Geoff Pullum is not happy with David Starkey’s notorious foray into the horrors that immigration has brought to Britain (“The whites have become black”), and he’s done a good post about the linguistic aspects of the situation over at the Log; herewith an excerpt:

We’re talking about a regular language, the native tongue of probably two or three million people, with a grammar that needs to be mastered. (Its grammar is reasonably well studied now. Fifty years ago Robert B. Le Page, the founder of the department at York where I earned my undergraduate degree, started pushing for the study of Jamaican Creole to be taken seriously, and his controversial efforts did eventually bear fruit.) Very few white people speak JC well. It is somewhat deprecated in Jamaica: middle-class people often refer to it (incorrectly) as bad, ignorant English, and claim (falsely) they do not speak it at all, which makes it hard for a linguist without family connections to get native speakers to provide information about it.
English with a Jamaican accent is not to be confused with JC. There are hundreds of thousands of native speakers of JC in England, but they are mostly older people, and very few of them monolingual the way my mother in law was. They would typically be the sort of middle-aged and Victorianly conservative Jamaicans who were furious at the sight of the rioters and looters, and spoke out angrily against them. I heard many rioters and looters speaking on radio or television reports, and none of them were speaking JC.

His conclusion that Starkey is “pig-ignorant about JC and about language generally” seems to me unassailable. (As always for Geoff’s posts, comments are turned off, so if you have anything to say on the topic, feel free to say it here.)
Update. A nice response to Starkey by Peter Trudgill (Honorary Professor of Sociolinguistics at the University of East Anglia in Norwich), via Arnold Zwicky at the Log:

During the Newsnight interview in which David Starkey complained about “this language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that has been intruded in England” (13th August), it was shocking to note that he himself used a form of language which was distressingly alien. I estimate that at least 40%, and quite possibly more, of his vocabulary consisted of utterly foreign words forced on us by a wholly other culture – words which were intruded in England from the language of Norman French immigrants to our country, such as “language” and “false”. And there were many other alienating aspects to his speech. It was unfortunate, for instance, that he chose to use the term “intruded”, employing a word insinuated into our language by sub-cultures in our society who abandoned their true Anglo-Saxon heritage and instead imitated the wholly false language of Roman invaders.


  1. What came first, a rigorously codified and documented “language” or the academics labelling it such?

  2. John Emerson says

    Hozo, Jamaican Creole is a language. Do you have any reason to say that it isn’t one? Your scare quotes are unnecessary. Second, it’s not “rigorously codified”. It’s a natural language and all natural languages have regularities which can be very strict, but natural languages are not “rigorously codified”. Third, obviously Jamaican Creole existed before it was documented.
    At a more sophisticated level than yours, it can often be asked whether, in a given case, a linguist found regularities in the language he studied that weren’t really there. But in order to ask that question, you need to know quite a bit about what was going on in the particular case.

  3. @Hozo: I don’t know what you mean by “rigorously codified”, or by “documented”. It can happen that an academic asserts that something is a language (rather than, say, a dialect of another language or a “degraded” form of another language). In order to justify that assertion the academic does not have to prove that all users of the language use it in precisely the same way, or that the language has a written form. The academic does of course have to do some “documenting”.

  4. Wikipedia says Starkey’s partner is one James Brown. He seems to have made a career out of pissing people off (Geoffrey Elton for one, and from Wikipedia: Historian Lucy Worsley accused him of misogyny… he called Scotland, Ireland and Wales “feeble little countries”).
    [Mi na gweng mek piipl kament aaf di tap a dem hed; nat fi nuobadi. Neba, unu onastan? No bada mi.]
    I’m assuming Geoff Pullum’s sentence could be written: “Me not going make people comment off the top of them head; not for nobody. Never, you understand? No bother me”. Would a linguist explain why the unusual spelling is used for JC? It’s unfamiliarity makes it slow going, but it has the obvious advantage of making the words easier to pronounce right. On the other hand, these are mostly English words and we don’t usually adjust the spelling according to a dialect. Is the point that this isn’t simply a dialect?

