Quote of the day

So, in the grand tradition of never having done this before, I offer you this quote of the day. In large part because I don’t want to lose track of it again:

“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

– James D. Nicoll

My BFF just asked me about Nicoll a minute ago, so later today I might read some about him and add that here, but for now I ask you to simply enjoy the beauty of a well-turned metaphor.




  1. blf says

    Thanks for reminding me of that one! I (vaguely) recalled Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue amusingly quoting a number of other experts on English, but after an admittedly quick flip thought my copy, all I could find is: “The English language needs official protection about as much as the Boston Celtics need elevator shoes” — Standfor University linguist Geoffrey D Nunberg.

  2. Jenora Feuer says

    Heh, I remember that one.

    James Nicoll used to run a gaming and book store in Kitchener, Ontario, called ‘Imperiums to Order’ (which I used to walk to every week back when I was in University). I believe these days he’s primarily a book reviewer, and recently did a series called ‘Young People read Old SF’ which involved getting a group of people to read various classics of the SF genre and comment on them. This involved a certain amount of cringiness, because some of the old SF was rather cringy by modern standards.

    There was also some of what I ran into when I got a roommate to watch Casablanca for the first time, and afterward he said “I kept thinking to myself, this is such a cliche, and I had to keep reminding myself, this is the movie that MADE it a cliche.”

  3. blf says

    colinday@3, I’m not trying to start you cranking, but most admit I’d never heard of the anglish loons before. That name also confused me at first as its similar to the French Anglais making me wonder if it meant some sort of English / Norman French hybrid, perhaps not dissimilar to the language of the court after 1066 as Norman French was gradually replaced by English. Documents of the time are written (often badly) in “French” but using clearly English-like sentence structure and so on. Or the French-educated officials struggling with local Anglo-Saxon-Celt naming, etc., as can be seen in some of the more amusing constructions in the Domesday Book.

  4. jrkrideau says

    @ 4 blf o
    I was noticing a while ago that a couple of food terms seem to split the raising of the food and the eating.

    We raise a pig and eat pork or raise a cow and eat beef.

    Anglish sounds up there with the prescriptionist grammarians who decided that English should follow Latin forms. I’ll split an infinitive if I want to.

  5. blf says

    Anglish sounds up there with the prescriptionist grammarians who decided that English should follow Latin forms.

    Booong! Thanks! That is what I’ve been trying to recall all day. After I made my comment above, I had this nagging feeling anglish reminded me of something, but simply couldn’t recall just what. The grammarians — that’s it, that was what was nagging me.

    On the Anglo-Saxon(-Celtic) names for raising food, and the French(-ish) names for preparing it and the resulting dishes, the pop explanation is it dates back to the Norman Conquest in 1066: The locals raised the food and so used local-language terms, whilst the then-heavily-Norman court prepared and ate it, calling it by the French names. Neat as that sounds, my recollection is it’s not widely accepted by experts, who can, e.g., point out many examples to the contrary. (This particular oddity is not something I’ve any real knowledge of / about, and is perhaps further confused in my own case as I live in France and an forever referring to foodstuffs and dishes by British English, USAian English, and French names, often in the same sentence.)

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