It made news sometime last week that Mitt Romney’s campaign app spelt the name of the country he is aspiring to lead as “Amercia”. A likely honest mistake, perhaps, but an unfortunate one for someone who “believes in America” and wants to “restore” it. Yesterday, they also misspelt “sneak-peek” as “sneak-peak”. One thing I’ve noticed for a long time in my internet interaction with fervently patriotic citizens of the country is how they have consistently been the most grammatically incapable. I have not been able to wrap my head around it.
On the one hand, a case can be made for the laziness of online forums, and the ease of textspeak in most cases, but when those who consistently want to “take the country back” from foreigners and immigrants are the ones most unlikely to speak the language correctly, it gets worrisome. I was old enough to remember the days of Bushisms and the profundity of ungrammaticality. Somehow, it is just seemed unbelievable that the leader of a country is not able to speak the language of its people. Yesterday, I found this, from the Mitt Romney website (emphasis, mine):
As president, Mitt will work to expand and enhance access and opportunities for Americans to hunt, shoot, and protect their families, homes and property, and he will fight the battle on all fronts to protect and promote the Second Amendment.
There was something similar said by George W. Bush sometime in the early 2000s:
Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we. — Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004
Politicians are the easiest to make fun of, not just because they are the most visible, but because they represent the collective culture of a people. I imagine that if the Queen of England made a statement of stylistic or grammatical importance on television, it will either spur a flurry of linguistic dialogue all around the academic circles of the world, or just get accepted into popular usage just on the basis of the reputation of its user . What goes on in online forums (and Tea Party rallies) however is more inexcusable. It is either that the standard of English usage in America has gone horribly low among “native speakers”, or that it has always been like that, and other world users of the language have just been fooled for centuries that a mere access to the language equals proficiency, and is also a symbol of prestige and access. After all, the same Tea Party folks (think Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Rick Perry) are the same ones with the hardest policy positions against immigration and multicultural education.
To be clear, I have nothing against the tendency of language to move towards simplification. Heck, I even favour pidgins and creoles. It’s just a little interesting that in a world where being a native speaker of English today is still defined more by where you’re born than your level of proficiency, as many ESL teachers not from the US (who have tried unsuccessfully to get a job here and elsewhere) have sadly discovered, those people who have fought the most to keep the language/culture pure are the ones most publicly embarrassed by the repercussions. That is some poetic justice, I think, pun intended.