Thursday, August 07, 2008

Noah Webster and His Ark

"Grammatical Institute of the English Language"
Noah Webster was an Upstate New York, as Mencken called him, "backwoods" school teacher who in 1783 returned to his hometown of West Hartford, Connecticut, and published his Grammatical Institute of the English Language. Not the King's English! No, Noah, not the King's English--Americans didn't want the King's English--Dr. Johnson's dictionary covered that--and to hell with Dr. Johnson's dictionary. There came into the majority of finally freed white folks who stole this country a strong hatred of England and the English kings. Most white Americans who stole and then founded this country were escaping what to them was a form of slavery, slaves to the whims and fancies of the British fop royals and the privileged peerage class--England then being under the mad rule of King George the Third, a first-class English-bastardized wanker. Let's see, the Pilgrims and Puritans were considered religious nutjobs (and, yes, they were totally religious nutjobs though they were no more nutjobs than were the Roman Catholics or the Church of Englanders) and as nutjobs they were anti-Catholic/Anglican therefore unwanted in the Church-of-Henry-VIII-England--why American whites even changed the name of the Anglican Church when they got over here--to the Episcopal Church--I've attended a service held by the Archbishop of Canterbury in an American Episcopal Church--super-modernized Catholicism without the plaster statues of the very white Heavenly Royal Family either in agony or otherwise--God the universal cum slinger, Jesus the Pure Lord and Master, and the Incarnate Mother Mary watching like a most-serious white mother over her little White Hallelujah Royal Flock--a desert religion made seaworthy by the sea-going Romans and then the seagoing Anglo-Saxons after they'd tamed the pagan seagoing Celts--Viking half-breeds! Also, Catholics were tortured like Bush tortures the poor slugs at Guantanamo Bay and driven the Holy Mad Hell out of Europe--and a whole host of them came to Maryland with Lord Calvert and Lord Baltimore--once great American whiskeys--my dad had a friend who got drunk exclusively on Lord Calvert and every time he took a swig of The Lord, he'd say, "Here's to you, Lord Calvert!" Such great old whiskey brands now either faded totally away or certainly fading fastly away--Old Crow; Heavenly Hill; Four Roses; Lord Calvert; Old Mr. Boston; Early Times; Wilson; Old Yellowstone; Old Fitzgerald; Fleischmann's; Rock 'n Rye; PM; Imperial; Hiram Walker; Windsor; Old Forester; White Horse; King George IV; Kentucky Tavern--to name a few. I once drank CC & 7. I wonder if CC's even still behind bars? Canadian Club was a Prohibition whiskey made at the Hiram Walker Distillery over in Windsor, Ontario, just over the river (now just through a tunnel) from Detroit, Michigan, and just out the narrow west end of Lake Huron and then just a quick motor-launch trip across Lake Michigan from Chicago and good old fun-loving Al Capone and all the whiskey-cravin' scoundrels of those enforced dry days in this hypocritical country. "Al Capone was awfully nice to me," Louis Armstrong said. And then there were the Huguenots, the Moravians, the Amish, the Lutherans, the Unitarians, the Dutch Reformers, the Wesleyan Methodists, the Anabaptists, the British-Israelites, the religious socialist-Lutheran Swedes and Norwegians--yah!--holy shit, all these white religious nutjobs came to these shores to steal a nation from the beautiful continent's Aborigines.

Later, in 1828, old Noah Webster, the backwoods school teacher, came out with his big one, the first comprehensive dictionary published in these United States, his American Dictionary of the English Language. Mencken now describes Noah Webster as "...a pedantic and rather choleric fellow--someone once called him 'the critic and cockcomb-general of the United States'" [from Mencken's masterpiece, The American Language, mine's a 4th Ed., 9th printing, 1945; it was originally published way back in the post-war joy era in the USA, the first years of the Jazz Age, 1919--the years John Dos Pasos writes about in his USA Trilogy (it was illustrated by Reginald Marsh)]. Mencken writes on about Noah, "...his later years were filled with ill-natured debates over his proposals for reforming English spelling, and over the more fanciful etymologies in his dictionary."
If you'd like to try, here's an online fotostat of the original dictionary--site says it's impossible to read--check it out.
Mencken goes on to state that in the 20th Century, Mencken's century, Webster would have "scarcely" passed as a philologian; however, Mencken states, "...he was extremely well read [Mr. Ed: he lived with a judge for a while studying law who had an enormous library] for his time, and if he fell into the blunder of deriving all languages from 'the original Chaldee,' he was at least shrewd enough to notice the relationship between Greek, Latin and the Teutonic languages before it was generally recognized. He was always at great pains to ascertain actual usages, and in the course of his journeys from State to State to perfect his copyright on his first spelling-book [Mr. Ed: Old No-eee Webster gave us the famous Blue Book Speller--he sold millions of those--Jesus, No-eee was a rich man--then came along the Merriams...oh, hell, I'm horsing around now--sorry] he accumulated a large amount of interesting and valuable material, especially in the field of pronunciation. Much of it he used in his Dissertations on the English Language, published at Boston in 1789." [Mencken, The American Language, 4th edition, p 9.]

