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Thursday, February 14, 2019

American children picking up British accents

Both countries seek freedom of speech, but in different ways

T his week a news story came out claiming that little American kids are picking up British accent from Peppa Pig, a cartoon where a number of pig-like characters have British accents.

This would be of no interest whatsoever but for the fact that every other story in the news is about Donald Trump, the Wall, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal. Even the Babylon Bee is making jokes that AOC posted a copy of The Communist Manifesto by mistake. Only one paper is different: the UK Daily Mail, where the top story is about Miranda Lambert dumping a salad in somebody's lap. Big scandal.

So I'm going to talk about something completely different: language and what the Brits and Scotsmen have done to it. Based on what little I know about how they talk in the UK, here's a hypothetical conversation in America today:

PARENT: Go clean up your room.
CHILD: Cor, Gi's a mo, mum. Oi jolly well oin't, you ruddy bleedin blighter! Hkkkkkk!
CHILD: Brill, innit? 'Ang about! Oi thought you was nippin' down t'chemists shop? Ye kenfaw aboot pishet wi'oot spillin yer drink!
PARENT: What are you saying? Have you been watching that British show again?
CHILD: Ah'll till tha that fer nowt. Hkkkk!
PARENT: Omigod, you're speaking in tongues! It's a miracle!
CHILD: Blimey mum, stop ya natterin.
PARENT: No more fish and chips for you.
CHILD: Blast.

And those Brits have the nerve to claim we're the blighters . . . I mean the ones who knackered up the . . . oh, never mind.

Of course we Murkins have done our bit by turning the language into a recitation of lines from TV and that paragon of historical accuracy, the Hollywood movie. But our biggest contribu­tion to wrecking the English language is Twitter. Twitter suits the American soul perfectly. On Twitter everyone goes off half-cocked and drops F-bombs on everyone else without bothering to find out whether what they said was true. There's a rule that every tweet must be factually incorrect and misspelled, and every tweet must accuse somebody of being racist, sexist, or homophobic. Everything you tweet is funneled straight to the government and to advertising agencies, which are the same. The worst crime, which gets you permanently banned, is to say something critical of Twitter itself.

Brits might not have much freedom of speech, but they're solving the problem by making the speech they do have unintelligible. Americans solve the problem in a different way: by never shutting up, even while they're eating. In American restaurants, people have to yell at the top of their lungs so the person sitting next to them can hear them. The goal is to create so much loud and nonsensical speech that the government's computers, which monitor our phones even when they're turned off, can't keep up.

The only thing that's still considered sinful in America is not talking. Discrimination in America today isn't against women or minorities. It's against people who prefer to keep a modicum of reserve and dignity. When someone doesn't talk, like those Catholic kids, Americans pile on him for being racist. Our movies are all about people who won't shut up, written by people who won't shut up, for people who won't shut up.

By contrast, British movies are essentially fantasies about life without health and safety bureaucrats. Mainly, I suspect, this is because complaining about anything else results in accusations of some sort of “-ism”. Until activists are able to invent a suitable slur for people who complain about bureaucrats, safety regs are all those poor devils can complain about. (We Americans are blessed by having a vast selection of three-letter agencies to bitch about.)

Take those Harry Potter movies, which are currently being played on TV in America over and over. We Americans rightly assume that Britain is very much like Hogwarts, whose main characteristic is that it's full of safety violations. Here's what Britain looks like to us:

Am I the only one who noticed the number of times Harry Potter gets hit on the head? At any moment Harry could have woken up in Kansas, where everything is in black and white: “I was in England, and you were there, and you were there . . .” In America his teachers would have been dragged into court for causing chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

It's not just that we want what we can't have. It's that we each seek liberty in different ways. We're both failing miserably, but at least we're trying.

feb 14 2019, 6:38 am. edited feb 16 2019, 7:09 am

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