Answer by Jon Ferreira:
Um…I think it’s important to remember that we didn’t ‘borrow’ our language from the English. The English brought their language with them from their home country. We were English!!! It’s not borrowing when it’s your own language. We were a British colony, and therefore, spoke English. Presumably British English at first. Our unique dialect developed over time, and obviously varied from region to region.
Would you ask the same thing of all your former and current British colonies? How about Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, British West Indies, and numerous other British colonies and protectorates? Should America be any more ashamed than these vibrant countries? The consequences of being the largest imperial empire since the Roman Empire is that you spread your seed far and afield. The fact that Americans speak English says more about England’s cultural and territorial promiscuity than it does about our perceived shame or fault.
Despite the largess of the British Empire, America has surpassed it in influence, and has had an unmistakably cataclysmic impact on the world, We have exported our technology, art and media, business, democracy, pollution, and general way of life — for good or for bad. As a result, we have arguably been more responsible for sharing and disseminating — if not strong-arming — the spread of English throughout the world. For all intents and purposes, English has become the ipso facto lingua franca of the world. At the risk of sounding nationalistic, much of the credit for the spread of English can be attributed to the globalization — or Americanization — of the planet.
Having said all that, I love England, and am a degreed scholar in Shakespeare, and a history of the English language. George Bernard Shaw once sardonically quipped, ‘The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language.’ Perhaps the British know how to use it more effectively than us Yanks, but we have robustly made it our own, and they should be regarded as fond relatives, rather than bitter and resentful enemies. The beauty of language is that it is fluid and adaptable, and always finds clever ways to suit the culture who uses it. Perhaps the Aussies have bastardized and desecrated the English language of their mother country as well, but it’s hard to argue with the fact that they have shaped it to fit their unique and rugged personality. The language is subsequently bold, robust, and above all, colorful. Perfectly suited for their country. Shakespeare himself was absolutely irreverent with English, and audaciously invented words, reconfigured vocabulary, spun new phrases, and treated the language as if it was his own, to use and abuse at will. We should all be so impudent! Like any language, English is not precious, and if it’s worth speaking, it’s worth changing and adapting.
Language is the currency of thought, and is not the possession of one sole country. It is a living, breathing thing, and it’s best to grit your teeth, and hold on for dear life. No, Americans should not be ashamed of using a language that originated somewhere else. English itself originated somewhere else. English is a West Germanic language that was brought to Britain by Germanic invaders or settlers from what is now called north west Germany and the Netherlands. A large portion of the modern English vocabulary came from the Anglo-Norman languages, as a result of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman conquests later in its history. Intermingled with this is the heavy influence of the language of Rome, following the various Roman conquests of Britain. Increased literacy and travel facilitated the adoption of many foreign words, especially borrowings from Latin and Greek since the Renaissance, and during the transition into what we call ‘Modern English.’ In the modern era, English has frequently made use of loanwords originating from other languages. English, perhaps more than any other language, is adaptive, and has grown out of ‘borrowing’ from other cultures. At its heart, our language is a postmodernist pastiche of the world. No shame here.
Aren’t Americans ashamed they don’t have a language of their own and have to borrow from the English?