Dan Rattiner's Stories

Whither English? Will Language Leave EU? Will It Be Renamed ‘American?’

British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke last week to say that England’s withdrawal from the EU would be done swiftly and completely and would include leaving the EU Single Market. Well, so much for the hope that they might have changed their minds and called it off.

This made me wonder, will the EU try to expel the English language from the EU? About one third of all the documents in the EU are printed in English, the other two thirds in French and German. Fact is, without England, the French are already talking about dumping English. And many officials agree with that. A Polish lawmaker named Danuta Hübner said, “If we don’t have the UK, we don’t have English.”

So what will happen? The truth is that throughout the world, English is generally the language that is used in diplomacy. I don’t know why English got to be what it is. Does it have more sophisticated words? Are the meanings clearer? Is it easier to physically say? I have no idea. Maybe it is just easier to be polite in English.

An interesting article in the New York Times last week highlighted the intricacies of this dilemma the EU now faces. The executives and officials of the EU, a group from 28 countries that speaks more than 23 languages back home, usually informally speak to one another in English. But they respect one another’s languages. If a member were to leave, there was a rule that that country’s language could be sent off with it.

Today, at least half a dozen of the 28 members of the EU rely on English, or want to rely on it, and can almost be counted upon to veto that vote. Countries that might oppose sending English off could include Ireland, which does all its documentation in English even though it has declared Irish Gaelic, almost unintelligible to outsiders, to be the national Irish language.

Also opposing this would be Malta, which relies on English for its own government papers, and likely many of the countries in Eastern Europe, which embrace the use of English in almost all diplomatic encounters.

Also in the beginning, when there were only six members, another rule was passed that said everything at the EU would be translated into the language being used by each of the member countries. It would respect everybody’s language. Keep it on the up-and-up. Keep the languages from fading away. We are a crazy quilt. This was not too hard at first. Six was no big deal. The rule also said that should any more European countries join up, they would have the option of their language getting translated, too. It was a guarantee that lured in more and more members. Today, with 28 members, this is a big, big problem. The annual cost of doing the translation comes up to a very significant sum, over 1 billion euros, just to keep everyone knowing what everyone else is saying. It was also declared by many as one of the major reasons—along with immigration—that the English voted to leave the EU. The English objected to all the bureaucracy and paperwork and people from abroad being official and telling them what to do (in their native languages, if they didn’t speak English). They wanted their Jolly Old England back.

Ireland, by the way, does not get everything translated into Gaelic. It’s tough to do, for one thing. And for another it would incur enormous expense. As a result, the Irish have only gently urged it. They are happy for the moment with the EU promise that, someday, they would follow up on this law.

On the other hand, in 2015, an Irish member of the European Parliament named Liadh Ní Riada went on strike about not having Gaelic translated. Her strike consisted of spending one entire week at her desk in Brussels speaking only in Gaelic. Finally, she stopped, although she said she might do it again. Well, nobody cares.

The Duchy of Luxembourg also has not had their language—Luxembourgish—officially recognized by the EU. Luxembourg, before joining the EU, wrote its laws in French. And I suspect, they were just so happy to be joining up that they made no trouble about keeping Luxembourgish alive.

Finally, the New York Times writes about Turkish. Turkey, which would have its language upgraded into translation mode if it were to ever join the EU, which it sometimes says it wants to do and sometimes says it doesn’t. Nevertheless Turkish may be a language to be translated into the EU in the near future for another reason entirely. The Island of Cyprus is currently using Greek.

But nearly half the island is Turkish, and for 20 years now, after a group of civil skirmishes, the Island has been, from a governmental perspective, divided in two with the one half speaking Turkish and the other half Greek. As a courtesy to help the island resolve their differences, it’s expected that the elevation of Turkish into the EU might be a good bargaining tool. You’d have an island getting two different language translations. And maybe a peace treaty would get signed.

As for us here in America, although we are not and will never be in the EU, there is something to be said about the EU continuing to use the native language of America. That’s right. We have adopted English. The English may have started English. But they’ve lost it. It’s ours now. And it should have its name changed to American.

I mean, true Americans speak English, right? Isn’t that what Trump’s people say? All those foreign people should keep all those languages to themselves and speak OUR language.

England is just a little bitty island. The language of diplomacy must be saved. And changed. It’s an American thing. The whole rest of the world knows it. That is our destiny. This very article is being written in American. Just change the name.

I think there is a clear precedent for this. It’s with Obamacare. The new administration says that Obamacare will be no more. It is going down the toilet. Collapse under its own weight. They will come up with a new plan. It will be Trump Care.

Fact is, it will be a name change. Obamacare needs fixing, nobody denies that. It’s gone six years with the Republicans refusing to allow any of its flaws to get fixed. So it’s struggling. All because of that name.

The Republicans are going to tinker with it, take the sign saying Obamacare down, and put a new sign up reading Trump Care. It will be “all new” to the general public. And nobody will care, as long as it works.

Well, America works. We speak American. It used to be that we spoke English, but we took it down and put American up. Among other things, I think this will help get England off the hook with the EU. You can’t throw out the English language if it is no longer English.

Hope everybody likes it.

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