Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Imperialist Linguistics"

This is the second freebie for this session, courtesy of new prompter [personal profile] moongoddessgirl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] lynnoconnacht. It also fills the "winners and losers" square in my 3-16-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest.


"Imperialist Linguistics"


English learned his manners
under Viking whip and French boots.

Husa replaced domo.
Tables groaned with veal and venison.

Then English went to sea
and became a world language.

Spake became spoke;
thou became you.

When he met strangers, he smiled,
then ambushed them in the woods.

So he stole taboo from Tahitian
and okay from Choctaw.

He followed others into dark alleys, beat them down,
and rifled their pockets for loose grammar.

So he stole pajamas from Hindi
and turban from Turkish.


History is full of winners and losers,
and English has had his share of both.

He knows what happens to the losers, and
he won't go there again, split and bleeding in the street.

He knows what happens to the winners, and
it is sweet to him, sweet as saccharine.

He knows that linguistic books, too,
are written by the winners.

* * *

Notes:

English has a long and colorful history, well summed up in this quote:
"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that the English language is as pure as a crib-house whore. It not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
-- James Nicoll (b. 1961), "The King's English", rec.arts.sf-lovers, 15 May 1990
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, history, linguistics, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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