Saturday, July 25, 2009

Language Bastards


In many Reserves the original languages are dying out. That is a sad thing. Many people say there is no utility in those old languages. They couldn't be more wrong. Language carries apart of your history, your parents, grandparents and your community. It's sad because in two spans it can be gone. My parents are fluent. They were both taught in school to speak English. They spoke broken English or heavy accent English because their teachers were French speaking. Isn't that funny. (If you look even further it's ironic that French speaking people tried to kill a language but go to hell and back to save theirs) Lots of the older people speak with no "h's" in their English. My parents didn't speak Ojibwe to us growing up. So we only heard them with other old people. We can understand most of a conversation to answer back in English. To try and get our tongues to say the words is a work out. We can put it together in our heads but it gets tied up when it reaches the mouth. Anyway, I can understand but my kids won't even be able to understand because it's not spoken. That is how fast the language can get lost. If languages were wildlife they would be in the endangered species category.

Language is such a powerful animal. It can make the ugly look beautiful and the innocent look guilty. We use language to soften things that we see as ugly or as hurtful. Take the word Welfare. In itself welfare is a good thing. It means that we are trying to care for something, for someone. But use in the context of standing in line for a handout and it is not a good thing. It is degrading. So we use language to change that ugly thing. In the Reserve we say things like farewell or ish. "You get your farewell? You going for your ish?" Short for issue of welfare. Takes the sting out of welfare and makes it a comedy, even a dark comedy. That is the thing isn't it, even a word like Welfare is ugly. Weird as welfare is a kind act. An act of caring. But yet we have poisoned that word to make us think it is ugly, obscene. Like if you give welfare or get welfare it is degrading. You care for the welfare of your family, your child and that is  a great thing. But used in a different context it ugly, repugnant. See even using the word repugnant makes something even uglier than ugly.  Language even tries to pretty up or make the obscene seem cool. "Steve was a rock star this weekend." This is a reference to my crack binge episode, the use of crack Rock ( I never have used crack but this is illustrate how people talk). Instead of acknowledging how vile crack use is, it is dressed up to be something funny. You mostly likely heard a number of words that are used to soften or even make the ugly look nice. We see it everyday to make things acceptable. Sometimes there is a purpose and use of language to soften harshness or things that are in your face. Look at Homosexual. A number of people are prejudice to this way of life. So language is used to soften it; like using gay or Two-Spirited. While other language is used to make it ugly: Queer and Fag. So language is powerful. We see it in categories of people, of events. We must be aware of how language is used.

Recently in December 2014, the word racism has been changed to "compassion fatigue". This was an iquiry into the death of a homeless man, who was left to rot in an emergency waiting room. He was later found to be dead and with rigamortis. Now that is how we can use language to sofen, even clean up an ugly act. This man died in part (or solely because of) to racism. The Judge didn't want to label it correctly so he came up with a nice way to clean it up. 

I believe that the Creator gave us different languages to ensure we are unique. Our languages help define us and with out that we kind of get lost. We become somewhat less than what we are. The shine gets a little tarnished. But you know what, there is a lot of chance for us to learn. It takes work and generally we are lazy but it's worth the effort. Now that my Dad is getting way up there in age, he is forgetting more of the English and speaking more Indian, so we answer more in Indian as well. Get's the tongue practicing.

Now why language bastards. It's for those smug Assholes who are fluent and ridicule those trying to speak. They make fun if you mispronounce or use a wrong tense. You know who is going to be successful at speaking and learning, those who are not shy. I like that in people, not shy to speak or try. The smug people make it hard on those that are trying. Instead they should be encouraging rather than shooting them down. They are beneficiaries of environment, those smug buggers.  Those lucky bums. :-0

I have a story about a friend. This guy he is really smart, but kind of quirky. He was dating these two girls at one time. Yeah I know, it happens. Anyway he asked me one time what do I think of Kelly. "Well she's pretty skinny, doesn't say too much, she looks old and..." He says quickly, "well, I like her!" Okay then. :-) This other girl he was dating had two children but she was very good looking. That nice dark Indian colour and the whole works. For some reason he asks her, "if you were to come back as an animal what would it be?" She thinks for a while and says, "a Swan." He replies, "A swan? Why a Swan?" Her reason was that "a Swan mates for life!" He said in surprise, "You don't have Swan like qualities, you have two different kids from two different Dads." He made the mistake of telling me his story and all of our friends knew the story of the stick (the ugly stick) and the swan.

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