Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Ugly English?

That's what the cover of the Quebecan Michel Brûlé's "Essai sociologique" Anglaid: Une langue irrémédiablement vouée à l’impérialisme et à l’ethnocentrisme ("English: A language irremediably devoted to imperialism and ethnocentrism") has as a title. The title is a blend of the French words Anglais "English" and laid "ugly" — perhaps it could be approximately translated as "Uglish". His reasoning?

For a long time, the supremacy of France illuminated the entire world. At all times, the French nevertheless recognized the numerous contributions of different languages and societies to the cultural patrimony of the world.

These days, the Anglo-Saxon culture dominates the world. Whether they are British or American, the Anglo-Saxon elites are interested only in themselves. Music, literature, drama — there is nothing but English-language works created by English speakers. (translation from The Language Log at UPenn)

So what's the angst that made him write it? Mind you, he had to publish it himself, no one wanted to touch it! He then went on and plastered posters all over town. With his bulldog like semblance and the Graffiti-like book cover, he sort of gives me the shivers.

Apparently, it was the first singular pronoun in English that was the offending term:

"I made a very simple revolutionary observation, which is that the English "I" is hypertrophied by being always capitalized. This changes the way one looks at the Other. It's a case unique in linguistics. And people are so confused by the omnipresence of English that they don't even notice this evidence."

How "revolutionary" is that?? But he doesn't stop at writing - he also sings about how bad English is and wonders if Montréal will one day become Mont-real (uhm, Mt. Real?)

So France illuminated and Britain colonised? Interesting rewriting of history. What was France, pardon me, illuminating in Algeria? At least the Brits build lots of infrastructure which they couldn't take home with them.

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