  5. @AJP Crown: You’re right. JC is spelled phonetically because if it’s not a dialect but a language, then it doesn’t need to be spelled like the one it’s derived from. Spelling it that way is in effect part of an assertion that it’s a language.

  6. these are mostly English words
    No, they’re JC words. The fact that they come from English is interesting but does not determine spelling, since spelling in JC is phonetic. And its “unfamiliarity makes it slow going” for English-speakers who are not familiar with JC, but those people, needless to say, are not the target audience. The use of Cyrillic for Russian makes it slow going for English-speakers, too.

  7. Yes, of course, I meant slow going for me.
    Does anyone know whether there’s a political side to Jamaican Creole, in Jamaica?

  8. Good question; I’ll bet there is, but I know nothing about it.

  9. michael farris says

    There is this:
    Also, to play devil’s advocate people are using Starkey’s faulty linguistic arguments to ignore a possibly valid political and social one. Namely that many white people in the UK have followed the lead of many (not all) blacks there and fully embraced a nihilistic and moral dead end gangster consumer culture that dooms most of its adherents to poverty and/or crime. The name Ali G riots seems pretty fitting.
    Of course the indigenous white English have never lacked for morally dubious pastimes, senseless violence and benefit fraud all on their own, but I think Starkey is right in that the culture that produced these riots is a relatively recent innovation (thankfully unique in Europe as far as I can tell).

  10. No, they’re JC words. The fact that they come from English is interesting but does not determine spelling, since spelling in JC is phonetic.

    It does seem to determine spelling; Lars Hinrichs, who did his PhD on codeswitching among Jamaicans says here:

    [On orthographies used for Jamaican Creole] They include a specialist orthography used by linguists, […], and the strongly English-oriented spelling of popular dialect writers like Jamaican national icon Louise Bennett. The vast majority of non-professional users of written Jamaican Creole, however, relies on a strategy of writing that consists of borrowed standard English spellings in some cases, intentional deviations from an available English model in others, and creative (sometimes spontaneous) spellings of creole words for which neither an English model nor any other convention is available.

    Admittedly that’s not very helpful as to the relative proportions, but the examples in the paper are better in this:

    a. YU as possessive pronoun:
    I agree that you fi tek you pickney dem wid you. [I agree that you should take your children with you].
    b. MI as subject pronoun:
    It ruff mi tell you. [It’s rough, I’m telling you.]
    MI as possessive pronoun: […] if yuh get mi drift.
    c. DEM as subject pronoun: Well, dem finally open the comment box. [Well, they finally opened the comment box.]
    DEM as possessive pronoun: Why people dont go to dem yard and lef free seats in di movies eh? [Why don’t peo- ple go home and leave some free seats at the movies?]
    DEM as noun pluralizer: The human body is like a cyar to rahtid… when it start get older some o de part dem need fe change. [The human body is unfortunately like a car… when it starts to get older, some of the parts need to be replaced.]
    DEM as demonstrative pronoun: He really does have some hot girls on his Myspace page… check out dem ones yah! [check out these (ones) here!]
    d. NEV A as negative anterior aspect marker: You people never know about this exam until this morning, nuh true? [You people didn’t know about this exam until this morning, isn’t that true?]

    As far as I can see, the tendency seems to be to spell words with creole-specific function in a way that doesn’t reflect standard English, and to spell everything else in a way that does represent standard English

    Hinrichs also mentions this on the politics:

    This suggests the following difference in attitudes toward JamE and JamC between writers living in the diaspora and those living in Jamaica: writers in the diaspora are less concerned with making the two codes look different overall. They use nonstandard spellings mostly to disambiguate between the codes in those cases where word forms are similar, but their meanings differ. In other words, the separation between Creole and English is a matter of principle in Jamaica, but a matter of pragmatism among Jamaicans abroad.

