For some reason I didn’t realize just how ubiquitous and worldwide the internet is. I’m not sure if this lack of understanding is a reflection of my being essentially old-fashioned (my wife acidly observes from time to time that my heyday was during the Edwardian era, especially when I can’t figure out how to turn on the television) or if it’s a reflection of some kind of innate American technological arrogance. (You mean they actually have electricity over there in Europe?)
Whatever the reason, I have been very surprised by the nationalities of some of the people who read this blog. And one of the most surprising—and touching—things is when people from countries I have trouble finding in the atlas apologize to me for their relatively minor stumbles on the treacherous and uneven ground of the English language.
Dear and Gentle Readers, give me a break! Have you ever listened to the average American politician? A recent study—I’m not making this stuff up, by the way; I couldn’t make this stuff up—showed that the average American politician speaks at a tenth grade high school level. High school, not college. Tenth grade is the sophomore year. Without tracing the whole etymological history for you, “sophomore” goes back to a combination of the Greek words for wise, “sophos” and foolish, “moros,” which is also the root for moron. From “sophomore” we get “sophomoric,” which is a synonym for “pretentious,” “bombastic,” “immature,” “crude,” and “superficial.” I have now told you all you need to know about American politicians.
But beyond that, why should you apologize to me when English is your second language? I used to speak excellent German and French, but after fifty years of not using either I’d be hard-pressed to ask where the bathroom is. My Spanish is limited to asking for beer, and my Italian makes me look fluent in Spanish. After fifteen years of karate I can count to ten in Japanese, but that’s it. My Indonesian and Hindi are nonexistent, and while I think Arabic is absolutely beautiful to look at on a page, I might just as well be looking at cuneiform script or abstract art for all I understand of it. Yet I have gotten polite apologies from readers whose mother tongue is one of these languages. Knock it off. You’re embarrassing me.