The news recently included an item from the South Island about the mayor of Invercargill, Nobby Clark, spouting a lot of nonsense. The bit that caught my eye in particular was his complaint about “the bastardisation of the English language,” specifically with respect to mixing te reo Māori and English.
That was screamingly funny.
Well, not the fact that that’s racist as f**k. That’s not funny. Not at all.
But he’s complaining about the bastardisation of English? How do you bastardise something that’s already a bastard? (And not a “love child” either, if you get my drift.)
English has been a Heinz 57 mongrel cur from the time of the Norman Conquest, mixing Old French, Proto-Germanic, Latin, and Old Norse. As the language evolved, it has
stolen borrowed freely from every other language English speakers came in contact with. Its willingness to absorb new terms and idioms is one of its most salient characteristics, giving it an immense and highly expressive vocabulary.
As James D. Nicoll put it,
The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.
Just for fun, I pulled an old dictionary (Britannica World Language, Vol. 1, 1963) off the shelf and turned to a random page (700, in the Ks). On that single page, I found words coming from Russian, Hindi, Arabic, Greek, Persian, Egyptian, Dravidian, Chinese, Welsh, Yiddish, and Algonquian.
Purity of the English language is just not a thing. (Whether the Māori should be complaining about cultural appropriation is a different question, and one I’m not qualified to address.)
Personally, I prefer the name Aotearoa for this island nation. It just seems so much more appropriate than a name bestowed by a Dutch explorer—not even English!—who had nothing else to add to our history.