Edaxicon Makes Bid to Acquire Dutch

Nobody’s been using Latin much — at least not for a couple hundred years — so the British have taken possession of it.

Americans could never own Latin. For one thing, the Romans never even visited New York. And the Brits had already beaten them to it. By the time America was breaking free of England, Latin was already a wholly-owned subsidiary of English. This is ironic, because if the Romans had kept their empire intact a bit longer, English would have been an obscure Germanic dialect.

The Brits own Latin. They write all the textbooks. The definitive texts of Roman authors are the Oxford editions. In movies, Romans almost always speak with a British accent. Even Russell Crowe, who is Australian, followed this rule.

If America wants to take over any language, it should be Dutch. After all, New York used to be called Nieuw Amsterdam. It was the capital of Nieuw Nederland, which took up a good part of what is now New England. There are all sorts of Dutch names on maps of New York: Brooklyn, the Bronx, Coney Island, the Bowery, Yonkers. Like the Romans, the Dutch once ruled a mighty empire. And they make great chocolate, something the Romans never mastered, since they never got around to conquering Mexico.

Dutch is a beautiful language, quite similar to English, but without as many annoying spelling rules. It’s almost impossible to be unpleasant while speaking Dutch. Even insults sound just moderately rude in Nederlands.

Julius Caesar and his army did visit England —Britannia to them — and left all sorts of ruins to prove they had occupied the island (except for Scotland, because —well, why bother?) Because of their long acquaintance with the Romans, the British were in a position to snatch up Latin when the barbarians set it out on the bargains table.

As a result, once English grammarians got around to dissecting their own language, Latin seemed infinitely more logical. Many rules of English grammar spring from the realities of Latin. For example, the rule ‘never split an infinitive.’ In Latin, one can’t split an infinitive because it is one word. English infinitives are always two words: to go, to see, to want.  Following this rule replaces normal expressions such as ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’ with odd phrasings — ‘boldly to go’ or ‘to go boldly.’  What do we do with “We expect the population to more than double”? Dax is not willing to boldly attempt a rewording of that sentence.

Another example is prepositions. As we all know, “A preposition is something you never end a sentence with.”  The Romans never did. They knew that ‘pre-‘ means before, and saw no reason to put them anywhere else.

But English is structurally a Germanic language, with lots of phrasal verbs like ‘be afraid of’ and ‘be proud of.’ In Latin these are one word – timere, superbire – and take either a direct object (not a prepositional phrase) or some sort of ablative (means, cause, etc.) An English writer can reword sentences to avoid putting prepositions at the end, but sometimes it sounds worse than the original ‘incorrect’ sentence, especially if it’s a question. “Who are you talking about?” becomes “About whom are you talking?”

Dax is a Latinist; he tries to follow the rules, however silly it makes him sound. He avoids splitting infinitives and leaving prepositions hanging onto the end of a sentence, but normal people give him strange looks. For a while he even gave up contractions, but it made him sound like a robot. He still tries to pronounce double consonants, and pronounces the silent ‘t’ in ‘often’ and ‘subtle.’ People frequently ask him, “What country did you grow up in?”

His reply is always the same: “I think you mean, ‘Up in what country did you grow?’”

But back to New Amsterdam. The editors of Edaxicon would like to make the Dutch an offer: we want your language. You may keep using it, of course. We will simply borrow its grammar and spelling rules and apply them to English, begin promoting Dutch in our schools, and change place names back to the original Dutch.

The benefits to Americans? We can stop getting into arguments about prepositions and infinitives. We can stop feeling ashamed that we don’t know what a declension is. We will be much nicer people.

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