Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Queen's Tongue is not (only) for speaking!

We're taught to "differentiate". Part of that differentiation comes from language. It comes from English. We know, speak, and love it. We know what it's like to speak not just well but too well. We are supposed to speak without error. There's a reason for this, obviously: because we’re spooners. We are tutored to not just read and write but master what we'd like to call "spoonerisms" (not what it traditionally means) in language-use.

For starters, language is not utilitarian. Not to us. We don't use it as a tool for communication. No. We use it to assert superiority. When polished well and spoken well, it can put those who can't polish and speak well to shame. Yes, that's what we do. We put others to shame. From shame comes a sense of knowing your worth. It shows your place and positions us automatically at the top.

Once in a while, I admit, there can be slip-ups. We may be taught that language well. But for some godforsaken reason, we can't use it as well as our grandfathers did. This wouldn't be a problem, except that since we are even worse in our "mother tongue" (God, how I detest that phrase!) those who're better in both think they're better than us. They are not.

Let me explain. We were tutored in the Queen's Tongue. That's the only language we know. But when we see those "lower" than us get their pronunciations right, we feel like puking. It's a given after all: they're supposed to get it wrong. But once in a way, you come across those who were taught in the vernacular yet can write in English without a single flaw. Doesn't bode well for us does it?

See, like I told you before, we know who to snub and who to salivate at and envy. We live on snubbing others. That's what sustains us. What drives us. So when some smart aleck comes at us and starts rambling on things we haven't heard of (in English, to make it worse!) we can do nothing else than grin and forget this (temporary) hell he or she puts us through.

So let's adjust some (common) misconceptions about us. We can't use English well. We're taught to, yes, but then again we're just taught to get a sense of superiority out of it. Others don't learn it like that. They learn it to communicate. To turn idea into word. For us, it's just a tool to get respect. An instrument. They are utilitarian. We are spooners. Big difference.

Why am I ranting about this? Because there was a time when knowing the Queen's Tongue guaranteed lifelong superiority. Not anymore. Now every Sumane and Sumana can read and write. Hence it's no longer about speaking it well. It's about speaking it everywhere. About putting down another's inability. About chiding ourselves whenever we get it wrong.

Here's the deal then. We speak badly and you speak well. Doesn't matter. We may get some stuff wrong but at the end of the day we're privileged. We'll get our scores right over you. Especially when it comes to English. Those who use it well and think that qualifies them can go to sleep. They are dreaming. Big time.

Written for: The Nation FREE, July 18 2015