Native English speakers are linguistically circumcised
Most of us have heard about circumcision. Men circumcised at birth lack a part of their body, but because they have never known it any other way, they do not know what they are missing.
It may go the same way with a language, in particular with English. English is an inferior language that dearly lacks entire layers of subtlety, nuance and complexity that are common in virtually any other language (at least European) I have come across in my life. But because most British and Americans can’t even speak any other language (and if they do, they are rarely fluent enough in it), they have no idea what they are missing. Let’s look at the specifics:
- English has no T-V distinction
The “T-V distinction” is the formal way of calling the different ways of addressing other people in the second person (i.e. “you”) based on varying degrees of closeness to the interlocutor (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/T–V_distinction). If anyone wants to call English “normal” in this regard, then it may seem strange that essentially every other European language besides English does have this distinction, as do other non-European languages. For instance, in French, you would say “tu” if you address your friend, but would generally use “vous” (plural you) to address a stranger, an older person or anyone else who deserves a more respectful treatment. The logic is essentially the same in other European languages (“du” – “Sie” in German, “te” – “Ön” in Hungarian, “ty” – “vy” in Russian and other Slavic languages, and so on). It is easier to point out those widely spoken languages that actually lack this distinction: Arabic, Hebrew and English. Even though Arabic does not have the T-V distinction in the proper European sense of the word, it does have other rich and sublte ways of addressing strangers and people with who one have a more closer relationship, as does Hebrew. That leaves us with only one impoverished and mutilated language in this respect: English.
To be fair, English also used to have this distinction in the distant past, and it has still remained in use in cetain specific cases, such as Biblical texts. “Thou” used to mean “you” in the informal and intimate way, while “ye” was the plural as well as the more formal singular “you.” But because the British nobility in the 18th century enjoyed addressing each other formally (i.e. using “ye,” the predecessor of “you”) and because the general British population in an apparantly deplorable attempt at self-deception that they will “be like them” tried to stupidly emulate them, they gradually pushed “thou” away into niche uses, such as the Bible. Thus, the situation has actually flipped upside down and now “thou” sounds more formal and solemn than “you” because English speakers use it to address God. But originally (and this is also still the case with Biblical texts in other languages) people used to address God informally and intimately, not formally like they would in contemporary English.
But why is this distinction so important? It adds feeling to your communication because it gives you a greater sense of closeness to and intimacy with those who you address informally. When I talked about this with one of my American classmates in Washington, D.C. several years ago, he said to me that it’s actually better the way English has it: that it’s great that there is no such distinction between a formal and informal “you” and that you can address absolutely everyone as if they were your friends, and that way you don’t artificially distance yourself from anyone. That is far from the truth and the effect of the lacking T-V distinction is actually precisely the opposite. While the T-V distinction does from time to time lead to awkward situations and confusion when you are unsure whether it is more appropriate to address some of your colleagues or parents of your friends formally or informally, addressing everyone the same way prevents you from feeling who you are really close to and who you are not. When we try to navigate through our complex and oftentimes confusing social circles, with English we always run in a fog. The lacking distinction prevents us from feeling intimate and close to those poeple to whom we should feel really close: our friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, etc. And we cannot feel close to everyone. That is simply bullshit that only an American person can honestly believe. The plain truth is that we form intimate relationship more difficultly with a person we speak English with because when we talk to our partner in a different European language, the infromal “you” reminds us every time over and over again that we are close to this person is and this person is close to us. It hepls cement our relationships and enriches them with a tinge of emotional closeness. There is no such easy way to help cement and add extra flavor to your relationship in English.
- English has no proper productive diminutives
“Productive diminutives are infrequent to nonexistent in Standard English in comparison with many other languages” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_diminutives_by_language). This quotation from Wikipedia speaks for itself. Yet it is precisely these emotionally beautiful diminutives found practically in all other languages that adorn one’s language with a unique and unrepeatable richness and emotional preciseness. Without them, each conversation sounds and feels like a business presentation – a dry and insipid compilation of facts and opinions devoid of any individual personal touch.
- English swearwords are not enough emotionally charged
We have probably heard about the widely known “Seven Dirty Words” or “7 words you can’t say on TV.” But there are not really more swearwords than that. And those seven words are by far not as emotionally charged as swearwords in other European languages. Once I witnessed a situation when a native English speaker fluent in Russian was asked to translate a specific Russian swearword into his native English and he couldn’t! So this is not foreigners’ lack of knowledge of informal English. This is just English’s lack of words!
One may argue that it is actually better that way, that it is actually more appropriate that English lacks really insolent words and that makes it a “purer” language, more “elevated” and elegant. That may be true from this point of view, but it backlashes in a way that is not immediately obvious. One of the purposes of a language is to vent emotions, including negative ones. Swearing has the beneficial effect of lowering stress in stressful situations.
