english, the official national language

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Tue May 23 18:13:34 UTC 2006

On 5/23/06, Dennis Baron <debaron at uiuc.edu> wrote:
> Last week the U.S. Senate passed an amendment to the Immigration Law
> that would make English the official language of the United States.
> Later the same day it passed another amendment making English our
> national language. Since then, political analysts and lexicographers
> have been trying to figure out the difference between official and
> national, not to mention what exactly the Senate had in mind passing
> two different laws on the same subject.

I fear this column will only confuse people further. The Senate never
passed an amendment making English the "official" language. The first
amendment they passed recognized English as the "national" language,
and the second one recognized it as the "common and unifying"
language. See my Language Log posts:


And the Senate did not "pass two different laws" -- they voted to
approve two separate amendments to a bill that has yet to be approved
by the House.

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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