The English language was created by poets, a five-hundred year enterprise of emotion and metaphor, the richest dialogue in world literature.Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
I read Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia when it came out. I found it oddly accurate and very disturbing, but the ONLY words I remember are those quoted above. Somehow they made my heart sing.
In spite of its reputation for being the most difficult language to learn (perpetrated largely by native speakers who had sadistic English teachers) English is as close to a universal language as we we’re likely to see. Compared to Romance languages, the use of verbs in English is very simple and straight-forward with far fewer conjugations than, say, French or Spanish or or or. The only language I’ve studied that has easier grammar is Mandarin, but that’s, you know, a little difficult to learn to write. 不容易学写
Some languages — Greek, Latin, German and other languages — also change the forms of nouns, pronouns and adjectives by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are specified. “Case” is something we English speakers don’t need to know much (or anything) about. I had to learn it when I studied Homeric Greek, and I had to dredge up this knowledge when I was studying German.
“There are five Cases, the right [nominative], the generic [genitive], the dative, the accusative, and the vocative. Latin grammars, such as Ars grammatica, followed the Greek tradition, but added the ablative case of Latin. Later other European languages also followed that Graeco-Roman tradition.”
What this means is that besides learning the changes in verbs from person (first, second, third and plurals) and past, present, future, past perfect, present perfect, future perfect, subjunctive (HELP ME!!!) people had to learn changes for all the other words in their sentences. THAT is a bitch. The ONLY advantage to this system is you can write words in a sentence any way you want to. Grow a language up you using biggy is no you for such it’s if.
English appropriates what it wants or needs from every language with which it comes in contact. This is one reason English spelling can be challenging. What we have today is the glorious result of thousands of years of welcoming new words.
English grammar also evolved and simplified through the centuries, because, dammit! People had something to say!
My paint box resembles English. For a while I was only using paints made by Gamblin. Then I got the sacred tube of Ultramarine made of Lapis Lazuli made by Daniel Smith. Then, last year, I got the Natural Pigments. To them I added some paints made from water pollution. All these together make a great palette, far more expressive than any I’ve used before.
“Head in the clouds” is a powerful, beautiful way to say “nefelibata.” It’s one thing to walk on the clouds. It’s quite another to walk along with your head in the clouds, missing the rocks, roots and snakes on the trail. Falling on your face — or worse.
P.S. I’m not one of those English only fascists. I speak more than one language. I think everyone should.
P.P.S. The featured photo is the opening of a Portugese (Brazilian Portugese) translation of Macbeth given me years ago by a student who loved Shakespeare and who had come to the US to learn English so she could read and listen to it in its original language. Because of her, we did, in our oral communication class, Hamlet as a two-week-long role play.
* “How we have heard of the might of the kings.” Beowulf