  11. Michael Farris: even were one to accept that the culture which produced the riots is purely an import (I for one do not accept this), it would have to be admitted that said imported culture is certainly far less dangerous than indigenous British working-class culture: compared to British soccer hooligans (“Heysel stadium”, anyone?), these rioters could pass for radical pacifists.
    Pullum’s entry about Jamaican Creole unfortunately fails to indicate a central aspect of the language which is shared with other English-based creoles of the West Indies: the existence of a social continuum within Jamaica. That is to say, Jamaican Creole and (Jamaican) English aren’t clearly distinct entities in Jamaica: there exists a gradual shading away from the “purest” Jamaican Creole (also called “basilectal Jamaican Creole”) to Jamaican English via what might be called creole-influenced English or English-influenced creole (also known as the “basilect”). Many, perhaps a majority of Jamaicans, navigate between these linguistic “poles” in their everyday speech. This fluid situation no doubt contributes to the refusal of many Jamaicans to consider Jamaican Creole a separate language.

  12. michael farris says

    Etienne, as far as I know (and I could be wrong) soccer hooligans mostly targetted each other or were the victims of their own short sighted beer fueled behavior.
    These riots were something else (and hurt and will continue to hurt the unafiliated who live in the areas hit).

  13. When the German tribes overran Roman Gaul it was observed that the upper class of the Germans adopted upper class Gallo-Roman customs, and the lower class of Gallo-Romans adopted lower class barbarian customs. Or so the books say.

  14. Michael Farris: in the case of the Heysel stadium incident the victims (approximately forty of whom were killed) were ordinary Italian football supporters/spectators who were attacked by (rabid) British hooligans. I stand by my original statement.
    One correction to my earlier posting on Jamaican creole: fifth line from the bottom, “also known as the basilect” should be “also known as the mesolect” (note to self: first coffee, THEN write comments).

  15. michael farris says

    As awful as the Heysel incident was, it wasn’t a case of rioters fowling their own nest which is what the Ali G riots are. And yes I do note that England has long had a uniquely (in Europe at least) toxic underclass but this is a new kind of poison. Focusing on bad linguistic arguments and ignoring the unsavory reality won’t help anyone.

  16. Designing an optimal orthography can be tricky under the best of conditions, but it’s even harder to design a new orthography for a basilect or mesolect whose speakers are used to writing in the acrolect of a (post-)creole continuum.
    Several few years ago, SIL/Wycliffe published Da Jesus Book, a translation of the New Testament into a standardized mesolect (Hawaiian Creole English, better known as Hawaiian Pidgin) with words spelled in a manner consistent with the phonology of standardized HCE rather than in standard English. But few people can read it with any fluency, so the translators followed up by making recordings of the whole work, because people could comprehend the speech much better than the novel spellings.

  17. whether, in a given case, a linguist found regularities in the language he studied that weren’t really there./i>
    In other words, preceeding from an a priori rather from what IS really there.

  18. Hozo,
    It’s best just to give up the fight over whether it’s a language or not. Being a mere “language” is not a big deal; the bar is not very high.
    That said, JC–just like Ebonics and other Afro inspired vulgarizations–is a bastard tongue spoken by an underclass of cognitive inferiors.
    And if you don’t want people to think your dumb, your probably better off not speaking it.

  19. michael farris says

    “But few people can read it with any fluency”
    Yikes, I get so tired of this. The reason they can’t read it with fluency is because they don’t try long enough (not really their fault but that’s the base of the problem). For super-literates (which includes all the readers and commenters here, it’s easy to pick up a new orthography/transcription for normal people it takes time and effort even when the language is their own first language.
    Many many maaannnnyyyyy years ago I had the opportunity to listen to a recording of an English based creole speaker (not Jamaican) reading a story in a phonemic orthography.
    At the beginning she was using a dead monotone (which the researcher claimed was the local norm for reading out loud in English). About half way through (maybe triggered by a local word not normally written) she had a major AHA! moment went back to the beginning of the sentence it ocurred in and despite a false start or two she was figuring out on the fly that this way of writing made sense and finished the story completely engaged and animated. It was the something like an aural version of Helen Keller’s wawa moment (also described in a book about a languageless deaf adult when he made the linguistic connection between sign and meaning).
    Don’t mistake lack of (opportunity for) practice with lack of potential.

