Who Taught you English
While watching Sir Charles Njonjo’s (former Kenya Attorney General) interview it struck me just how much the Brits’ culture had taken root in him. Jeff Koinange, the program host popped a question and asked him “what’s your take on the recent political realignment”, to my astonishment he didn’t answer the question but fired one back to Jeff. “That’s not proper English, it’s an American expression”.
Then it dawned on me how much of American expressions we have in our vocabulary. During the 1930s when American cities were infested with mafia gangs, Hollywood did a great job in capturing the facts. Nine in ten motion pictures were gangster flicks, a common signature among hit men was asking their prey board a ride in their car just before killing, and the phrase taking him for a ride was born.
Remember the American civil war pitting the North against the South? Well, you might want to watch AMCs TV series ‘Hell on Wheels’ to have a glimpse of how stuff happened back then. The Southerners were considered by the Yankees (North Americans) to be uncouth since they insisted on keeping slaves and failed to ratify the Freedom Act of 1861. When a Northerner traveled south, he was bound to take up their behaviors and became uncultured, that is why when shit happens we say, “The deal went south”.
The only American who added his name to the English language is Fredrick Lynch, a West Indie slave owner who was brought in to the state of Virginia to tame the over feed American slave. His methods of subjugation were so successful that got his name immortalized in a verb, that why we say a thief was LYNCHed by the mob.
Before the Industrial revolution, English was a vulgar language only spoken by lesser mortals; the literati conversed in French and wrote in Latin. The vulgar nature of the language in fact helped to extend English vocabulary, the Latin word for adult population is pubes, but to the Englishmen changed it to mean the population around the pelvic area that makes one an adult. What we call pubic hair today, and when they start growing the person attains puberty.
During the rule of the Roman Empire, the City of Rome had no police and it relied on thugs to provide security services, these thugs were in turn controlled by bosses who had dominion over a certain area. To have harmony among the various gang, there was a sort of parliament for the heads were they discussed cross-turf tariffs and taxes. This association was known as the collegia and that where the modern word college stems from. So no need to go to college, it’s a thugs institution.
Originally published at blackorwa.com on January 31, 2013.