November 22, 2005

Gallimaufry

On Jim's Orphans of The Anglosphere, Lex added a very interesting post, noting a few of the tangible things that make up a small part of the vast mosaic which is the Anglosphere. I added a few myself.

What I noticed in adding my own, and also in an earlier post which glancingly addressed the unnoticed incorporation of Indian words into our everyday vocabularies, is how much we have absorbed of one another's cultures. And, as I’ve mentioned before, we have the biggest choice of slang in the world. Although Ozzie slang ‘ocker’ (meaning oik) never caught on in Britain or the US, Brits do know what it means. We have so much slang, we can’t use it all.

Obviously, British TV, American TV and Kylie Minogue are unavoidable. But many city and town names in Oz are Aboriginal - as are those in the United States. So, in Britain, besides Tallahassee, we also know Roratunga. (The French changed the names of native towns in the US to French.) We thoughtlessly use Indian words every day - pyjamas, bungalow, dinghy, chinz, juggernaut (or jagganath) and - most important - curry, tikka and masala! We have incorporated our colonies and one another - including some of our customs (Auld Lang Syne is Scottish – and syne is pronounced “sine”, by the way, not ‘zyne’’; it means ‘since’) in a way that other former colonial powers have not. Do the Dutch feel a fondness for any Indonesian customs? Well, riystafel, OK - but anything else? What about the French? Do they feel a well of affection for the customs of say, Cote d'Ivoire? The New Zealanders do indeed do a Hakka ceremony before their rugby games, because they have incorporated this into themselves in a way I do not believe non-Anglo settlers do. And now we just accept the Hakka done by mainly white New Zealanders as part of NZ.

Everyone in the Anglosphere, except the ornery Yanks, plays cricket. What did France introduce to W Africa or N Africa that had the side effect of bonding everyone together? Or Holland? Do the people of the Netherlands Antilles feel Dutch? Do the Dutch feel an affinity with them?

I do have French friends who lived in French W Africa and hold it in great affection, but its culture - and its words - have not entered mainstream France the way our Anglosphere cultures have all swished around into one another's consciousness.

We have the biggest, strongest, most flexible, constantly changing free-for-all language, and a system of criminal and civil law that has never been bettered or even equalled.

Posted by Verity at November 22, 2005 08:09 AM
Comments

Everyone in the Anglosphere, except the ornery Yanks, plays cricket..

Well, and the ornery Canucks.

But talking of sports brings up another interesting point, that at least two sports of the colonized peoples, polo and lacrosse, have become established sports in the Anglosphere. Are there any equivalents elsewhere? (Unless you count Basques as "colonized peoples" in which case jai-ali counts.) With subcontinental and West Indian immigration, even cricket is making a comback in the US -- given the ravenous appetite of ESPN for more sports content, it will probably be a minor established sport in the US in the next twenty years. The Anglosphere doesn't seem to replace one cultural artifact with another if it can help it, it just adds new ones on.

Like you, I love the linguistic variety and inventiveness of English. With our recent discussions of the Philippines, the flamboyant English of Philippine tabloid journalism come to mind, like US 1930s tabloid jourospeak on steroids. But influences pour in from everywhere.

The other network civilization that seems to have a lot of diversity of expression and adoption of aboriginal influences is the Hispanosphere. Many parts of it have a naming convention for towns that goes something like (saint's name) + de + (aboriginal name). Of course in many parts of the Hispanosphere, the population is primarily or substantially of aboriginal descent so the retention of aboriginal influences is a matter of course. But there's a lot of exchange of electronic and print media around the Hispanosphere, so there's a lot of cross-influence of dialect.

Posted by: Jim Bennett at November 22, 2005 10:40 AM

Did you know polo was originally played on elephants?

Oh, and apologies to any Kiwis reading this. My post reads as though I thought Roratunga is in Oz, when I know it is in NZ.

Americans are mad for not playing cricket. Nothing bestows glamour on a man like cricketing whites. They just look glorious.

Posted by: Verity at November 22, 2005 11:38 AM

If cricket were a real sport, I'm sure we'd be more amenable to it.

:-)

Posted by: Brock at November 22, 2005 11:48 AM

Don't know what you mean by that, Brock. It takes tremendous strength and skill and is far more complicated than any American sport. And for some reason, it gets the best looking men. Cricketers are almost universally good looking.

Posted by: Verity at November 22, 2005 12:20 PM

It's ironic that the first international cricket match was between Canada and the U.S., given that they're the exceptions to the Anglosphere-plays-cricket rule.

