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Language piracy

Many years ago I had a conversation with a friend, a Russian, about languages, and the way many of them had an official regulatory body, a board, whose responsibility it was to guide and control changes to both grammar and vocabulary.

She asked me who was responsible for controlling English, and was shocked when I said no one. At first she did not believe me, she thought I was having her on.

I ended up finding a quote for her, which explained it all both succinctly and graphically, and I was reminded of this when I found the quote amongst some papers a couple of hours ago.

I can’t cite the origin, because I don’t know who it is -

“English doesn’t borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over, and goes through their pockets for loose vocabulary and grammar.”

One Comment

  1. Bod says:

    The cite you’re looking for was the prolific James Nicoll. He coined the epigram in the early 90′s and the meme’s been spreading since.

    wikipedia’s got what I believe to be a reliable writeup if you search for ‘Nicholl’.

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