Ever since I was a little kid, I have been a huge fan of the English language. I was read to quite a lot as a kid, and as a result I learned to read at a pretty early age.
There are a lot of highly literate and articulate people in my family, also, people who read quite a lot and express themselves clearly. So my fondness for English is, quite possibly, the result of not only my childhood but also the result of genetic predisposition.
I was a big fan of Mark Twain as a kid — I am still a big fan, FYI — and one of my favorite things about his writing is his use of dialect, specifically southern dialect. He often wrote the way people I grew up around talked. He was a master of not only proper American English (and yes, I realize that many people consider “proper American English” to be an oxymoron) but also of English as it was spoken by the common people.
He’s certainly not the only author who has used dialect in his (or her) writing. But he was the first author I read who used it, and seeing as how “southern dialect” is essentially my native language, well, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Mark Twain’s writing “spoke to me” as a kid.
English is an extremely malleable language. There are a wide range of accents and dialects among native English speakers, and English incorporates and absorbs foreign words and phrases into itself quite easily.
Bing thet eets fonnettick, itt ken awlsew bee undurstuud evin ef itt izunt writun propperlee.
But all joking aside, despite what my fellow native English speakers may think or believe, English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. A great many words have really weird and seemingly arbitrary spellings. And if someone learns English as a second language from, say, Canadian teachers, that person might have difficulty understanding what in the hell a person with a southern accent is saying.
When I taught ESL in Korea years ago, for example, some of my Korean coworkers couldn’t understand much of what I would say to them at first. As they got more used to my accent — and as my accent softened and transformed, temporarily, into something close to a Canadian accent (“Canadian accent” is probably the least accented accent, FYI) — they could understand me, but at first, it was difficult. They told me this after I had worked with them for quite some time.
As a sidenote, the Korean language is also phonetic — constructed with vowels and consonants and whatnot — and while it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to pronounce properly, reading the language phonetically is actually quite easy. Once you get past how different it looks from English, and once you see the pattern of how syllables are constructed, it’s not that hard to read. With only a few exceptions, Korean words are written as they are pronounced, and rules for pronunciation are pretty much constant.
English is not like that. It is absolutely brimming with weird pronunciations and weird spellings.
Such as the phrase “political correctness.” At a glance, the spelling of this phrase would seem to be obvious.
But it isn’t actually spelled the way it sounds. Here is the proper spelling of the term:
People who oppose “politically correct” language don’t know the proper spelling of the phrase. Don’t hold it against them, just teach them the proper spelling.
And yes, I realize Mark Twain’s writing was often the opposite of “politically correct.” But I would argue with anyone that he opposed racism and bigotry, and that his intent was to lampoon and discredit racism and bigotry, not to promote it.
Anti-PC “free speech advocates” are doing the opposite of this. They are lampooning and discrediting the victims of racism and bigotry, not the perpetrators of racism and bigotry.
And they get rrrrrreeeeeeaaaalllllly mad at you if you point that out to them.
“Freedom of speech” guarantees the right to say offensive things. Nobody disputes this.
It also guarantees the right to call someone who refuses to treat people with respect a bigot.
Some “free speech advocates” might tell you that calling someone a bigot is “silencing their voice.” What these “free speech advocates” refuse to acknowledge is that the intent — as in the only intent — behind bigoted language is to marginalize and silence people.
You can say whatever you want. You can use any vile (I like that word, 😉 ), disgusting language you want to, and nobody can stop you.
They can, however, tell you to shut the hell up. They are not “violating your right to free speech” if they do so, they are expressing their own right to free speech.
If you can’t wrap your head around that, you have no business calling yourself a “free speech advocate.”
You’re free to call yourself that, of course, but doing so is roughly equivalent to saying “I got an A in algebra in high school, so I am an expert in math.”
You have a poor understanding of the subject, is what I am saying to you.
Thank you for reading.