Maybe life in mediaval England was so carefree and idillic that English didn’t develop proper swearwords imbued with emotions because the speakers didn’t need them. Maybe it was just like with the T-V distinction, that is that the British nobility was trying to be all the more grandiloquar and super polite, and stopped using any “primitive” swearwords that the language at that time still contained. And the rest of the people blindly followed their highly revered nobility and whittled down on using “dirty” swearwords as well. I don’t know for sure, but the unpleasant truth is that if you are angry, unhappy or frustrated, English is simply not the language you can use to properly cope with your stress and alleviate it.
But guess what, life is not always idillic. Sometimes it feels great when you can simply blurt some really dirty swearwords to vent your anger. But in English you can’t really, unlike in other languages. I am wondering whether the high rates of suicides and incidences of shootings in America compared to Europe have anything to do with the language they use and with the fact that native English speakers simply lack the linguistic means to properly vent out their frustration with life situations and have no choice but to hold it in.
So what swearwords do native English speakers actually use? They are mostly word combinations containing religious words such as “holy,” “God,” “damn,” and so on. Just look up and watch videos of floods or other disasters in America and you will hear one and the same phrase people say over and over again: “Oh my God!” Why just that phrase? Don’t you guys have anything more diverse to say than this? And I strongly advise everyone who likes to curse this way to study the Biblical third commandment (still written in old proper English with a T-V distinction and suffixes): “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” The sad fact is that in English, unlike in other languages, if you don’t want to violate the third commandment, your options to curse and alleviate you stress are severely circumscribed!
- English is probably the worst language from which one can learn another one
In order to pick a new foreign language, no matter to what degree of fluency, you first need to master your own – and that goes not only for actual practical speaking, but also for its theoretical understanding, such as what is a noun, an adjective, a verb, as well as understanding the differences between them.
The problem with English is that to the average native speaker’s ear it is not automatically obvious what is what and when. “Work” can be a noun, an adjective and a verb at the same time. This way, native English speakers don’t subconsciously “feel” the structure of their sentences and can’t genuinely sense the difference between individual word types that they could then just map into another language. As a result, native English speakers get unnecessary headaches when they try grasp the complexity of other languages and master the genders and elaborate conjugations in French and Spanish or the declensions of nouns and adjectives in most other European languages. My still unanswered question is this one: To what extent are the deplorably low foreign language skills of most Americans and British a result of their widespread self-centeredness (especially of the Americans), haughtiness and superliciousness (especially of the British), and to what extent is it simply their structurally incomplete native language that just doesn’t allow them to properly learn a foreign one?
- English allows its speakers to dumb down their word choice to the lowest possible rock bottom
Over thousands of years, languages have evolved and have accumulated an abundant vocabulary of synonyms and words that have different, yet very congenial meanings. English is not an exception, and it this regards it is even ahead of some other tongues with its hundreds of thousands of words more than in German or Italian, for instance. However, only in English have I witnessed a situation in which most of the spoken language revolves around just two basic words: “do” and “get.” Only in America (and maybe Britain) can you “do the metro.” In other countries, you ride the metro! Only in America can you “get groceries.” In other countries, you have to buy them! You don’t just “get” them for free! Thus, despite the richness of its vocabulary painstakingly assembled overtime from muptiple source languages such as French, Latin, Old Norse etc. native English speakers can somehow find a way to instead turn to the dumbest and most primitive word constructions imaginable to convey their idea to their interlocutor. Maybe that’s why Americans so often don’t “get” (that is, undertand) each other when talking.
In no other language have I ever witnessed such a degree of primitivization of one’s spoken expression as in English.
Conclusion: What does it all have to do with circumcision?
Circumcision removes a part of the male penis. But an organ modified in this way is still able to serve its basic purpose, which is procreation. The circumcised organ’s owner just won’t get as much pleasure from it as an intact one would. Nevertheless, many circumcised men will tell you “well, yeah, but it’s actually better that way, it’s cleaner.”
This situation and argumentation is strikingly similar to English. First of all, English has lost entire layers of complexity – genders, cases, declension, conjugation, T-V distinction and other vital parts – that can allow you to have more than a bland and dull experience that you now get from using this language, similarly to how an uncircumcised man can enjoy a full experience and feel complete pleasure from sex. And just like the arguments in favor of circumcision, you can hear English speakers argue the same way when you point out to them the deficiences of their language: “it’s actually better that way.” Well, I can only tell these deplorable native speakers what an uncurcumcised man can tell his circumcised fellows: “you guys don’t even have a clue what you are missing.”
Henceforth, I feel sincerely and genuinely sorry for all native English speakers who were robbed of genuine joy because they weren’t given the opportunity to simultaneously acquire and speak any other language. They will never be able to get the full experience from using their mother tongue and enjoy the nature’s tremendous gift of being able to share emotions and experiences with people around them.
It is thus a global tragedy of grand scale that it is this structurally incomplete, mutilated and circumcised language, and not any other one, that has already turned into the de facto lingua franca of the world in virtually all areas of life. English is an accpetable means of conveying thoughts in science, business, diplomacy, computer programming. But it is structurally utterly deficient as a means for interpersonal communication, and as a means to convey intimacy and talk to our loved ones with whom we share our everyday lives, joys and concerns.
It is high time that the world finally realizes this.