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It's An English Sentence

Why is English the most popular language? It's a slut.

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, January 22, 1997.

In languages, as in finance, subtle laws are at work. In economics, Gresham’s Law states that the least valuable currency will replace the more valuable in circulation simply because the more valuable will be hoarded. For extreme example, during the Civil War the Confederates hoarded all their gold while using their valueless paperbacks to be used to purchase things in wildly inflationary times, eventually using them as kindling. In languages, the teaching of Latin was restricted for many centuries so that only the church had access to the wisdom of the Bible, and the masses had to make do with the fascination of occult prayer, blessings, condemnations, and meaningless mumbo jumbo in words of which they had no understanding whatever.

The English language, and specifically American English, has achieved something never before done in history. It is the accepted language of international travel, diplomacy, and popular culture. There is and will remain a great deal of controversy over whether such cultural hegemony comes about because of military might or because of cultural superiority or both, but I think the reason is much more simple. English is the most flexible language, the one that changes easiest, and is simple to learn. That makes it popular. It also has the most marvelous verb, flensible into infinite meanings beyond count. I would not have been able to say that were not the beauties and intricacies of the predicate “to be” so obvious and crushing to dissent. Its total mastery of time, tense, intensity, and precision is unmatched in any other language. I am not, and have no pretense to, being a linguist, so I rely on those who are, buttressed by my own observations in history. For example, the Japanese Navy gave orders in English during the Second World War, partially because the rapidity of naval deployment during battle strained the precision of their native verbal structures.

The flexibility of the language is illustrated by this fact: only in English are the subject, verb, and object nearly always separate words. That means that new words from other languages can be simply substituted. Goodbye sir, see you in the future can be said Adios, Thomas-san,later. A hurried example, but the point is clear. Because of the cadence and the simple substitution, a sentence could be composed entirely of words from other languages and still be an English sentence and even fail to violate major rules. That is why English absorbs other languages so quickly and why others, like French, German, and Watusi cannot. Or in any case, do not.

In what other language can you say this in simple words:“I would have been able to have done that had it not been for the unfortunate events which as yet have not - and will have not - allowed such an action to take place.” An exact translation into most languages, subject to no other translation in tense, is nearly, if not totally, impossible. Yet, the flensing of time into such usable and encapsulated forms is almost an essential tool for the expression of scientific thought. The science of quantum physics, for example, almost certainly has to be discussed in English because other languages do not have such respect for temporal nuances.

So, my point is this. Face it; talking and writing are simply the addition of motor skills to the exercise of thought. Even if you have the interest, void of the tools of language necessary for formulating your exact position, you will never be heard short of frustrated violence. English is the most precise language ever adulteration and other such dialects are devolutions of the language, and an illustrative example of a cultural Gresham’s law. We be, sometime later, unhappy if this pseudo tribute to the Ebo tribe were the only tool available for thought among the inner city youth. The language now available to them, the one that can express their feelings exactly with no reliance on volume or tone, will be hoarded by those who rule them, and the books that could explain all this will be as mystic and scary as the heavy bible wandering monks carried around and read to peasants mesmerized on cadence, poetry, and utterly ignorant of the actual words.