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Some Interesting Features of Linguistic Egotism in English Language: A Satire

Val is not a linguist or even an amateur, but simply an observer of human traits, which then includes features of language we use.


The Question of a Capitalized Pronoun "I"

I have mentioned my thinking "out of box" in more than in one of my articles. Whether it was stated in a context of a bragging or a disclaimer, it always denoted my tendency to give a fresh look at something that has been pretty much taken for a given in life.

And so it is the case with my spotting certain peculiar features of egotism in English language, which is the second language to me, after my native Croatian. That probably made it easier for me to see, than to those who were born into it and just keep using it without giving it any second thought.

The very first thing that stands out as unusual, comparing to all other European languages, is this capitalization of the pronoun "I". Needless to say, I am talking about it appearing capitalized at other places within a sentence than at its beginning.

Now, let's see that "egotistic" character further from the perspective of the use of the second pronoun "you" -- which is the same in singular and in plural, as if denoting a downgrading like "an insignificant, any-from-the-crowd-you".

It's exactly opposite from all of other European languages where the first pronoun is written with a lower case first latter, with words for formal and informal second pronoun. Formal being used for addressing all unfamiliar grownups, or those known but respected, and informal for kids, family, and friends.

So that in German, formal "you" = "sie", informal = "du"; in Greek, formal = "esy", informal ="eiste"; in Italian, formal = "lei", informal = "tu"; in French, formal= "vous", informal = "tu"; in Spanish, formal = "Usted", informal = "tu"; in Slavic languages, formal = "vi", informal = "ti".

Furthermore, note that the royalties and dignitaries of certain high rank are not addressed with that "unimportant just one-of-crowd-you'", but as "Your Majesty", "Your Highness", "Your Excellency"...

Which, all in all, may make us wonder what those linguistic fathers of English language were seeing so important about themselves, and so unimportant about those they were addressing -- exempting those at "high places".

We just have to assume that distinction of importance was the case, after hearing from linguists about the connection between our mentalities and our forms of verbal expressing.


Anglicized Latin Language

Since I studied Latin as a mandatory subject in my Croatian high school for four years, how could I miss the fact that even English speaking scholars are pronouncing Latin in an anglicized fashion.

Another example of a linguistic egotism?

I mean, you either say something in your language, or say it properly in another one.

If your last name is Greene, you don't want to be called "Gren". So, let's say, in German language in all combinations of "st", that "s" is always pronounced as a sound "sh", as in "shut". So, Einstein, having that combination in his surname is pronounced as "aainshtaain".

And just the same we might as well pronounce Latin words as they originally are, not as we like to pronounce them.

Like, plural of octopus is octopi, like many other nouns of the first declination, including cactus -- cacti, populus -- populi, virus -- viri, etc., but that plural is not pronounced as "octo-pie," "cact-eye", "popu-lie", "vir-eye -- but as "octo-pee," "cac-tee", "popu-lee", "vir-ee" . That "i" at the end signifying plural is pronounced as "ee".

Now, I understand the natural reaction to all this by those who just couldn't care less, since they already made an English word out of a Latin one -- like it is the case with so many other Latin or Greek words used particularly in medicine, pharmacology, and law.

Likewise, they will never stop using the word "homosexuality", even though, linguistically, it means nothing. Namely, it is not originally a Latin, but Greek word. In Latin it makes no intended sense, meaning just "sexuality of man".

But in Greek, it is not a "homo" (Latin for "man"), but "homeo", meaning "same" , in a free translation "homeosexuality" meaning "sex between same gender". You may remember this Greek word as a part of "homeopathy", where it means, in a free translation "same healing same" -- with a condition being (allegedly) cured by a highly diluted cause of that condition.

Now, this has nothing to do with those many words in every of the European languages with a root of a Latin word -- but rather those complete Latin words being mispronounced.

And even that mispronunciation has nothing to do in everyday use of English -- except when those academics are in question, to anybody knowing any Latin, it sounds downright embarrassing.


In Croatian Language -- a Case of "Linguistic Ignorance"

Now, let me water down all this story about "linguistic egotism" in English language, by pointing at something in my own native Croatian, which we might call "linguistic ignorance".

I couldn't go wrong by contending how probably more than 98% of Croatian folks never came to the following realization while daily using a certain form in their language.

I don't know enough about other languages to say that, but it may even be unique for Croatian. Namely, Croatian folks are saying something very wise and scientifically correct with a form of expression -- but without knowing it.

It's a known truism in psychology, or in psycho-philosophy that all of our emotions are of our own make, since all outside stimuli (it's "stimulee" -- LOL!), are merely a subject to our interpretation, not per se dictating our emotional response.

In a plain English, no one is "making us" sad, happy, surprised, worried...etc.

And then, Croatians are using a form that means exactly that -- but not aware of what they are really saying, since to them it still means that "others are doing it to them", while they are simply taking it as a "figure of speech".

Hence my name for it -- "linguistic ignorance".

So, when Croatians say: "Ja se srdim", literally it means "I anger myself", while they still have in mind someone or something else "making them angry". That word "se" means "oneself", and in so many other expressions Croatians are using it literally saying that they are causing an emotion to themselves -- but unaware of the true meaning of what they are saying, just using it as a "figure of speech".

Now, does any of the above suggest that English folks are "egocentric", and Croatian folks are "ignorant"?

Of course, not.

Albeit, being an individualist of my own design, while I hate generalizing, I will always agree with anyone contending that "some" English people really are egocentric, and "some" Croatians really are ignorant.

© 2021 Val Karas

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