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The Vocabula Review

 

Orin Hargraves

Orin Hargraves
For God's sake, do not speak of British English! The English of Britain is the Queen's English, otherwise known as English -- of which there are many variants commonly denominated to the area in which they are spoken or perhaps misspoken!

There is no such thing as the Queen's English. The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company, and we own the bulk of the shares.

Anyone reading these two quotes might guess that they are entries in a contemporary debate about the tensions between American English and British English — the two leading dialects of what is now the world's first language. In fact these two statements were made about 100 years apart. The first is from a Briton's response to a 2001 New York Times article that noted, with amusement, that the Briticism bespoke was gaining currency in American English. The second observation was made by Mark Twain just before the turn of the twentieth century, in his book of travel essays, Following the Equator. The wide separation in time and the contradiction between these two observations by champions of their respective dialects, one a Briton and one an American, attest to the longevity and the entrenched views that characterize the debate about who owns English.


Brenda Townsend Hall

Brenda Townsend Hall

In a world that appears to be torn by irreconcilable differences, it is refreshing to find that humanity everywhere is united by the collective homespun wisdom expressed in proverbs. I often used proverbs as lesson material when teaching English to speakers of other languages because they provide a unifying basis for a multinational class. As soon as I produced my list of proverbs in English, the different nationalities represented in the group would seize on a few of them with a reassuring sense of recognition. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, many hands make light work, or, conversely, too many cooks spoil the broth: such saws seem to crop up everywhere.


Ken Bresler

Ken Bresler

As a graduate-level instructor of ethics, I regularly assign students to write about the system of ethical thought they adhere to. One of my students turned in a paper describing Christian ethics. When I reproached him for writing about what Christians believed, not what he believed, he said that his other professors told him not to write in the first person. When teacher after teacher, grade after grade and level after level, try to beat the first person out of us, we’re no longer sure how to write about our individual beliefs and experiences.



The June issue of The Vocabula Review is due online June 15.


 

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