another item for Dennis B's Web of Language?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue Jul 1 03:47:02 UTC 2008

On Mon, Jun 30, 2008 at 9:18 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> All about the recent commencement in a high school in Louisiana in
> which the co-valedictorians, cousins Hue and Cindy Vo, delivered part
> of their commencement addresses in Vietnamese.  More exactly, Cindy
> spoke one sentence in Vietnamese (to honor her parents, whose English
> isn't great) and translated it.  To prevent this outrage from ever
> recurring, school officials are considering banning the use of any
> language other than English in commencement speeches.  As a school
> board official explained, "I don't like them addressing [sic] in a
> foreign language.  They should be in English." On the other hand, or
> maybe it's the same hand--hard to tell--the officials are also
> considering requiring prayer.

Meanwhile, in Pipersville, Pennsylvania...

It wasn't the sort of issue that John McCain (or Barack Obama) needed
to prepare for Saturday in Washington when each courted Latino elected
officials at their annual meeting. But Monday, at a McCain town hall
meeting in Pipersville, Pa., a woman had a pointed question for the
presumptive Republican presidential nominee, a query sparked by
America's changing demographics.
Why, as an American, do I have to push a button to speak English or
hear English?"
The audience, a sea of mostly white faces, erupted in deafening applause.
"I think you struck a nerve," said McCain, for whom this is a delicate
issue, given his support in recent years of efforts to reform U.S.
immigration law that included a "path to citizenship" for most illegal
immigrants that was derided by its foes as "amnesty."
"I tell ya," continued the woman, "I really get ticked. I really do."
"I can tell," said McCain.
"And then you go into Lowe's," she continued, referring to the home
improvement store, "and it says 'Entrada.' And every utility bill you
got has got a foreign language on it."

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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