We get to Speak English, Woohpeee!?

The status of English changed from being defined by its obscurity and diversity of pronunciation and meaning, as the issue is shown in Samuel L. Johnson`s “English Dictionary” to the meanings being determined by the dominant society in order for them to obtain control of other countries and cultures, as it is depicted in Roy`s and Macaulay`s text.  In other words, the status of English did not, under any circumstances, change for the better. If anything the oppressive state of mind and imperialistic tendencies implied by the ignorant tone that promoted “purity” of the language set forth by Samuel Johnson, has only increased over the years to be a much more direct expression of the white superiority agenda. From the very beginning of Johnson`s preface he approaches the idea of development and cultural influence of the English language stating, “suffered to spread, under the direction of chance, into wild exuberance, resigned to the tyranny of time and fashion, and exposed to the corruptions of ignorance, and caprices of innovation” as an unfortunate part of English`s fate (Johnson1). His promotion of order and rules is quite persistent throughout his work but his ability to omit the ambiguity or parts of English that he doesn’t like from the dictionary is misguided and severely lacks a viable rational. His notion that the English language is obscure because of the multiple influences from different languages may be valid, however, he cannot pick and choose which part of the English language truly belongs because English is a mixture of languages and no matter how hard he tries to tether it to one contributor it will lack authenticity and therefore, purity because its true original roots will have been abolished. This will result in even more perplexity because his deconstruction of the language will have created major language gaps.

Despite his utter disrespect for the history behind a text, what Johnson also doesn’t understand is that in his ridiculous attempt to purify English. He fails to realize that it is far more ignorant to ignore the fact that over time social and cultural factors will influence English.   Thus, not only is Johnson a hypocrite for attempting to tamper with the English language, while promoting his contribution as necessary to maintain order while he criticizes other influences of the languages adaptation, he also barbarically attempts to over throw what he describes as “inherent irregularities in language” while claiming barbarism of those who accept the inherent “anomalies of language (Johnson 2). Thus, he attempts to strip English of cultural origins and significant etymological influences that have been embedded into the English language by claiming that it is barbaric because they are perplexing and derivative. Overall, this reformation of the English language is just a control tactic, to yet again try to claim a something that has been infused with diversity as property of the “English” which has been modified and perfected.

This attitude only gets worse as it spreads over time and English works its way into India. Both Roy and Macaulay seem to believe that they are deserving of some kind of praise for “civilizing” people by bringing English to their land and forcing them to learn it. As British rule began to move into India, it was in fact in the native’s best interest to learn English. However, it was the notion of modernism, as the reason for this educational ruling that makes me realize that the colonialist agenda had gotten worse since Johnson wrote hid dictionary. Seeing as Johnson sought to remove foreign elements from English and not completely eradicate other languages outside of his own, I would say that Roy`s text is much more effective of preserving English superiority. While they both focused on language the subtexts clearly defended the idea that the English tried to depict themselves as the white savior. They viewed their conquests as people who needed to be saved because they don’t know any better. Johnson described this as the “danger of ignorance” referring to any cultural or societal impression that would lead to inconsistency in English (Johnson 5). Whereas, Roy depicts how Indian natives were seen as uncivilized and England took it upon themselves to convert them to what they felt was a higher way of living, starting with the conversion to English. It is the arrogant nature of the English that infuriates me in these scenario, as they continuously presume that their racial status earns them praise and they therefore, judge others by holding them the English standard of living. In doing so, cultural customs that are different and simply based off of familiarity and preference are seen as undeveloped and barbaric. Suddenly the English are able to judge, as Macaulay writes, which language is the best worth knowing?” as if they are responsible for judging the worth of humanity (Macaulay). In closing, to answer the question the status of English did changed in levels of intensity and arrogance that the English community upheld. It is unfortunate that this is there thought process but this Eurocentric point of view still continues long after these readings.

-Kamani Morrow


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