English v. English: Neither is Right

It’s days like this where I wonder what someone like Samuel Johnson would think if he heard how we speak today, and considering the fact that he felt the need to write an entire dictionary back then, I’m sure he would do it all over again in the present day. Today’s English is nowhere near like the English of Samuel Johnson’s time, our dialect has changed, spellings, and overall use of various words and phrases has changed since Johnson’s dictionary was made. However, in terms of its status and its use over the rest of the world, perhaps not much has changed in the past 200 years.

In Samuel Johnson’s Preface to his dictionary of the English language, he mentions, “uncertain pronunciation arise in a great part of the various dialects of the same country, which will always be observed to grow fewer, and less different, as books are multiplied” (2), and from the point of view of someone who knows for a fact her dialect would never equate to Johnson’s, I recognize that what is being called for is the idea of conformity, a proper way to spell and say the words that come out of our mouths in order to better understand each other. While I personally like the idea of being able to understand everyone I come in contact with, Johnson takes this one step further to where language too becomes a weapon in colonialism.

In discussion we noted the change in spellings between America and England in words like color versus colour, apologize versus apologise, and center versus centre were a sign of America rebelling from England’s rule. In other words the nation’s who adopted the “proper” way of English were the most obvious marks of the nations under England’s rule, and while certainly English in separate countries have also changed over time, the mark of England’s past marks will never go away.

– Elizabeth Dominguez


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