Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Legitimacy of the English Language

One of our executive assistants asked me yesterday how to spell “legit.”

“L-e-g-i-t,” I told her, “but it’s not really a word. It’s slang,” I added.

“Slang? Slang for what?” she asked incredulously, and I could tell by the expression on her face she thought she was being led down the primrose path into the waiting jaws of another infamous Clanton Pun Campaign.

Moi? Au contraire.

“’Legit’ is slang for ‘legitimate,’ which means that ‘legit,’ technically speaking, isn’t,” I reassured her.

The online edition of the Merriam Webster Dictionary does define “legit,” so I guess it technically is a word…but the volume also lists it as a slang term for “legitimate.” So my explanation of an illegitimate word was, ahem, legit.

The English Language is so fun…and vexing.
Last month the Senate voted to make English the “national” language of the United States, a feat which was a bit of political word-play at its finest.

You see, they couldn’t get the measure to pass as the US’ official language. That nuance would have wrought all manner of government propaganda to be published in…English. True to their calling, the politicians inserted a clever phrase, warning that no one has the “right, entitlement or claim to have the government of the United States or any of its officials or representatives act, communicate, perform or provide services or provide materials in any language other than English."
So there.

With all the brou-ha-ha about immigration and concerns of this country being overrun by jibber-jabbering foreigners, I am surprised the stronger version of the law didn’t pass. With all its confusing idioms, slang terms, and homonyms, a sure-fire way to keep the rabble out of the rafters is to require them to speakee Engee.
Habla no Englais?
No entre vous.
No tickee, no Laundry.
Okay, so I am mixing stereotypes.

But it’s so easy to do, because English, like the melting pot that is America, is a collection of Italian, French, Greek, Latin, and who knows what else anymore. The Land of Fruits and Nuts, a.k.a. California, event wants to teach Ebonics as a legitimate…er, legit language in public schools. That state's governor can barely manage intelligible English in everyday conversation.

The latest Rasmussen Survey reveals 85% of Americans believe English should be the mother tongue of the land of the free and the home of the linguistically-challenged…11% disagree with that notion, and 4% weren’t sure. Probably didn’t understand the question as posed in plain English.

Here is an interesting corollary in the Rasmussen research: 56% of Americans now say that immigration reform is a “very” important issue in terms of how they will vote this November. Among those who say immigration is very important, 92% favor making English the official language of the United States.
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