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Jose is gay. Nevertheless, the two are getting married. A 26-year-old illegal immigrant who came to this country when he was 13, Jose hasn’t been back to his native Mexico City since leaving. He’s assimilated down to his love of Beyoncé and horn-rimmed glasses. He did everything a young migrant is supposed to do in the United States: graduated high school near the top of his class and finished college magna cum laude. But Jose’s degree in business from Cal State Fullerton is worthless without the legal means to work, so the Stanton resident earns a living by working the books for his cousin’s landscaping service. He dreams of becoming an accountant but must wait, one of the millions of illegal immigrants who came to this country as children, knowing little of the native lands they left long ago yet relegated to a perverse limbo in which they are culturally, but not legally, Americans. –“What’s a Little Marriage Fraud Between Amigos?” Gustavo Arellano, Village Voice
The coarsest and most common of these sketches—which has gone through numerous variations down the centuries without conspicuous improvement—is what I think of as “the oblong game,” a contest played out on a rectangle between two sides, each attempting to penetrate the other’s territory to deposit some small object in the other’s goal or end zone. All the sports built on this paradigm require considerable athletic prowess, admittedly, and each has its special tactics, of a limited and martial kind; but all of them are no more than crude, faltering lurches toward the archetype; entertaining, perhaps, but appealing more to the beast within us than to the angel. –“A Perfect Game,” David B. Hart, First Things
This sprawling history of the evolution of English should be fairly familiar to readers. But now we enter the murky territory of the present. The language enjoys unparalleled global currency, even though the rising powers of the 21st century are predominantly non-English speaking (countries like China, Russia, Brazil, and to a lesser extent, in this context, India). This important change speaks to modern English’s happily neutral character, its emergence as the most practical medium for certain kinds of conversations and messages, regardless of origin. When businessmen from distant countries meet, they will most likely resort to a form of English, however slow and stumbling. When advertisers conjure slogans to build sleek, global brands, they often choose to plaster pithy English phrases (think of Adidas’s “Impossible is nothing”) on billboards around the world. –“Has English become Globish or is this gibberish?” Kanishk Tharoor, The National
More from Rafe Bartholomew:
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”