October 24, 2013

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Hungarian has 35 noun cases; English has two (nominative, genitive). I like my Chicken Paprikás as much as the next guy, but are Hungarians really 17½ times more civilized than us? David Crystal says that in the aboriginal Yana language of California, now alas extinct, the sentence “€œhe”€™ll give you a stone”€ was expressed as “€œround-thing away to does-or-will done-unto thou-in-future”€ (ba-ja-ma-si-wa-numa), with subtleties of meaning English can”€™t do. (For a radically un-PC view of this topic, see here.)

And speaking of law schools: If precision of language is our touchstone, shouldn”€™t we expect to find it in purest form among the nation’s senior jurists, especially those educated in the days before nostalgie de la boue took over the nation’s young minds? Do we in fact find it there in their rulings”€”in, for example, their 35 years of insisting that using race quotas in college admissions is fine so long as the colleges pretend they”€™re not doing it?

So my own ruling here is going to be uncharacteristically sanguine. No, of course I don”€™t like ghetto slang, but I”€™m not worried about its use among middle-class youth.

Here I fall back on Steve Sailer’s theory that postindustrial Anglosphere social dynamics boil down to smart people making war on dumb people. Eleven-year-old Millie Harding is smart, in fact bilingual, or at least bi-dialectical, and she knows to switch from ghetto patois to RP when addressing authority. The poor dumb losers who actually live in the ghetto have only their patois.

For young overclass postulants such as Millie and my lunch companion’s law students, ghetto culture is a plaything to be put away when they land that executive position at a management consultancy or white-shoe law firm; for the underclass, it’s their actual culture.

As for dialects: Why, a dialect can be very expressive. (I spoke one in childhood.) Poets cherish precision of language even more than jurists do, or at any rate they did back when poetry was taken seriously; yet dialect poetry can attain the highest standards.

The most I”€™ll concede is that society gets along better if citizens understand what other citizens are saying. In that regard, we have much bigger problems than dialect and slang.

Enough of that; let’s do some forward planning. Next week I shall be in Baltimore for the H. L. Mencken Club annual bash. Willard Espy has some dialect tips:

They call their city Balamer, Murlin. They call garbage gobbidge, legal liggle. Paramour is their word for power mower….

Better start practicing.



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