March 17, 2002

Bite Your Tongues

(A single person stands in front of a blue outline of a map of the United States. Sixteen states in the map are colored red--Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.)

At least 16 states have passed "English Only" laws--laws which would remove government requirements to provide government services to citizens in languages other than English.

The shmucks and putzes who shlep us this chutzpah are such desperadoes. Que pasa? Who has the cojones for such an incommunicado act? This is no peccadillo. What's the zeitgeist of such dumbkopfs? Angst? Kitsch? Are other languages verboten? There's not one halcyon iota of kudos.

It's a reductio ad absurdum, by people who seem to be non compos mentis.

For the past one thousand years, the English language has sponged words left and right, some "tens of thousands of words from [many] languages over the centuries." "French provides most [words] by far, followed by Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Greek, German, Yiddish, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, more than two dozen African languages and more than three dozen other languages from all parts of the globe." Et cetera, et cetera.

And it's not just a matter of language life and death.

The Washington Times reported in 1987 that a 911 emergency dispatcher was able to save the life of a Salvadoran woman's baby son, who had stopped breathing, by coaching the mother in Spanish over the telephone to administer mouth-to-mouth and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation until the paramedics arrived.

But bonzai and Eureka! Ipso facto, to English-Only laws, we should all say, in whatever language we like: adios, auf wiedersehen, sayonara, and good riddance!





  1. ACLU Briefing Paper, "English Only", available online at
  2. Comrie, Bernard, ed., The World's Major Languages. New York: Oxford University Press (1990). Pg. 81.