  20. JJ: if you really believe Jamaican Creole and other “Afro inspired” speech varieties (languages or dialects) are in some fashion inferior to the “standard” language, then I assume that someone like yourself, who obviously masters the standard, would have no difficulty whatsoever in mastering Jamaican Creole to the satisfaction of a native speaker thereof.
    I can guarantee you, however, that mastering Jamaican Creole, for instance, would be quite an undertaking. The language is in many respects more complex than Standard English: its tone system, for example, is quite difficult for speakers of non-tone languages (such as Standard English, for example) to master.
    Hozo: all speech varieties exhibit regularities, and thus all are coherent systems: they must be, as otherwise different individuals could not communicate with one another by means of said varieties. Thus calling a variety a “language” or a “dialect” is unrelated to how “regular”/how much of a “system”/ it is. Rather, a variety will be called a language, rather than a dialect, according to how distinctive the system is compared to some other, typically more prestigious, system. And compared to English, Jamaican Creole is simply too distinct a system –phonemic tone, uninflected verbs, lack of /s/ plural marking, serial verbs are just some of the features of Jamaican Creole which English lacks– for it to be called a dialect of English.
    Michael Farris: the Heysel riots involved British fans murdering other fans not looking for a fight. To my mind that is much worse than the recent riots: hence I see no reason to assume these recent riots to be due to some newly introduced or “foreign” component in British working-class culture.

  21. Journalist Gavin Mortimer, who wrote a book about it, points out that there was lots of looting during the Blitz.

  22. R. B. Le Page, one of the first to look at Jamaican seriously, once (in 1967, in a review of a book on creoles and pidgins, I think) wrote, “There is no such thing as a language except insofar as the idiolects of two or more people overlap.”

  23. Also, to play devil’s advocate people are using Starkey’s faulty linguistic arguments to ignore a possibly valid political and social one.
    Starkey’s tragicomical rantings aren’t valid. V. depressing thing to read here. “People” aren’t talking about Starkeys linguistic arguments, Pullum and Trudgill are – because they’re linguists.

  24. Lots of people in Britain have being giving their views on last week’s violence and looting including the prime minister, the leaders of the other major parties, a special session of the House of Commons, the police and every political commentator and activist in the country. So we’ve heard platitudes about education, how it’s bad to be poor, that some rich people are also crooks, and even how facebook should be shut down in times of trouble, but so far no one has produced anything convincing to account for the important stuff: why certain areas spontaneously erupted without warning, whether it might happen again, what is the significance of the current cuts to public spending, what to do with a generation of kids who have no interests besides acquiring useless consumer goods produced by slave labour…etc. I think it will take quite some time to research this and find answers. Unless you guys have something more insightful than “it was football hooligans pretending to be Jamaicans wot dunnit” and “England has a uniquely toxic underclass”, you should stop embarrassing yourselves. You’d be better off commenting when we know more. You’ll thank me in the long run.

  25. MMcM, A more nuanced and less vague article than the First Post‘s is one from the Guardian, last year. Here’s a short excerpt:

    Juliet Gardiner, the social historian and author of Wartime: Britain 1939-1945, says that, while most people found looting despicable, examples differentiated between stealing someone’s property and spotting a wireless or jewellery lying on the pavement after an air raid and reckoning that, if you didn’t take it, someone else would. “Looting can be a rather elastic term,” says Gardiner. “There are stories about rescue parties going to a pub and having to dig for bodies, which is a very grisly task; one of the leaders of such a rescue party found a bottle of brandy and passed it round his men to have a swig to stiffen their sinews and he was actually sentenced to six months in prison. It was mitigated on appeal, but it gives you an idea of what a broad spectrum the notion of looting could cover.”

  26. MF: Don’t mistake lack of (opportunity for) practice with lack of potential.
    And don’t you mistake potential mastery for actual mastery. I know of quite a few South Pacific orthographies designed with considerable care by linguists and educated native speakers that have never lived up to their potential despite decades of various efforts.
    People who are not literate in any language have a lot more incentive to learn how to become literate in their native language than people who are already adequately literate in one or more other languages that are widely used for educational, economic, or religious benefit. The incentive for learning how to write a basilect are rather less than for learning how to speak it.

