Saturday, October 26, 2013

This is America, speak...

... whatever you want!

Part of being free means not being told what language to speak.  Countries and regional governments that mandate and micromanage the use of language in private homes, schools, and in commerce inevitably become tyrannical, and often resort to language police.  I knew of a middle-eastern restaurant in Hull (on the Quebec side of the river from Ottawa) who had an ongoing battle with the Quebec language police over the spelling of "donaire" on his wall.  After being threatened with fines, after repeated harassment over it, he tore the "e" off the end of the word to be in compliance - and left the torn poster on the wall.

Tax dollars at work...

Language is fluid, and it changes based on natural linguistic shifts and progressions, as well as changing demographics in any given place.  English itself is an amalgamation of Anglo-Saxon and French (following the 1066 Norman invasion).  French itself is a modified Gallic dialect of Latin seasoned with centuries of local and regional usage.  The American English we speak today is considerably different than the English spoken in England at the time of the King James Bible, and is an entirely different language than the Old English of the time of Beowulf.  It has changed through both slow evolution and rapid revolution.  And these natural processes simply can't be regulated or attenuated by government fiat.

But it never seems to prevent legislators from trying.

In the 1920s, Louisiana francophones had state-sanctioned cultural genocide that strove to impose English on Cajuns and Creoles - many of whose ancestors predated Louisiana's membership in the American union itself.  Children were punished for speaking French on the playground; schools were compelled to use English only, and French-Louisianians were shamed and humiliated.  Eventually, parents stopped teaching their children to speak French as they felt being bilingual would have impaired them.

What a terrible mistake now that we live in a global economy!  Look at what natural advantages Louisiana lost in world trade on account of small-minded people who wanted to control others.

A few years ago, Louisiana realized how detrimental this abuse of state power was to the cultural and economic landscape, and backed off of the English Only bandwagon.  Thus there are many public schools offering French immersion classes, and they are quite popular.  French is being re-cultivated in Louisiana, and being a Cajun is no longer something to be ashamed of.

I saw something yesterday that I did not know existed: a French language licence plate that includes the name of our state written in French.  I am somewhat surprised that the federal government permits states to have non-English plates (since the federal government micromanages everything from local education to toilet bowl sizes).

You can read more about the plates, about the legal hassle involved in their approval, and how to get one here.

At least until someone who doesn't value freedom but who likes to tell everyone else how to live complains about it, and until some black-robed villain arbitrarily outlaws them, Lousianians can indeed have French license plates on their cars.

Vive La Différence: chez nous autres!

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