ago, not so much today.

The problem is rather that a lot of them don’t like British people, so make sure they understand you’re American. The French love America almost as much as Americans hate the French.

Karl Horst (Germany)
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Karl Horst (Germany)

@ Felix-Krull: I travel to France at least twice a month, and trust me, the French make no effort to even attempt English. Next time you’re in Belfort, stop in the local Carrefour and try speaking English to the cashier.

Member
Felix_Krull

I only go to France on vacations, and although I have some primary school French, most of the people I meet, readily switch to English if they sense I’m lost for words.

The only place I still meet real, visceral anglophobia, is in Paris, where it’s rather common, alas. I meet as much anglophobia in Germany – Bavaria, especially – as I do in France.

Also, maybe you’re expecting too much of a supermarket cashier.

Member

Often been reminded that don’t assume attitudes in big cities are the same as in small ones. London doesn’t represent the rest of England and NYC sure doesn’t for the U.S.

Lorenzo
Guest
Lorenzo

Perhaps because the cashier is Moroccan and never had occasion to learn English??

Karl Horst (Germany)
Guest
Karl Horst (Germany)

@ Lorenzo – You are not far from the truth. Actually, many of the non-French, French speak English quite well.

@ Felix – As David pointed out, Paris does not represent the rest of France. You have to keep in mind, France is the largest country in Europe and the majority of French people vacation in their own country. So the need for English, or any other language, isn’t that necessary. I will grant you, English is becoming more and more common, but once you’re into the heartland and rural areas, you will find English speakers few and far between.

CaptainMike
Guest
CaptainMike

English is the mandated language for all international air traffic and used to be the official language for all maritime traffic as well, though the IMO now lists Russian, Chinese, and Spanish as additional “official” languages. May have been a contributing factor, as well as domination of global finance by the Pound then the Dollar. I took 5 years of Latin and if I were to do it over again I think I would probably go the same route. I had a pretty easy time picking up conversational Spanish and Italian while working in the Mediterranean. Brazilian Portuguese? Fuggeadaboudit. When… Read more »

Brian Turner
Guest
Brian Turner

I had to learn to read French to fulfill graduation requirements for an engineering PhD. It is relatively easy to read and understand scientific literature because half of the words are cognates. So I was able to get through Jacques Monod’s molecular biology papers without too much trouble, but when the professor asked us to try reading Voltaire, it was a very different story.

Member
Felix_Krull

I must have read more than a hundred novels in English the first time I saw an American newspaper. I didn’t even understand the headlines.

Member

Now that fascinates me. Learning another language brings about as many questions as it does insights.

Member
Felix_Krull

It’s the newsroom vernacular, combined with a lot of acronyms, abbreviated grammar and assumptions about the reader’s knowledge of American culture, institutions and politics.

DraveckysHumerus
Guest
DraveckysHumerus

The aliens implanted a universal language interceptor and translator. Your thoughts are known to me before they are uttered no matter the language. This is why Nancy Pelosi concerns me. She’s not an extraterrestrial, but if you knew how crazy you might not get out of bed in the morning. AOC actually is an alien and I cannot understand a damn thing going on there.

Ivar
Guest
Ivar

It seems to me that the British Empire was the first stage of the English Language Rocket, and the U.S. was the second stage.

Drake
Guest
Drake

The Brits were nice enough to teach most of the world how to brew beer too.

Walt
Guest
Walt

The German version must have been easier to follow.

Guest
Guest
Guest

Sweden has always enforced mandatory second language instruction in its schools. Prior to WWII it was German. After WWII they switched to English.

Backwoods Engineer
Guest
Backwoods Engineer

“Instead, they have to take existing words and combine them together to get something like the meaning of the new word. German is hilarious with this.”

Yep. In German: “Bremsstrahlung”
In English: “X-ray”. Or “gamma ray”.

Member

In this video, MMA fighting rivals, Mike Perry from Florida, and Darren Till from Liverpool, have a misunderstanding because of their accents. Mike asks Darren if he wants to spar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-W-wWlFeFY

JohnTyler
Guest
JohnTyler

Besides science and tech fields, musical theater was invented in either the UK or the USA and aside from these two nations, no other nation or culture has been able produce any musical theater productions that have garnered world wide popularity. For whatever reason, english is best suited or the easiest language to produce these sorts of productions. Yep, France may be a slight exception here because they gave the world Miss Saigon and Les Mis, but that’s about it, and both of these shows were developed by the same two guys (both of whom speak English very well). Also,… Read more »

Alzaebo
Guest
Alzaebo

A music historian revealed how the European Catholics conquered South America: not through force, but through music.

