Tuesday, October 26


"Ode to American English" is a good poem, the way that most of Keillor's Writers Almanac selections are, but I've got to think Barbara Hamby never listened to any British English to be able to say (tongue in cheek or no):

... because British English
       is not the same, if the paperback dictionary
I bought at Brentano's on the Avenue de l'Opera
       is any indication, too cultured by half. Oh, the English
know their dahlias, but what about doowop, donuts,
       Dick Tracy, Tricky Dick? With their elegant Oxfordian
accents, how could they understand my yearning for the hotrod,
       hotdog, hot flash vocabulary of the U. S. of A. ...

I love American English, at least half the time. We have Mark Twain and Muddy Waters, Johnny Cash and Ray Bradbury and Bloom County. We have Woodie Guthrie, Bob Dylan, and the Beastie Boys. We have a vocabulary so inclusive it's downright kleptomaniac, and enough mutant forms to fill in the blanks of sanctioned grammar. (Y'all, ain't.)

But the English (+ Welsh, Scots, Irish, and countless divisions/strata thereof)? It's like the language just rolls over you and bounces off of everything. Dahlias and Oxford haven't got much to do with it.

But then I've got other problems with Hamby's take on American language: After all, half the so-called Bible Belt is in love with the KJV, which says a little for the fundamentalist taste in language and rather less for their scriptural scholarship.

And here I hit a tangent thought: American ain't just Ingles any more. 'course it never has been, quite - but I grew up in rural Nebraska and I never knew my German great-grandparents all that well. (I remember their accents - liquid and strangely beautiful.)

p1k3 / 2004 / 10 / 26