Sunday, 5 January 2014

Different types of Englishes

I'm a huge fan of the American tradition of writing - the literary classics; famous political speeches; movie dialogues; etc. There is something lawyerly (but not legalistic and dry...not mechanistic) about the American gothic sensibilities. I strongly suspect it has something to do with its unique pedigree of Greco-Roman, Germanic (including heavy Dutch), and peripheral English (ie, Irish, Ebonese and the like). It is the bastard child of the Judeo-Christian morality story.

It is social commentary that is not preachy but un-self-consciously aware of the "fallen" nature of man and therefore a self-contained and self-consistent art of the narrative of humanity's efforts to redemption and salvation. It deals with archetypes and makes champions (ie, not heroes) who do not always succeed in transcending the pettiness of the human condition but nonetheless inspire the need for human dignity and nobility precisely because it shows how rare and beautiful these characteristics are in this flawed, and often cruel and brutal world in which humanity finds itself. It is the beggar looking enviously at Saint Peter's purse but realizing the significance of the man himself. Whether the beggar chooses self-interest or not is the space in which this narrative takes place.

Now, going back to the "lawyerly" nature of the American literary tradition I point to you a link to Latin phrases that define much of the phraseology of the tradition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Latin_phrases_(full)

These are the rhetorical/oratory devices par excellence that distinguish, say, American English from the often one-dimensional Canadian English - sans Northrop Frye, of course; but, rather epitomized by the dullards of neo-conservatism of Harper and the Ford brothers who seem intent on the uninformed obvious symbolism (much like the Nintendo's series "Legend of Zelda" whose English leaves one bemused) rather than a reflective take on the rich, and complex milieu of human history. Oh, it's not so bad, if they'd only appreciate the ironies and had an inkling of what they were saying.

In the old film called, The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944), the main character says: “[let's hope] our tolerance will never become indifference, and our freedom never become license.  Let’s respect each other’s rights…”

There is a mastery of conceptual grammar that, if translated into any other language than English and over span of time, that would come across because the insights are couched in universal terms: do unto others as you'd have done unto thyself... There is something of wisdom.

One of my old friends made a succinct observation on "mainland" Canada (he's from Newfoundland); he said that he was made to feel unwelcomed and strange by his co-workers because his conversational style is drastically different than theirs. He has the "gift of the gab" (I know this personally), a tradition that has been lost in the vicissitudes of the neo-liberal economics of mainland Canada where fellowship has become a trip to the mall rather than the kitchen table and citizenship confused with how much taxes are due and paid (apparently, the new class system in Canada). Sad, really.

Jay

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