Ever since I was a child, I’ve read news reports about dying languages. “There are only 19 speakers left!” “There’s only one speaker left! Get the tape recorder, preserve every syllable you can!”
These stories used to wound me. The extinction of a language seemed appalling.
Yesterday, I read this story: “Hopes of preserving Cherokee language rest with children.” Same old thing. “With fewer than 300 native Cherokee speakers remaining in North Carolina, the clock is ticking to preserve not just the language, but a culture too.” Etc.
I must say, my current attitude is much more relaxed than my former attitude. I don’t know which attitude is right. I can simply report that my outlook or feeling has changed.
When you’re a kid, yesterday seems ages ago. And tomorrow seems ages ahead. When you get older, your perspective stretches, becoming practically Gibbonesque.
Languages have come and gone through all human history. So it will always be (I guess). Species have come and gone through all earthly history. So it will always be (I guess).
Is this bad? Well, it can seem that way. But I’m not sure it is. Anyway, this is too big a subject for a breezy lil’ column.
But I’ll add a final thought: Think of the zillions of languages we never heard (or heard of), and the zillions of species we never saw (or heard about)! Ages hence, people will be saying the same — won’t they?
‐The headline over this report reads, “Russian FM visits Cuba, calls for end to US trade embargo.” “FM” in this instance does not have to do with radio; it stands for “foreign minister.”
You know, I look at the array of forces that oppose the embargo — and the embargo (such as it is) looks better and better to me …
‐Here is a sign that I am un-modern (like you needed another one?): I am supposed to be upset that pregnant UPS drivers are “discriminated against.” There is a Supreme Court case on this, which you can read about here.
You know? I feel for the company. (Uh-oh — a sure sign of Republicanism.) UPS drivers are supposed to be able to lift heavy packages. Pregnant women should not lift heavy packages.
Is a company supposed to accommodate everything and everyone? Every zig and zag and choice of the sparrow? Isn’t there some onus on me, as the person (or sparrow)?
This is a wildly flawed analogy, but bear with me: I should not say, “Despite the fact that I can’t run, jump, dribble, or shoot — put me on the Golden State Warriors.”
‐“Former President Jimmy Carter meets Saudi crown prince.” That is the headline over this article. You know what it says to me? Carter Center gettin’ some more of that Mideast moolah.
‐Another headline says, “Concerns over easing transgender ban in military.” (Article here.) Every single day of my life, I see the word “transgender.” It seems to be in every third sentence on the Internet. I see it more than, say, “sugar” or “salt.”
Still not quite sure what it means. Maybe before the military’s ban is lifted? (I know that “transgender” is the “T” in “LGBT.” I also think that many, many letters have been tacked on since those four were around.)
‐Earlier this month, members of a fraternity at Oklahoma were filmed singing a racist song. The incident made national news, and was a hot topic of conversation for days, if not weeks. In a way, this is a mark of progress. But no one is willing to accept that. It seems wrong — and offensive — to do so.
Think about it: This is a country that once had slavery — that held human beings, legally, in bondage. Then we had segregation, Jim Crow. Now when a bunch of louts in a fraternity sing a racist song, it’s national news? It’s stop-the-presses?
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a sign of victory. But no one — and I can understand why — wants to accept it.
(Five years ago, I wrote an essay making this point, with different illustrations, of course. To read it, go here.)
‐Reading this headline, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry — maybe a little of each (with the emphasis on crying): “Russia’s heavy drinkers turn to moonshine, cleaning products.” (Article here.)
‐Every day on the streets of New York, I see an ad for RT, the Russian state television network. It shows a scary picture of George W. Bush and says, “This is what happens when there is no second opinion.” The ad alleges that Bush lied about Iraq, and in so doing caused carnage.
The Russian government, the American Left, elements of our Right — it seems that they talk and think in much the same crude language.
‐When I was in college, there were lots of LaRouchies around — followers of Lyndon LaRouche. They were especially visible in Europe, for some reason. At this time, LaRouche was alleging that Queen Elizabeth was the biggest drug pusher in the world. I can’t remember the reasoning any longer, if I ever understood it.
I hadn’t seen them in ages — but I saw a few, with a table, in New York the other day. They had a sign that said, “Putin is not your enemy. Wall Street is.”
The Left tells me that Wall Street is my enemy. The nutty Right tells me that Wall Street is my enemy. The more I hear from these kooks, whatever their stripe, the more warmly I feel toward Wall Street. There are criminals in the financial industry, of course — I suppose there are criminals in every industry. And they ought to be busted. But there are excellent people too — I know some of them — and I feel more defensive of them every day.
And let me offer a word of advice, from history: When the people around you start bogeyizing financiers, watch out.
We are in a time of nutty populism. And let me offer a word of advice, from history: When the people around you start bogeyizing financiers, watch out.
‐I thought this headline was very, very modern: “Donald Sterling’s wife, girlfriend to face off over money.” (Article here.)
‐Earlier this week, I met a young woman named Pillsbury. I asked whether she was related to the baking family. She said no. Then she said, “You’re not going to squeeze me, are you? Lots of people do.”
I told her it was a good thing she wasn’t pudgy.
‐Care for a little language? I passed a restaurant called “My Most Favorite Food.” “Most favorite” is one of my favorite — most favorite? — solecisms.
‐Let’s end with some horse racing — yes, horse racing (and not the political variety). A horse to watch, according to this article, is Firing Line. That’s a horse that people reading the website of Bill Buckley’s magazine ought to know about