  27. At the beginning she was using a dead monotone (which the researcher claimed was the local norm for reading out loud in English). About half way through (maybe triggered by a local word not normally written) she had a major AHA! moment went back to the beginning of the sentence it ocurred in and despite a false start or two she was figuring out on the fly that this way of writing made sense and finished the story completely engaged and animated. It was the something like an aural version of Helen Keller’s wawa moment (also described in a book about a languageless deaf adult when he made the linguistic connection between sign and meaning).
    That’s a great story, and I thank you for sharing it.

  28. Crown: It was very notable after Hurricane Katrina how the media used “looting” for what black people were doing, and “salvaging” for the identical behavior of white people.
    Joel: Quite so, and more generally true of minority languages — pidgins and creoles tend to function like minority languages in the context of literacy even if they are spoken by the majority. As Marie-Lucie has pointed out on this blog, the standard historical and cross-dialectal spelling of Occitan is not widely accepted because it is too remote from French spelling conventions, which essentially everyone who speaks Occitan now knows.

  29. John Cowan: in a sense you could argue that Jamaican Creole is a minority language in every sense of the term, inasmuch as a huge percentage of native speakers live in English-speaking societies outside Jamaica. To all too many Jamaicans “success” and “emigration” are considered synonymous, which I suspect makes it doubly difficult to promote Jamaican Creole (why bother with making broader use of a low-prestige language used within a society you have no plans on remaining a part of?).
    I did point out on a thread here that Papiamentu, the Iberian Creole of the (former) Dutch West Indies, may owe much of the success of its recent promotion in society to the rise of a Papiamentu-speaking middle class (the fact that it and Dutch are indubitably separate languages helped, I’m sure).

  30. mollymooly says

    In the 1980s riots in Brixton and Toxteth, there were claims that Enoch Powell’s nightmare of race wars in the working class had come to pass. The Ali G riots disprove this. Starkey’s take is that the whites are now as bad as the blacks. Another take is that the race war is over and everybody is free to concentrate on the class war.
    Most of the dead at Heysel were killed when a wall collapsed. The wall collapsed because (a) there was an unusually high concentration of people pressed against it, cowering away from hooligans and (b) the stadium was in a disgracefully poor state of repair. The Liverpool hooligans were unquestionably criminally culpable for the deaths, but I’m not sure it was “murder”.

  31. Etienne: I actually had Haitian Creole in mind when speaking of creoles treated like minority languages though the majority speaks them. I note, however, that HC is the second language of Cuba (numerically speaking), and has been learned there by many Cubans who are not of Haitian descent.

  32. michael farris says

    “Papiamentu, …may owe much of the success of its recent promotion in society to the rise of a Papiamentu-speaking middle class (the fact that it and Dutch are indubitably separate languages helped, I’m sure).”
    I wonder some about the order. Would a Papiamentu speaking middle class arise if the administrative language was Spanish or Portuguese or would they shift languages as their fortunes improved?
    I’m also wondering about the realtive success of Catalan, most of what you can say about Occitan applies to Catalan as well yet Occitan is still a hard sell while Catalan thrives.

  33. Forty years ago in Panama, I used to catch Bonaire radio sometimes. There would be a news analysis program in Dutch followed by a gospel music hour in Papiamentu. I wonder if this pattern has changed.

  34. Pity. I liked Starkey and his advocacy for Cromwell as the Greatest Briton.

  35. If Cromwell were the greatest Briton, I’d resign my membership.

  36. Do you lot have a similar competition? “Great Dane”, perhaps? I always liked Tycho Brahe, though I suppose some people consider him Swansk (not me, though).

  37. The greatest Swede is the man who started IKEA, whatever his name is, bugger the rest of ’em.

  38. “Pity. I liked Starkey and his advocacy for Cromwell as the Greatest Briton.”
    I thought he was a Saxon. He certainly behaved like one.

