Author Topic: American; official language of Illinois?  (Read 4269 times)

Offline hiimjo

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American; official language of Illinois?
« on: June 23, 2014, 10:15:38 AM »
Washington J. McCormick, a former lawyer with degrees from Harvard and Columbia, was elected to the United States Congress in 1921 to represent the great state of Montana. But when McCormick failed to win re-election in 1922, he decided to spend his lame duck months proposing unpopular legislation, and as a Republican with a strong independent streak, Representative McCormick proposed that these United States of America adopt American as its official language. As quoted in The Nation, he argued:
Quote
I might say I would supplement the political emancipation of '76 by the mental emancipation of '23. America has lost much in literature by not thinking its own thoughts and speaking them boldly in a language unadorned with gold braid. It was only when Cooper, Irving, Mark Twain, Whitman, and O. Henry dropped the Order of the Garter and began to write American that their wings of immortality sprouted. Had Noah Webster, instead of styling his monumental work the "American Dictionary of the English Language," written a "Dictionary of the American Language," he would have become a founder instead of a compiler. Let our writers drop their top-coats, spats, and swagger-sticks, and assume occasionally their buckskin, moccasins, and tomahawks.
The bill failed.

Nevertheless, McCormick's firey passion stoked some independence coals in Illinois' congressmen. By the end of 1923, Illinois had hastily adopted "American" as the official state language later. Thus it was secured that the official language of Illinois is American, and not English or any other foreign tongue.

In many blue states, it is contentious to even adopt an official language. Many liberals find it a bit hypocritical, very ignorant, and terribly prideful, considering none of us learn the real American languages like Oneida, Algonquin, or Navajo. But Illinois found a way to look past that.

Sadly, the bill was amended in 1969 and the nomenclature was changed to "English." Kind of funny and sad, in a weird sort of way, that Illinois lost a very... how shall I put this... unique legal perspective on language.

Thank you, Representative McCormick.

http://cranberryletters.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-american-became-official-language.html

So what do you all make of this?

Offline MalFet

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2014, 10:37:38 AM »
If Mark Twain, O. Henry, and Uncle Walt did so well to leave the Order of the Garter, why would they have wanted to join the Order of Stars and Stripes? Unlike McCormick, none of these authors had much patience for the cabbages and kings of nationalism.

Offline Daniel

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2014, 02:08:23 PM »
Interesting. Kinda crazy.

I did not know that I'm currently living in a state with an official language of English. But I am.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois#cite_note-1

I know that the country as a whole has no official language. But that's not exactly true-- certainly we have a de facto official language of English. I guess it's a good thing that isn't politically official, though.


The central issue here is one of nationalism, really, as MalFet pointed out. Dialects and languages are not easily differentiated, but the name we refer to a particular variety with is then politically charged. We do speak American here-- we speak American English. And we do speak English here-- American English. These are just different styles of referring to the same thing. The only practical concerns then are whether other languages (like Spanish or Chinese) could be used effectively here as well. For example, are citizens who do not speak English given equal access, such as in voting? In fact, I believe that ballots are provided in at least Spanish (everywhere?) as needed. On the other hand, I can't imagine a president of the country speaking Spanish instead of English. The other issue then is about second languages-- does English, as the main language in the country, get in the way of others. And I think as a nation we're still working on that issue. America is relatively intolerant of linguistic diversity compared with (at least official policies on) issues of race, gender, national origin, and so forth.

So in the end, an issue like the original one of speaking "American" is almost entirely a political stance, and a fairly petty/silly one. But there are underlying issues once that surface layer is peeled away, and those are what are of (any) real concern.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2014, 02:10:34 PM by djr33 »
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Offline cranberryletters

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #3 on: December 23, 2014, 11:08:55 PM »
Hey, I know these are ancient bones I am exhuming when I post here again, but seeing as I wrote that blog post, I just want to hop in and say that if anyone has any questions or the ilk, I am more than happy to address them.

Offline Daniel

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #4 on: December 23, 2014, 11:43:41 PM »
Welcome to the forums!
Not too much new to add, but still an interesting topic, especially since I'm living in American-speaking Illinois at the moment. (But personally I'm working on speaking other languages like Spanish, and learning bits of Quechua and others...)
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Offline cranberryletters

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #5 on: December 24, 2014, 08:17:01 PM »
Nice to see someone else in Illinois that enjoys historical linguistics. I'm in the Western Suburbs myself till January. I'm also a Spanish speaker so let me know if you need help or such. What are you doing in Illinois and whereabouts?
« Last Edit: December 24, 2014, 08:21:15 PM by cranberryletters »

Offline Daniel

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #6 on: December 24, 2014, 08:33:11 PM »
I'll send you a private message.
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Offline cranberryletters

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2014, 10:38:52 PM »
I'd reply but I don't think I have account permissions to PM you back.

Offline Daniel

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2014, 11:14:39 PM »
Slightly off topic for the thread, but why don't you just reply one more time. Then you'll move up to the non-new membergroup and have access to PMs.
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Offline cranberryletters

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Re: American; official language of Illinois?
« Reply #9 on: December 24, 2014, 11:18:11 PM »
Sounds good