Another of Maryland's English-speaking towns poised (from the French) to go English-only

Dennis Baron debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Thu Jun 19 21:33:34 UTC 2008

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Another of Maryland's English-speaking towns poised (from the French)  
to go English-only
Thurmont, a beyond-the-beltway community in northern Frederick County,  
Maryland, is poised to make English its official language.  On June  
16, Mayor Martin Burns introduced a bill requiring town employees to  
speak only English and ordering Thurmont’s municipal paper-pushers to  
generate their copious (from the Latin) paperwork only in English as  

Thurmont isn’t very big: its zip code, 21788, includes about 6,000  
town residents, with another 5,000 people in the surrounding  
countryside.   According to Mayor Burns, the official-English measure  
is necessary to ensure the proper integration of immigrants into the  
American melting pot: “It’s a way of saying, ‘We speak English in  
America.  It’s the universal language.’”

While it may seem premature of the mayor to equate America with the  
universe (the Klingons aren’t about to give up their language, not  
without a fight), it’s clear that Thurmont has always conducted its  
municipal affairs in English because almost nobody in town speaks  
anything else.

It’s not that Thurmont wants to turn away immigrants.  It’s just that  
there aren’t very many in the neighborhood to turn away.   According  
to the 2000 Census, the few Thurmont residents who speak a language  
other than English (about 199 residents of Hispanic or Asian  
background and a couple of high school foreign language teachers) have  
no trouble communicating in English too.  That’s only 1.9% of the  
11,000 people who make up Thurmont 21788.  In comparison, the national  
average of people over five years old who speak a language other than  
English at home is almost 18%, though most of them also speak English.

Since there’s not much demand in Thurmont for any language except  
English, no one was surprised when Mayor Burns acknowledged that the  
city has never received a request to do business in any other  
language.  The new English-only law would just mean business as usual  
for the town’s municipal employees.

As it contemplates an unnecessary official English law, Thurmont joins  
the growing number of communities where everyone already speaks  
English but feels the need to protect the language from the barbarian  
hordes outside our gates (barbarian, from the Greek, meaning ‘someone  
who stammers,’ in other words, someone who doesn’t speak Greek – note  
that the Greeks considered the Angles and the Saxons, who would  
eventually bring English to England, to be barbarians). . . . .

read the rest of this post on Maryland's latest English-only town on  
the Web of Language


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

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