  39. Mollymooly: I accept that the hooligans were “criminally culpable” for those deaths, rather than “murderers”. That still makes them a worse crowd than (most of) the London rioters.
    John Cowan: I was unaware of there being L2 speakers of Haitian Creole in Cuba: a reference would be appreciated.
    Michael Farris: you are right, it IS difficult at times to disentangle the various factors whereby a language rises or falls in social prestige within a given society. In the case of Catalan versus Occitan there are some differences that certainly played a role: first, unlike Catalonia, the Occitan-speaking parts of France never had a city such as Barcelona, with a middle class strongly attached to the regional language. Instead, cities in Southern France were all gallicized over the past few centuries, so that no local urban elite could spearhead a broader use of the regional language. Related to this is the fact that the dialect diversity within Occitan is such that a case could be made that several “dialects” are in fact separate languages: this is especially true with Bearnese and Auvergnat. Catalan, on the other hand, even including its insular and Valencian varieties, is plainly a single language.
    Joel, Michael Farris: in like fashion it is difficult to predict whether a newly-introduced orthography will succeed or fail. Whereas some linguistically well-designed orthographies have failed to gain favour, some poorly-designed orthographies have gained a measure of success. An example of the latter which I have in mind is Seychellois French Creole, whose spelling is very confusing to speakers who must also (in principle) become literate in English and French (A well-known example: the Seychellois cognate of French PEIGNE, whose pronunciation and meaning are nearly identical, is spelled PENNY, despite the similarity to the semantically and phonologically unrelated English word). This spelling system is so well-established today, however, that would-be spelling reformers despair of ever seeing it replaced.

  40. rootlesscosmo says

    Mr. Starkey might want to check (for example) Amanda Foreman’s Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire for a description of events at Westminster during the election of 1784:
    They succeeded in making their way to [Pitt’s} carriage and forced open the door. Several desperate blows were aimed at Mr. Pitt, and I recollect endeavouring to cover him as well as I could… (cited to J. Ehrman, The Younger Pitt)
    A public debate at Westminster Hall degenerated into a riot and Fox was pelted with “filth” while his supporters hustled him out to a waiting carriage.
    Ah, for those deferential, white, Protestant lower orders of days gone by!

  41. I have to say – Trudgill’s remarks miss the point completely. Unless he is actually trying to make the case that immigration is a disaster for indigenous populations since I don’t think the 5th century Celts would be particularly happy with what has happened to their descendents, nor would the Norman era Anglo-Saxons necessarily view French vocabulary as enriching the language in any way. In hindsight any historical development can seem just and necessary to those of us who exist now solely because those events took place. But that is poor consolation to the losers.

  42. Vanya, I don’t understand — aren’t you conflating linguistic and historical loserdom? We would pity the Anglo-Saxons because they came under Norman rule, not because their language starting changing a bit faster than usual, no?

  43. A well-known example: the Seychellois cognate of French PEIGNE, whose pronunciation and meaning are nearly identical, is spelled PENNY
    Etienne, the authorities in Seychelles went a bit overboard in the 70s with their Kreol (my opinion). Their Creole is an offshoot of Mauritian Creole. The two languages are still largely the same. The fact that two languages are often mentioned, as if they were separate, has probably more to do with politics than with linguistics. But what may differentiate them more now is the way they are written. I didn’t know about [pẽɲ] being written “penny”, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. (Somehow it reminds me of the writing chosen for Malagasy.) The second and more complete edition of the “Diksioner Morisien” (Mauritian Creole has deliberately been called Morisien by the author) has just been published and it is using the spelling pengn for this word, which is pronounced quite like the French word peigne — though I’m not so sure French people pronounce it with a [ẽ] sound, like in “pain”. This spelling does not look particularly straightforward to me with its two Ns on each side of the G, but there seems to be some logic to it. I frankly don’t have a clue as to why “penny” was chosen in the Seychelles. One could say that they made things more difficult for themselves and that in the long run it will not bring them any good, but of that one Jamaicans might say “‘Im ‘av’ goat mout’.”

  44. mollymooly says

    “Do you lot have a similar competition?” This is where Wikipedia comes into its own. It is not aware of a Danish contest. The founder of IKEA is the 18th greatest Swede.

  45. It’s strange how differently from the rest of us nations see themselves: the Swedish list of greatest Swedes has no mention of Swedenborg or August Strindberg, even in the list of people “missing” from the first list. Too bad there’s no room for Gunnar Asplund, but no one’s interested in architecture – rightly so, no doubt.
    Hi, Sig. I was hoping you’d have something to say about this topic. I’m glad you mentioned ‘Im ‘av’ goat mout’.

