Gram at a call

Harry Drabik

I pity those who rail at teaching Standard English as harmful supremacism. In any language, how better to miss the mark? The objection that English language/culture has a questionable past is true of all tongues. Every continent has evidence of a language group being naughty to others.

The non-English Mongols did so, as did Arab to Zulu or Aztec to Iroquois. No exception or escaping, every tongue has a past. Speaking Spanish of any dialect includes the language’s history, which doesn’t then mean every Spanish speaker bears a taint as rapacious conquistador.  

Why make faulty arguments about the supposed crimes (often the hurt feeling of someone living a long-range injury) into a contemporary dictionary of effective sin? Until I see a perfect tongue grow wings on speakers I hold accusations bogus plus divisive without remedy.

The long tale of English rising from ancient Indo-European laps and overlaps too many to count. Language crime enforcement is like clapping fines and chains on you because a great aunt is said to have stolen a priceless egg that since disappeared. Don’t go there.  

Another angle of the English-bad attack is the seemingly valid argument, why study them dead writers and long-gone kings, anyway? The present royal We usurping the dead is more pleasing to the ego and easier by having demonstrably less content. (Be me too droll?)

The case for English study being too antiquated for current needs and minds comes from those who do prefer the easier route of lesser knowledge. But how to explain what complainers fail to acknowledge?   Ah, take Shakespeare (who I think Edward someone else) writing plays about past (non-Tudor) monarchs. Why look at the ups and upside downs of dead crown holders? Why? I’ll tell you.

Margaret Pole. Likely (because it requires looking into what is out-of-favor) never heard of, and exactly why long-dead Maggie matters here. Age 65 or so Maggie dearest was taken into custody (jailed). Crime? Being of a rival family. Two years later she was woke to news she’d been tried, convicted and sentenced. Her head still spinning, was lopped off, victory for of-a-sort justice and good governance. MM, but that left Margaret’s grandson, a boy jailed when she was and now a threat to lawful order by having grown to reproductive age. Danger of an imprisoned 14 year old too great, the grandson, Henry, was made to be no more.  

Whoever Shakespeare was, them knowed better than question governance by the line of living rulers. Pole killing Tudors wisely exempted from mention when exposing killers of yore. So what say objectors. Doesn’t relate to us who is also We. Doesn’t it?

Similar or parallel or same tails power over and oe’r. The Revolution French doing in the name of the people dear the same as tyrants terrible. Off with their heads, then any head demurring. Not near enough our sacred time? A little nearer, then, to lawful (in their We-full terms they surely were) acts of power’s tail running righteous and scared with socialists Soviet and National applying their laws to ensure strict and pure governance for (more accurately “of”) the sacred body politic of selected choice. 

Grows tediously difficult to plow modern examples on continents all. Some we might name. Others we do not unless we want to lose our good names and possibly heads as well. Every good cause bears horrors for us to tolerate or condemn, carefully and sagely as situations demand. Who is a freedom fighter and who a terror?

In any tongue, chant the call of loving freedom to do away by any and awful means with threat or opposition. It’s not that power might run afoul, but that it will and needs constraint. Roman philosophy held that to lead a person must first master themselves. Some did. Most didn’t. There continued the ages-old clash between conscience or civic right and power. Thinking we’re wiser than to need lessons from the past is arrogant self-congratulation for being too stupid for word to say.  

Stupid? Are we who deftly twiddle world-webs with roaming fingers? Well, yes, sorry to say, but yes because fingers are feeling but not intelligent and the device twiddled has not a head nor thought in it other than what it’s told. Unless I’m wrong, not much in wisdom or intelligence there. If affronted by my cruel denounce then ask is it necessary to seek smart paper to write well or praise a floor having the intellect to hold you up.  

Not stupid, but less informed than a few generations past who looked wider than their own imperious We. The past built scholars the egotistic we don’t-won’t recognize. Grammar, elementary school was once known as Latin Grammar schooling. Guess why. Was not due to lunch menu featuring Italian fare. Did students moan, complain and hate it? Yes. But still it made them broader in mind.

A happy little example, look at Boswell’s popular book Life of Samuel Johnson. “So what?” Say the modern authoritative minds knowing little (might not even be aware of) either Boswell or Johnson. For one, contemporary experts need brush up on their Latin, which along with Greek were known and used by such as Boswell and Johnson.

Another “so what” say they. Johnson’s contribution to their, our and your life was study of language and the compiling of a dictionary of uses past and current. We don’t think of it often, but, though known, meanings are often toyed with. It does, after all, sound better and be more defensible to be a freedom fighter rather than outlaw revolutionary.  

You or I don’t need to learn Latin to appreciate the effort of those who labored over language knowledge. Dr. Johnson didn’t open an umbrella, spin thrice and pat his head to spew Magical Merry Popisms. Only, I assure you, liars are benefited when assertion and invention are accepted as true meanings. Like a sandwich of fake bread, feasts of fancy bring starvation; the one of body the other of mind and spirit.