Posted by: Edward O'Connor at November 22, 2005 01:57 PM

" It takes tremendous strength and skill and is far more complicated than any American sport. "

Complexity operates on differnet levels. Go looks simpler than chess, at least supeficially. Anyway, complexity counts for less than subtlety. Basketball's rules are quite simple, for example.

Note on the post: Hakka is not the haka that New Zealanders dance. It is the name of an ethnic group or sub-culture in southern China, some of whom have made it to Hawaii and the West Coast.

One reason that English has taken in so much foreign vacabulary is that Englih-speaking population actually setteld in sstrange environments, as opposed to a few speakers going out as colonial adminstrators. That meant that communties needed words for things like "hominy" or "skunk"

Posted by: Jim at November 22, 2005 03:12 PM

Jim, wouldn't you classify chess as a game rather than a sport? Sports usually involve physical exercise and at least some physical skill. Cricket is a very subtle game.

Posted by: Verity at November 22, 2005 04:38 PM

You are right; chess is a sport only if you're playing Russians and thought to bring a gun.

I think there are subtleties in most sports, but in general, the simpler the overt rules the more the covert subtleties emerge. Football/soccer is an example, as compared to football/American football. It's like cooking, where a croissant or a perfect pot of rice have subtleties you can't expect in a risotto.

Posted by: Jim at November 22, 2005 04:50 PM

Fascinating. Let me add to the tapestry...

The YOYO is claimed by aboriginal Filipinos to be their invention, a kind of hunting weapon.

The word BOONDOCKS was brought home to America and finally into Websters a century ago, when indeed Filipinos fought a revolutionary war of independence first against Spain (which they won) then against America (which they lost), from many a mountaintop--the bundok

But these are orphanz wordz...

Posted by: Rizalist at November 22, 2005 07:04 PM

Hi all:
As an ESL teacher, the free for all language makes learning English very difficult for non-Anglophone students. The continuous/progressive tenses, the irregular verbs the prepositions and phrasal verbs drive them crazy. They eventually learn but it's a real hard slog and I see it in their faces :).

One of the more frustrating elements is that I can't recommend a grammar book with exercises that they can refer to. Either the references are focussed on mechanics (aka Strunk and White) or with too much confusing jargon. Hence my plea for an authoritative grammar book à la Grévisse or Real academia

Verity: France has always been an ultra hedgegog with respect to language though I'd have to check Henriette Walter's book: ici et là-bas: l'histoire du français. At least Spain and Portugual incorporated indigenious words.

What about Egypt for the Anglosphere?
I disagree with your qualifications about civil branch of common law. I find Roman derived civil law a little better. I tend to agree for criminal law though I like the institutions of the juge d'instruction and the judicial police alongside the jury

Jim: the same phenomeon is also found in Quebec. I guess it's a Catholic penchant to synthesize the indigenous with the West.

My only concern is that English's Gothic fox love of disorder and change will be moderated by global demands for some stability and regularity.


Posted by: xavier at November 22, 2005 07:45 PM

Verity:
There's one more thing that comes to mind. One of things that saddens me is that Anglophones are partly cut off from their literary heritage. The average Anglophone can't read the Beowulf in the original AngloSaxon. I'm not sure about Middle English (i.e. post-conquest to 1400)
I've tried to read the Canterbury tales but gave up as the spelling is too confusing for a non-Anglophone. I also found Lord of the rings a tough slog as a teen 'cause I was unfamiliar with the Germanic roots of English.

xavier

Posted by: xavier at November 22, 2005 08:00 PM

I can (or, more accurately, *could*) read Old English but still never got on with Chaucer. I think I just didn't like him. But, Xavier, I do think OE should be taught in school, if only for one term to develop an appetite for those with a bent for it, and they could go on. OE is strong and sure and I usually prefer it to Latin locutions, but there is no contesting the melody of several Latinate words in a row. Imagine a world (language) where we could only have one or the other! Anglophones are luckier than most of us realise ...

Posted by: Verity at November 22, 2005 08:23 PM

Verity:
Good point. Here's a niave question: are there any English teachers that could teach old English to the kids? I ask because I'll assume that English undergrads aren't exposed to Beowulf
I agree that the Anglophones are luckier with respect to their language but it doesn't hide a tension I've noted. Orwell and Churchill seemed to have this obsession of purging as much foreign words from English. While I've always found Orwell's essay on the English language helpful when writing, I always felt he was going a bit far. I wonder if Tolkein felt the same way?
In any case, you proposal an interesting idea of teaching old English.

Posted by: xavier at November 23, 2005 05:54 AM

I also like the idea of teaching OE to high school students. They will get a clear sense of the changeability of language, so will be less susceptible to the notion of documents such as the Constituiton or Bible being changelss, and besides, it will help them understand modern English better.