  46. Has anyone speculated in print about what might have happened to English if the Germans had won WW2 or if Russia had won the Cold War?

  47. (Or Napoleon, come to that.)

  48. I agree with Mr (and/or Mrs) Crown that no one can as yet know what caused the riots, and those who claim to know the reasons are usually simply rehearsing their prejudices. Starkey is by no means the only one – Etienne seems to be well up the field. As a Londoner I do not understand them – but neither do I understand the many acts of nobility and courage that occurred at the same time, or the thousands of acts of generosity and community and kindness that have followed them. Humankind is strange. Suggestions that English humankind is by its nature more unpleasant than other forms is unlikely to impress me.

  49. Etienne: The English Wikipedia says: “Haitian Creole is the second most spoken language in Cuba, where over 300,000 Haitian immigrants speak it. It is recognized as a language in Cuba and a considerable number of Cubans speak it fluently. Most of these speakers have never been to Haiti and do not possess Haitian ancestry, but merely learned it in their communities.” Unfortunately no citation is given for this statement. The French and Creole WPs don’t have anything similar. Googling for [“Haitian Creole” Cuba] finds mostly references to people who have learned Creole as an L2 because they are of Haitian descent.
    AJP: Both Strindberg (#14) and Swedenborg (#75) are in fact on the list. Also, here is my favorite anti-Ikea rant, still every bit as true as when it was uttered seven years ago.

  50. I have never made a trip to IKEA, but I am afraid I will some day soon. My wife went there a few months ago and bought a small cheap table lamp. It now needs a new bulb. I’ve never seen a bulb of this type before …

  51. Vanya: what I find disturbing about Trudgill’s words is that he seems unaware that practically all latinisms in English, and many gallicisms, are historically unconnected to any invasion by Latin or French speakers. Unless he is being ironic and going for the same “fact-free” type of “argumentation” which he is criticizing on Starkey’s part, of course.
    Siganus: Modern Standard French does not have allophonic nasalization of vowels before nasal consonants, but it did in the seventeenth century, so that the Maurician and Seychellois realization of PEIGNE are both liable to be a conservative feature (some Canadian French accents have preserved this feature: I recall a Franco-Manitoban neighbor for whom GRAMMAIRE and GRAND-MÈRE were homophonous). The fact that it is allophonic does make it strange that it is represented in both Seychellois and Mauritian Creole spelling (In PENNY the NY indicates the palatal nasal consonant, the N after PE the nasalization of the vowel).
    To the Crowns: I am working with a colleague on a book (to be published next year, if all goes well) wherein I did briefly speculate on what kind of an impact Russian would have had upon English had the Soviet Union won the cold war (mention was made of the Russianized slang “Nadsat” in the novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE). Since at present we are trimming down the book my linguistic speculations may be cut. Which would be unfortunate since I believe there is nothing in the linguistics literature on the topic (alternate history science-fiction may be another matter, of course).
    Picky: Please re-read carefully what I wrote. I have made no claims whatsoever as to the causes of the London riots, nor have I said or insinuated that English humankind is somehow worse than the rest of the species. I simply argued against simplistic claims that recently introduced immigrant culture was alone to blame.

  52. John Emerson says

    I am not anti-Swedish, but I have a bone to pick with the Swedes: Socialism has come to this

  53. John Emerson says

    That’s 5 years old or more, and there’s a bit of inaccuracy plus some obsolete music groups.

  54. Etienne: You could have been proposing that we shouldn’t worry too much about what caused the riots because soccer thugs are worse – but I hope you weren’t. You could have been proposing that the natural state of man is violence – but I don’t think you were. You could have been proposing that English culture is particularly prone to violence – but you tell me you weren’t.
    In those circumstances I don’t see the relevance of the soccer thugs to the argument: no one, after all, has claimed that Jamaican gang culture and its imitators are the cause of all the violence in British society, merely that they were a root cause of these riots.
    That’s an argument which might be true, for all I know; it’s just that there’s as far as I can determine not a scrap of evidence for it. Any more than for the arguments that the root cause was social deprivation, or government spending cuts, or anger at the bankers, or lack of parental discipline. Or any other of the pints of home-brewed sociology we’ve been subjected to. Or, should anyone of a middle-class nature suggest it, to some natural violence in British working-class culture.

