Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Friday, January 31, 2014

American Scholar, You Are So Wack

It's a pretentious name. But much much worse: I heard this chap on NPR the other day. He had written yet another (apparently) article in which he endeavors to replace “foreign” words with “actual American” words.

Apart from the xenophobia of that. And apart from the obvious hilarity of that (anyone remember England, where English came from? To that extent Americans speak a foreign language dammit!).

There is the simple fact that this is technically impossible. Because of the specific nature of English.

English is a creole. I know there are pidgin versions of English. But English as such is a creole all the way down.

A creole is a language designed as an interface between 2 or more cultures. It is noun heavy and very skimpy on rules. So for instance a Saxon can go into a Norman supermarket and say: “Two packs of Marlboro, some spaghetti, a couple of grams of heroin and a snowboard, please.”

Or as some of my new countryfolk shout on planes, disconcertingly: “COKE!”

But the most important feature is that words are imported wholesale from other languages.

French has rules. French has an Academy. French turns computer into ordinateur.

English is a fantastically anarchic language, which is why it's caught on actually. Not simply imperialism. But it's almost not a language, is the thing!

That's why we can say tsumani and tidal wave, tornado and twister, cannabis and marijuana.

Why isn't that a good thing?

So it is intrinsically impossible to “replace” “foreign” words with “real American” ones.

And it's downright anti-Semitic (which is why this piece blew my mind--and why didn't the anchor debate it?) to want to replace mensch with “truman” or, heaven help us, “Mandela.” As in “She's a real mandela.”

Spot the error here. Mandela is a foreign word. Also, was Mandela a mensch? The mensch is more likely to be Mandela's secretary who makes everything happen and nobody dislikes. Or something.

As for “truman,” I refuse point blank to replace a Yiddish word with a word derived from a guy who tested hydrogen bombs for a living.

And man is a corruption of German. As is true.

They're everywhere, these corrupt “foreigners.” Cat is Roman working-class slang. What about okay? It's probably West African. Run for the hills! Nail irregularly shaped pieces of wood to the door! They are here already! Right, you *******. What to do with shizzle?

It went on. He wants to replace schadenfreude with “sadenjoy.”


Schadenfreude is not enjoying other people's sadness. It's taking delight in their suffering.

And his other reason for why “sadenjoy” was cool: “It encapsulates the very feeling of schadenfreude, the mixture of sadness and joy.”

No. Schadenfreude is an unalloyed joy, thanks very much. Sadistic delight. Just ask Nietzsche.

And let's talk about sound shall we? “Sadenjoy” is as an American German sausage to an actual German sausage.

Oh yeah, and sad is a corruption of German, and enjoy is a corruption of French.

Boo to you, American Scholar.

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