01 January 2008

Fish's T-shirt

At Greykell & Rick's (and Kat and Aly and Nic's) New Year's Eve Party last night Fish was wearing a t-shirt that read:

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

According to Paizo it's a paraphrase of a quotation made by James Nicoll.* The original quotation: "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."

(Paizo's version is less vulgar, sadly, and deprives so many parents of the organic opportunity to explain the phrase "cribhouse whore" in the car on the way home. Now they'll just have to find a way to work it into conversation. Perhaps I can help with that.)

I rarely wear t-shirts anymore - certainly not often enough to justify buying another one that will be stuffed into the full to burstin' Drawer of Abandoned T-Shirts - but I did like this one a lot.

And happily it has lead me to discover Nicoll's LiveJournal which contains the sorts of sentences I enjoy reading such as "I ran a hobby shop for 17 years and now am a free-lance book reviewer and game editor, occupations that have taught me how to budget."

So thanks, Fish!

* Canadian linguist and 911 speed dialer (or however Canadians call for EMTs). See his Wikipedia entry here. Or his LJ.


thnidu said...

I have such a shirt. In fact, I'm wearing it now. And I'm looking at James Nicoll's blog, at the post where he attributes the line to Bill Bryson, author of The Mother Tongue: English, and how it got that way.

thnidu said...

Whoops! I misread that post: he's actually quoting someone else, who misattributes it to Bryson. Here's a post on the LINGUIST List about with the correct info.