Weird English

A reading I had for class: the introduction of a book called “Weird English,” by Evelyn Nien-Ming Ch’ien. 

“In immigrant communities where weird English is exclusively an oral phenomenon, pidgins and misspellings may have meant a lack of education or fluency. But for weird-English writers, the composition of weird English is an active way of takin’ the community back” (Ch’ien, 6). Ch’ien references recent writers who are combining English with another language or languages to write works rich in reminders of multiculturality. (There’s some weird English for you.) Lois Yamanaka, Irvine Welsh, Jonathon Safran Foer, Derek Walcott, Touré… some of the authors leading this new genre of “weird English.”

“1. Weirding deprives English of its dominance and allows other languages to enjoy the same status; 2. Weird English expresses aesthetic adventurousness at the price of sacrificing rules; 3. Weird English is derived from nonnative English; 4. The rhythms and structure of orthodox English alone are not enough to express the diasporic cultures that speak it” (Ch’ien, 11).

But this is hardly a new genre. The best writers in the English language mess with the English language. Whether it’s from another language or slang or n’importe quoi or ничего, it’s all u n o r t h o d o x.

The opening lines from A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess): “What’s it going to be then, eh?” There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim. Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. The Korova Milkbar was a milk-plus mesto, and you may, O my brothers, have forgotten what these mestos were like, things changing so skorry these days….

The opening lines of Finnegan’s Wake (James Joyce): riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

So what do rules mean in literature? Are rules reserved for academia? Is the orthodox version of English for those who wish to only use English for communication? In that case though, what are we trying to communicate at places like Barnard/Columbia? If we are trying to learn how to think, shouldn’t our writing be a reflection of the multiplicity of influences that exist in all of our lives? Americans have such a reputation of being unable (or at least unwilling) to learn new languages. But English is such a rich language, if we are willing to push its linguistic barriers. As a language, it is extraordinarily tolerant of foreign words. carpe diem spaghetti pistol au revoir chai gesundheit…

Не знаю. Может быть это ничего ещё раз.

 

 

 

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