English is a language that is spoken as a first, or at least as an official language, on all the continents in the world. From the clipped South African to the sing-song Indian to the broad Yank or Canadian to the British.
You have Jamaicans, Kenyans, Singaporeans, Saint Lucians, New Zealanders, Tuvalese, Pakistanis and Samoans who speak it, and that’s just mentioning a few of the islands of English in the world.
The width and breadth of this language is amazing. While native speakers of it take it for granted, I think that I have a somewhat unique perspective having two first languages, so maybe that makes it more apparent to me. And maybe that allow me to step outside the commonality of habit and custom and see how the language is morphing in different directions on different continents. Heck, it’s even morphing within the continents.
An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scot went to a pub, and it was like the curse after the tower of Babel was acting on us right there and then. My cousin is down here, and he brought an Irish friend, and while they chatted and bragged and behaved, I sat there listening to the different kinds of English. It was fascinating. I thought about it in the wider world, and in maybe a wider context while my Scottish cousin and his friend prattled on.
The cousin is going to stay over the holidays with Auntie, and he deigned to bless his poor more southern relatives with his wit and charm and presence.
I’m not sure I like my cousin all that much, to be honest. It’s too much of a “I’m grown up, you’re just a kid,” for me to handle. I thought it could be nice with us queers being in the majority among the cousins – his two brothers are straight as boards, apparently – but just because someone is like me doesn’t mean they’re likeable.
The Queen of Jerks from my old school is the proof of that. I spent so much time avoiding being like him that I think it set my coming out years. If gay people were like that guy, then I didn’t want to belong.
I mean, it’s not like my cousin is more Scots than I am. He’s the son of Yorkshireman and a lass from the Dales. He’s more English than I am, ethnically. To hear him speak as if the blood of Rob Roy runs through his veins is funny.
Nationalism of any kind is funny, unless it’s over-the-top, and then it becomes unfunny. And isn’t the spread of English a result of nationalism in itself? We sought to rule the world, and we did, and like a seed-bull in the cultural China shop we dropped this thing called the English language everywhere we went.
Like the hardy plant it is, it stuck everywhere. Which is why my wannabe Scot cousin is speaking an Edinburgh dialect of English rather than Gaelic. It is funny, this need to belong. Immigrants become more national than the nationals. I can feel this myself sometimes. I want to be English so much that I become a cliché; something I guard myself against because I see the danger of becoming a twat bore.