  55. First of all, Andreas, you must understand that I have nothing against Swedes as individuals. I have nothing but the tenderest sentiments for Swedes (….) You cannot truly apprehend the meaning of smugness until you have experienced Ikea. Perhaps it is a more general Scandinavian trait; I suspect it is.

    John C., if that’s the best you can do for a rant against IKEA, there can’t be much wrong with the place.

  56. Etienne, it’s funny that you mention A Clockwork Orange, it was in the back of my mind when I wrote that comment. Perhaps you should write an entire book on the subject.
    Picky, there’s a piece in today’s Observer, on Tony Blair’s opinion about the riots, which I found quite interesting (and at least partly agreed with).

  57. Ø, Light bulbs look different these days. At least in Norway (and so I’m guessing certainly in the US), IKEA’s light bulbs are available in your local hardware store or supermarket; it’s just that they’re much cheaper at IKEA. If you have to drive for two hours to get there it’s not much of an advantage; but in my case IKEA’s only 10 mins away, at the next exit on the road to Oslo.

  58. Trond Engen says

    That’s the first IKEA in Norway and, I believe, their first store outside of Sweden. When I was a boy in the seventies, going there was like an expedition, and my mother planned it for weeks.
    A few years ago they built another store east of the city, demolishing the stadium of the local icehockey club and building a new and better across the road. I hear that now they’re planning to build the biggest IKEA in the world on the site of the new icehockey stadium, and build a new one where their store is now.
    Now they seem to pop up everywhere, but only after a long process of negotiating conditions with neighbouring local councils until finally one gives in and grants them whichever dispensations from zoning regulations that they want.
    A colleague of my wife’s: “We have had two major crises in our marriage, both at IKEA.”

  59. I’ve heard the IKEA stores are franchised, like MacDonald’s, rather than being owned by the company. They supply everything, and the store arrives at the site in a flat pack, with an Allan wrench and assembly instructions in Hungarian and Urdu.

  60. Clearly I need to move with the times.
    There was a newspaper article recently about the fact that incandescent bulbs will be eliminated from the US market in a few years, and that people are already starting to hoard them.
    But this IKEA bulb is not only (compact) fluorescent; it also screws into a smaller socket than most. Our spy reported that it could not be had at Home Depot, but maybe he was wrong.

  61. It’s complicated.
    The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 establishes Lumen per Watt requirements. But it has loads of exemptions and there are efficient incandescents. See the Philips explanation.
    “The gubment is taking away our light bulbs” has become a talking-point (even though the bill was signed by Bush 43).

  62. Ta, AJP.

  63. From what I remember of US lightbulbs, the most usual kind is called an A19, the “19” being eighths of an inch in diameter and the “A” the size of the screw fitting. The narrower fittings are called “E” or “F” or something. This is now useless information for me, and I’m passing it on with the hope it might still be valid (you could have one of your associates google around for it).

  64. The usual term for the fitting, or at least the term understood by the hardware and lighting stores I deal with, is “standard edison”. I was at a friend’s house this weekend, and I needed to replace bulbs in her ceiling fixtures. Two out of three were standard edison, the third (outwardly identical) was mini-edison. Oh well, back to the hardware store.

  65. Mark Dunan says

    Etienne, that sounds like a fascniating book! Does it have a title yet? When will it be published?

  66. Mark Dunan: the book is on Creole languages and their origins (the title is tentative, and even more tentative is the publication date: 2012 –before the end of the world, hopefully): there is considerable discussion of language contact scenarios/situations, and it is in that context that I (very briefly) mentioned what English might be like today had the Soviet Union won the Cold War.

  67. Please let me know when it’s out so I can mention it here.

  68. Sili: Pity. I liked Starkey and his advocacy for Cromwell as the Greatest Briton.
    Maybe Starkey also supported Cromwell but, as I remember, the programme advocating Cromwell was by the other TV historian and Starkey’s near-lookalike, the late Richard Holmes.

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