Here in Washington State high schol seniors spend about a month or so on Beowulf, maybe longer. These days they tend to love it, along with Greek mythology. Tastes have changed and novels feel psychologically shallow, compared to mythology, boring. anyway. But they do read it in Modern English, just as Japanese students have to read Tale of Genji in Modern Japanese.

Historical question. It seems significant that Arthur and not Beowulf is really the national epic, the one that is commonly familiar and culturally active, and this makes the English British Of course this is a function of Norman rule. What I want to know is to what extent did Breton nobles figure in the invasion and re-settlement of the island? How much did their presence, if they were present, affect the Norman king's choice of Arthur as a social paradigm?

Posted by: Jim at November 23, 2005 04:56 PM

Jim - I never knew Breton nobles were involved. The Normans were Vikings. As was the wont, they simply came and conquered.

Also, no one knows whether Arthur was Cornish or Welsh. (At least, I don't think anyone knows.)

Re OE, I was lucky. At my school, we had an English master whose specialty was OE, and some of us asked if we could have lessons in it. He was only too delighted. It was lovely. There were only about five of us in the class and we were all dead keen and the class was utterly unstructured. We just followed where he took us. Its study unquestionably nurtures (for those who were interested in the first place) a deeply rooted love of the English language in all its manifestions.

Posted by: Verity at November 23, 2005 06:20 PM

The New Zealanders do indeed do a Hakka ceremony before their rugby games, because they have incorporated this into themselves in a way I do not believe non-Anglo settlers do. And now we just accept the Hakka done by mainly white New Zealanders as part of NZ.

The only rugby games that have a haka before them are internationals. Also, many if not most of the All Blacks are Polynesian.
Recently a new haka was introduced. The players were involved in developing it, and it is only used occasionaly (twice in the last several games).

My post reads as though I thought Roratunga is in Oz, when I know it is in NZ.
What is this Roratunga of which you speak? The largest place with a Maori name is the small tourist city of Rotorua. There is also Tauranga, as well as Rarotanga in the Cook Islands.

Posted by: Errol at November 23, 2005 09:39 PM

Perhaps I should have left well enough alone, but I actually Googled Roratunga to make sure I'd got it right and it appeared to be correct. I went back and, given your post, Googled it again and it seems that other people also misspelled it and I took their misspellings as validations of my own misspelling. For this I do apologise.

I'm not familiar with "small tourist cities" in NZ and plan to remain thus for the rest of my life, but I do love Fern butter - the best butter in the world. All NZ dairy products are wonderful.

Posted by: Verity at November 23, 2005 10:07 PM

All NZ dairy products are wonderful

Hence we have over one third of the international trade in them (virtually without subsidy as well!)

Posted by: Errol at November 24, 2005 11:36 AM

"Historical question. It seems significant that Arthur and not Beowulf is really the national epic, the one that is commonly familiar and culturally active, and this makes the English British Of course this is a function of Norman rule. What I want to know is to what extent did Breton nobles figure in the invasion and re-settlement of the island? How much did their presence, if they were present, affect the Norman king's choice of Arthur as a social paradigm?"

The Arthurian myths come in a lot of shapes and sizes depending on when and where you find them. What most modern English readers are familiar with is "Le Mort d'Arthur" version of Sir Thomas Malory, which is a late 15th-century version. This is the version that puts so much emphasis on the infidelity of Guenivere. I've always thought that emphasis has a lot to do with the author being a Lancastrian during the War of the Roses. Malory may have written the work while in Highgate Prison.

Earlier versions, like the 14th-century Middle English "Gawaine and the Green Knight," the early 13th-century German "Parzival" by Wolfram von Eschenbach, and the late 12th-century French "Perceval" by Chretien de Troyes are more focused on adventures like the search for the Holy Grail. These stories were popular throughout Western Europe, not just in Breton/Britain.

If Arthur does in fact becomes a social paradigm in England, I would argue that it is a choice of the Tudor kings, not the Norman ones.

The "Mort d'Arthur" gets dusted off again during the Gothic Romantic Revival of the 1830s when stories of tragic love set in a utopian past (c.f. Ivanhoe) are a big hit with the middle class. What will be interesting to watch is how long the Saxon Romantic Revival started by JRR Tolkien will last.

Posted by: Paul K at November 25, 2005 08:41 AM

Xavier,

Indeed, next to Tolkein either Churchill or Orwell would come across as a raving Francophile.

Posted by: Kirk Parker at November 30, 2005 01:51 AM

Nice site!

Posted by: prevacid otc at August 18, 2006 09:27 AM
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