The Indians went wild over Church music, they’d never heard anything like it. Master woodworkers, they started making their own instruments. King Philip had to issue an edict reducing the number of Indians making music, as they all wanted to be in the band.

They converted by the thousands, building churches as fast as they could for the overflow crowds, because everyone wanted to attend to hear the singing and the woodwinds.

Juri
Guest
Juri

Well, English perfectionism may be not as good as the article claims. Many terms and words may be good in science but not good for society. In society many words are needed because there is no common sense and unity. In English, there are 300+ genders, in Russian there only one word, perverts. In English, there are environmental activists, medical marijuana promoters, liberals, democrats, moderate opposition and so on. In other languages, there is only one word , lunatics. Now lets have a irrational dysfunctional homosexual dialectical debil debate in the Hegelian how the serial killers are different from random… Read more »

Dan
Guest
Dan

The rise of English as the worlds predominant language began with Great Britain….. “The sun never sets on The English empire”. For decades Britain ruled the seas with colonies literally EVERYWHERE. Then along came the two world wars. English and American troops fought all over the world, especially in the second war. At the conclusion the world was left with essentially ONE intact country and culture…… the USA. Being THE economic and military 800# gorilla made our culture dominant and provided incentive for everyone to learn our language. If we aren’t careful the next “lingua Franca” will be a chinese… Read more »

Reziac
Guest
Reziac

An interesting presentation along the lines of language vs IQ:

African Language and the African Mind
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAoNhacojmM

Jay
Guest
Jay

There is a reason the Scandinavians are better at English than the Germans, French and Italians. That reason is childhood entertainment. The larger populations like Germany have huge amounts of native language entertainment. Many American movies are overdubbed in German. Kids can get all the German entertainment they want. When you come from a small country, your options are limited. If you are Danish, your native language entertainment has to come from a population the size of Utah. Nobody wants to spend the money to overdub marginal American films for such a small market. All the major websites are in… Read more »

imnobody00
Guest
imnobody00

No. Lingua franca does not come from French but from the language described here. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean_Lingua_Franca

sirlancelot
Guest
sirlancelot

While it’s true one can get by with English in just about any city around the world travel just outside the Metro centers you become a babbling idiot.

It’s times like these I feel robbed being an American. Most Europeans speak two or three languages including English. It was a very humbling experience.

Angus Maxwellton
Guest
Angus Maxwellton

Germans (and by that I mean actual Germans with German ancestry) no longer even give their children German names. This must be the ultimate example of German self-hatred. Not only is their birth rate tiny, but what children they do have are given names like Kevin, Lorraine etc. Sad. I have recently come to the conclusion that English is the international language of decadence and that even the English themselves would be better off without it. One of the best ways to ensure your people’s survival is to insulate yourself with a language that outsiders can’t speak (and whose languages… Read more »

Walt
Guest
Walt

Nah man. We wypepo aint down with that Old English yo. We got some of dat Urban English up in this thang. Sheeit, we aint got a word for Kwanza in dat Ol English.

Walt
Guest
Walt

There are three powerful forces that weren’t discussed in this essay – the military, tourism and Hollywood. Millions of vibrant boomers grew up around US military bases in Europe, the Middle East and Asia seeing servicemen spending up at bars, swinging tennis rackets and haggling with local whores. What a life! Learn English and move to this wonderful place called Chicago! As for tourism, Americans and Poms were the first major global tourists, splashing cash and sleeping in these things called hotels. All the people working in tourism, including 6 year olds selling chewing gum and lighters on the streets… Read more »

pavlus
Guest

Suebi are alive and well – they’re called Schwaben these days

Member

I must protest. The French now much more English when I show my poor but valiant French.
India and China are a third of the world and their best want to learn English to get a better life. Some of that washes up on our shore. Hope it is enough to keep us afloat.
And I highly recommend Malcolm Bragg’s book on the English language.
Audible version is great, if you don’t mind keeping the volume above the gunfire background vibrancy soundtrack of Lagos on the Chesapeake.
Godspeed and God bless.

Angus Maxwellton
Guest
Angus Maxwellton

If you mean Melvyn Bragg I can tell you he is not our friend.

Member

I find Americans seem to have a pretty poor grasp of English but, thanks to Hollywood, English people such as myself can generally follow American English pretty well. The English spoken internationally is usually much closer to American English than actual English.