Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.
Egotism: Pissing in a river and watching it rise.
- Patti Smith
The Question of a Capitalized "I"
I have mentioned my thinking "out of box" in more than one of my articles. Whether it was stated in a context of bragging or a disclaimer -- it always denoted my tendency to give a fresh look at something that has a pretty well established consensus.
And so it is the case with my spotting certain peculiar features of egotism in English language, which is the second language to me after my native Croatian. That probably makes it easier for me to see it "as if for the first time" -- unlike those who were born into it and just use it never giving it a second thought.
The very first thing that had to stand out was this capitalizing the pronoun "I", which makes it unique among all European languages. Of course, I am talking about its capitalizing at other places in a sentence other than at the beginning.
Let's see that "egotistic character" further pronounced from the perspective of the use of the second pronoun "you" -- which is the same in singular and plural, as if denoting "an unimportant, any-from-the-crowd non-I".
Another point of "you" that can't escape observing is that "you" is used in addressing both, a child and an unknown or a respected grownup. That's another unique feature in English, making it different from other European languages which use different words for formal and informal "you".
So that: in German, formal=sie, informal =du; in Greek, formal-esy, informal=eiste; in French, formal=Vous, informal=tu; in Italian, formal=lei, informal=tu; in Slavic languages, formal=vi, informal=ti.
Furthermore, note that the royalties are not addressed with that "unimportant, just-one-of-many you" -- but as "Your Majesty, Your Highness, Your Excellence...".
Which altogether may make us wonder what those linguistic fathers of English language were seeing so important about themselves, and so unimportant about those they were addressing. We have to assume that distinction of importance was the case, after hearing from linguists about the connection between our mentalities and our forms in verbal expressing.
Ego -- the only thing that can grow without nourishment.
-- Evan Esar
Since I studied Latin language as a mandatory subject in my Croatian high school (yes, we had 13 subjects, not only learning about our own country, but the whole world's history, geography, economy, and culture starting from the prehistoric era).
So, how could I miss the fact that even English speaking scholars are pronouncing Latin in their anglicized fashion. Another example of language egotism?
I mean, you either say something in your own language, or say it properly in another one. If your last name is Green, you want to be called Green, not Gren. Thus, when pronouncing plural of octopus, which is octopi, that plural is not pronounced as "octo-pie", but "octopee". The same goes for cacti, stimuli, viri (yes, plural of virus), et cetera, where "cetera is not pronounced as "setera", but tsetera, "ts" like in tsunami. Likewise, vice versa is not "vise versa" but "vitse' versa -- because letter "c" in Latin is either pronounced as "ts", or as "k".
Now, I understand the natural reaction to all this by those who just couldn't care less, since they already made an English word out of a Latin one, like it is the case with so many other Latin or Greek words used especially in medicine, pharmacology and law.
Such folks don't even care that the word "homosexuality" makes no sense, because it's not only a matter of a pronunciation, but also spelling which gives it a nonsensical meaning.
Namely, homosexuality would just mean "sexuality of man", since homo means "man" in Latin. But the proper word to be used is the Greek word "homeo" meaning the "same", like in homeopathy, the slogan of which is "like cures like" or "same cures same". Only after spelled like that, homeosexuality starts meaning "sex between the same genders" in a free translation.
Again, to many people none of such aberrations mean absolutely anything improper -- to them it's only an English word derived from Latin or Greek. But, while it's O.K. for everyday uses by ordinary folks, those academics sound ridiculous when they use an original, not a derived form, and pronounce it a wrong way.
Egocentric: A person who has his I's too close together.
-- Evan Esar
A Case of "Linguistic Ignorance"
Now, let me make a little milder this criticism, by pointing to something in my own, native Croatian language where we go wrong -- but in some entirely different sense.
Namely, while English language may have this issue of "linguistic arrogance", Croatian could be said to have a feature of "linguistic ignorance". Funny, in all of my 23 years spent there, I never heard anybody mention it. My thinking may not only be out-of-the-box, but also quite "distant" from it.
So, why am I calling that "linguistic ignorance"? Because Croatians are saying something in a very wise form, but they don't think of it literally as it sounds, but just as a habitual "figure of speech".
Namely, it's a known truism in modern psychology that all our emotions are of our own make, not a result of an outside stimulus. In other words, no one is "making" us sad, mad, happy, or anything else for that matter, simply because they couldn't walk into our brain to press some buttons there. It's we who are interpreting others behaviors/appearances colored by our own intimate parameters.
And that's exactly what Croatians are saying while interpreting it as something else. Like: "Ja se srdim" means literally (and wise): "I anger myself", and the same word "se" meaning "self" is used for so many other emotions, denoting that we do some feeling to ourselves.
But we don't take it that way. You piss a Croatian and he will say it, but he will still mean that you pissed him -- not that he is doing it to himself.
And that's why I called it "linguistic ignorance".
Now, does all that make English folks "arrogant", and Croatians "ignorant"? Well, being an individualist of my own version, I don't like generalizing, so I may say that "some" English are arrogant, and "some" Croatians are ignorant.
I have met both, and I can't tell which one was really less of a good company.
Egotism is an art of seeing in yourself what others cannot se.
-- George V. Higgins
No Spelling Rules at All
This post was about languages, not the people. Trying to understand either is not an easy task. Leaving mentalities out of it, I may never understand why some languages like English or French couldn't be phonetic, like Latin, or most of Slavic languages where any letter of alphabet is always pronounced the same way. Or, why some composed German words have to be "a foot long" and tongue-twisting. Or, why Mandarin words are so short that by itself a word means nothing, but only makes sense in context with all others in a sentence.
Why someone new to the English language has to know a word to be able to pronounce it properly. Like "put" and "but" are only different in one letter, but that "u" has to be pronounced differently. I'll never get it why that was necessary. Like somebody insisted to make it complicated, while they had a more practical solution but didn't want to use it.
Why double "o" in so many words is pronounced like in words school, fool, foot, etc. -- but then comes something like "blood" that spoils the sequence of what would appear to be a rule.
It seems like even some English speaking folks are getting tired of all that, since the slang "nite" is replacing "night", with few of other examples that I can't remember right now.
During my relatively short immigration to the USA, my American boss asked me: "What's that accent?" Accent? That's one word that nobody bothers with here in Canada, where we have an official multiculturalism, and most of the people have an "accent".
Then I hear how people in New York speak with a different accent that those down south -- but they don't call it that way. It's an ethnical melting pot, and only when your "accent" doesn't sound like anything between the Niagara Falls and the Rio Grande, that's the time to start wondering what kind of extraterrestrial they are dealing with.
Well, don't ask me if that's the only reason why I came back to Canada. I love it here. Hey, I do get a little shocked when friends of our family in California imagine Canada to be all in ice, like we all live like Inuit folks. Don't they learn any geography at school, at least about their neighboring countries?
Makes me remember Mark Twain's words: "God created wars so that Americans can learn geography."
One dude was surprised when I casually mentioned that we live close to a casino.
"You have casinos?!" -- he asked as if stunned.
Well, here I go, forgetting that the post was about languages.
Actually, I just made up my mind to reach a word count over 1250. Hence all these additions and fillers.
But, yeah, English is a funny language, or, did I actually mean those folks who speak fluent, accent-free English, but live in an "anglocentric" universe.
With some people talking, their "I" is never capitalized enough -- see the video bvelow
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