Old Noah Webster told John Adams, "As an independent nation, our honor requires us to have a system of our own, in language as well as government" (from Dissertations). That's where it all comes from-- the idea that English is our national language--and everyone who comes here should have to learn English. Of course, Old Noah in his patriotic fervor was campaigning for an American English--that was the language he was talkin' about--an American English with American standards and not British. Noah put it this way, "But if it were not so [Webster said the British language was on the decline--you know, as Noah said it, "for the taste of her writers is already corrupted..." [the Good Noah included Dr. Johnson in his disembracing of British writers saying, "His style is a mixture of Latin and English; an intolerable composition of Latinity, affected smoothness, scholastic accuracy, and roundness of periods"--you gotta love that! pure white American thinking already in 1789--wow, and Noah's right and I'm finding that out in reading Charlotte Bronte--Hawthorne and Melville are so much better writers than anything England produced since Shakespeare, Coleridge, or Pope--yes, I know they aren't novelists--I think of them as writers], and her language on the decline"] "... she is at too great a distance to be our model, and to instruct us in the principles of our own tongue....Several circumstances render a future separation of the American tongue from the English necessary and unavoidable....Numerous local causes, such as a new country, new associations of people, new combinations of ideas in arts and sciences, and some intercourse with tribes wholly unknown in Europe, will introduce new words into the American tongue...." By the end of this remarkable dissertation Noah Webster foresees a North American language totally divorced from British English! And how great is it that he wants to incorporate Native American words into our language and to create a whole new language out of North American languages--languages totally unknown in England.

And today it was announced that according to the latest census projections, by 2050 the USA will be a country where minorities are the majorities--and by then the white Americans will be THE minority--the majority by then will be Latino--and the big overall whitey-beating majority will be made up of the right-now uncombinable Latinos, Blacks, and Asians--that's right, folks, those old Texans warned you of the sneaky Messkins swimmin' the Rio Grande and coming into Texas to mass up and fuck amongst themselves and have huge Messkin families in order to one day take back what was once theirs--and they're Catholics, too, you know, and sure 'nuff, today's figures showed Latinos had on an average thrice as many kids as whiteys and twice as many kids as blacks and Asians (the other current minorities). The Native Americans are never included in these figures thanks to General Sherman and his fabulous Cavalry wiping them out by the hundreds of thousands--or force marching them onto or driving them onto reservations like cattle and then massacring them or starving them to death or denying them blankets in the coldest of winters and force educating them in whitey ways at the reservation schools--and the US Calvary massacred the Nez Pierce, the Sioux at Wounded Knee, the Plains Indians in northern Colorado--"The only good Injun is a daid Injun" was the saying in those days of the White man trying to fulfill the Manifest Destiny. Then the same thing was said in the late forties and fifties about some other Red Men, the Soviet Reds, "The only good Red is a dead Red." "I'd rather be DEAD than RED!" Ah the white man and his rationalizations--it's his language--his right to rationalize with it.

"And now ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States, Pedro-Speedy-Gonzales-Martinez-Fernandez-Chico-Gonzales-Gonzales-Mendoza-Caramba, Jr." "Gracias, Padre Pancho O'Bannon-Gonzales-Camacho-Borocho-Jaime-Maldonado for that wonderful prayer to our National Saint, Senora Guadalupe--Viva Mexico!"

Will our Asian minority-majority be able to become good Americans and join the Catholic Church and learn some sort of Spanish, whether it's real or bastardized?--and what about the Haitians? and what about the Bangladesh? and what about our India-Indian population? and what about the Chinese-Americans? the Japanese-Americans?--and what about the Vietnamese? the Indonesians?--and what about the Koreans? and what about the Africans (how many Bantu languages are there? how many Tuareg languages?)? Will these diverse-language-speaking Americans swear in Spanish on a Vulgate! or have to do the stations of the cross on their knees over cracked corn--or what will we do with the Santa Ria? or the Penitentes?--the Obeahites? the Voodooists?--all questions--and worst of all, what will our dictionaries eventually look like? Will there develope a North American language afterall?--quite a gobblygook of languages melding into an Esperanto-like babble--like Tex-Mex, or like some Mayan and Incan vernaculars intertwined with ancient Aztecan or what about the Far North Americans--we used to call the "Eskimos"?--Jesus, I'm already confused, but then that's why we use our hands when we speak and dictionaries when we don't understand any of the languages we're hearing or seeing spoken.

On a sad note, on a religious site I read where the Christians give Noah Webster credit for setting up a Christian educational system in this country. I just heard a raving maniac evangelical Christian nutjob this morning say he firmly believes that his God (Jehovah (Yahweh) the Allah-mimicking god of the Holy Rolling Christians (God to these freaks has about 12 different made-up names (aliases))(everything in life is parenthetical) raised up the United States of America--God created this country! How stupid a statement is that? That means God, too, believed the American Aborigines were "savages," "pagans"; therefore, children of the Devil--to be driven off God's Chosen American Land! Noah Webster's old ark is still floating along trying to avoid a language storm or a language calm--Merriam-Webster dictionaries are still the cat's meow when it comes to the American English language. Could it possibly be sunk by the approaching Mexican Spanish Armada? What about if the Asians become the ruling majority? What will be our national language then? Old Bernard Shaw was maybe on the right path after all with his blessings on Esperanto [some great music of the past (late 60s and early 70s) was recorded on the ESP label, a record label whose original liner notes were meant to be in both Esperanto and English].

Belan tagon.

for The Daily Growler

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