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Subject: Re: Why Johnny can't spell ( 13 of 58 )
Posted by Douglas Adams


Maybe we are seeing something similar to the early mongrelisation of the English language which, as I mentioned in an earlier post, assimilated many different languages and cultures and continually re-invented itself, unlike French, which has habitually actively resisted other influences.

All sorts of factors have caused English to become the lingua franca of the world (though let us not forget the Chinese...). First there was English colonialism, then there was American cultural colonialism, and now there's the internet.

But I think that it's not a coincidence that America, which has been a great cultural mongrel, speaking a language which was a great linguistic mongrel, has had such an impact on the world. Both the nation and the language have a naturally evolved tendency to pull in other cultural forms rather than reject them. (Well, having said that, I can think of an uncomfortable number of exceptions, but not enough, I think, to overturn the general principle).

And we shouldn't forget the Beatles. I remember a leading article The Times over thirty years ago which said that the principle reason why the French had effectively lost the battle to become the lingua franca of the European Community was that all the young people were learning English in order to understand Beatle songs. It's a little hard for people who weren't around in the sixties to know or understand the absolutely colossal (sp?) worldwide impact the Beatles had. Though the media industries have grown by orders of magnitude since then, no one, not Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan or Stephen Speilberg has had remotely that kind of effect. They just built on it.

But I think that the sort of ad hoc experimentation that is going on with the English language on the internet is just another example of it doing what it's always done - adapting itself to new cultural stresses and strains, and probably re-inventing itself once again. French could never do that - the Academie Francaise has put a stop anything of that kind.
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