A country without a language
Do you know how many languages there are in the world? Well, I’ve got a number here that’s going to shock and amaze. There are 6909 languages spoken on this planet. At least there were back in 2009.
Last week I heard a narrator of one of those UFO series say there were over 6000 languages. I never take those guys all that serious, so I researched it. Vetted ‘em is what I did. That’s when I hit the 6909 figure. I don’t think they were all that accurate about aliens living in a cave in Quebec, but the language thing is close to right. Understated, even.
The big question is, how do you determine the number of languages? If I were in charge, I’d use telemarketers. -- “Hello, Ms., uh, Rabadobal? How are you doing? What? You can’t understand me? Okay, what language would I need to be speaking for you to understand? Gubangi? All right. How many people are in your household? Bazaku? Uh, tell you what, if it’s less than eight, dial one. Ms Rabadobal? Ms—oh, shoot!”
But, let’s get past that, if we can, and look at the one fact that really knots my shorts… and you know how much I hate underwear problems. The most important language, the best language, and the most efficient language on the planet is not even included on the list.
Conspicuous by its absence is “American.” Seems the smartest linguistic collectors in the world do not recognize “American” as a language. The British claim that we don’t speak English. They call our language “barbarous.” I believe they said that because Shakespearean plays never do well at the box-office over here. That’s because our language has evolved beyond the 17th Century. Hey, I can’t believe it either.
While using the American language, you seldom end a sentence with a verb. “What light from yonder window breaks?” That’s Yodaspeak. “The Force, Luke, you have.”
The British believe that conjunctions are lazy words. The word “isn’t” is considered ungenteel. The British won’t even drop the “g” at the end of “ing”. They’re never “ridin’” around London; they’re always “riding” around London.
A lot of people up north even pronounce the “g” in “ing.” Several years back, I was in a play called “The Prisoner of Second Avenue.” I was constantly losing my fake New York accent. I was not unlike Marlon Brando in “Missouri Breaks.” He used a different accent in almost every scene. It was considered genius… by many.
There was no shadow of Marlon Brandon in my performance. The director rode me like John Wayne on a goat. “Hayter, if you can’t do anything else, at least pronounce your participles without dropping the bloody ‘g’!’The writer put them there for a reason, you—“ I was going tell him that “bloody” is considered a curse word to the British, but he just didn’t seem to be in the mood. I could tell from the way his sentence trailed off.
But, what say we move past American and English and look at some of the weirder languages. Take Russian, for instance. Russian is one of the worst spelled, worst spoken languages in the Eastern Hemisphere. It took me until this morning to come up with a theory as to how Russian works. I haven’t vetted it, yet, but I’m fairly confident that someone played a bad joke on the Ruskies.
Someone took the English alphabet, moved the “Z” up to the front and shoved the “A,” back which made the” B” a “C” and so and so forth. This changed the vowels to Z, D, H, N, T and sometimes X and V. Can you imagine how hard it is to pronounce a word that has a Z where the A should be? That’s why so few contestants on “American Idol” pick Russian songs to sing. I imagine.
Likely the weirdest of all the 6909 languages is spoken by a small group of people living in Southern Africa -- San Bushmen. Did you ever see the movie “The God’s Must Be Crazy?” The lead actor in that was a Bushman. He spoke in clicks and pops. It’s supposedly the oldest language still in use. However, it may soon disappear as the population of Bushmen continues to dwindle.
Do you know Clint? Big Al’s boy? When he was a kid he used to make clicking sounds when he talked. Anytime Clint would say “Uncle Mark” the “M” was a click or a pop. I’m unable to duplicate the sound, nor can I even spell it. I always considered Clint’s childhood language to be a gift. It was too cute to be a curse.
You can do so many things with the American language. You can turn nouns into verbs as in “Did you hear him disrespect me?” You can also completely change the meaning of a word, and it will catch on. As in “He’s about to go postal on us.”
Yes, American is a fun language, because its flexible. I’ll bet if we had a time machine we could go back to Boston during the Tea Party and the people wouldn’t understand half of what we said. And, if we could go 20 years in the future, we wouldn’t understand what people were saying. We certainly wouldn’t understand what they were writing. They would write and speak in a form called “Advanced Texting.”
All except for the British. While American evolves, the English will do what they do to keep English intact. They’ll never spell “tonight” – “2nte.” They will always 1DR (wonder) What light from yonder window breaks.” – In short, I like American, but I respect the daylights out of English. I just don’t use it all that well. – Next time.