OT Vernacular and empire building [was Re: How do I remove/unlink wildcarded files]

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at pearwood.info
Sun Jan 4 14:19:09 CET 2015

Dear gods, I know I'm going to regret this... 

Mark Lawrence wrote:

> On 03/01/2015 17:53, Rick Johnson wrote:
>> On Saturday, January 3, 2015 4:39:25 AM UTC-6, Mark Lawrence wrote:
>>> I used to get very confused watching the old westerns.  The child when
>>> talking about "more" and "paw" wasn't referring to possibly an
>>> adjective, noun or adverb and a part of an animal, but what we would
>>> refer to in the UK as "mum" and "dad" :)

Mark, that's not very different from the plethora of terms used for mother
across the British Isles, including "mam".

- "mum" is common in the south of England;
- "mom" is used in the west midlands;
- "mam" is used in the north and Ireland;


Mam is usually spelled "mam", but British "mom" is always spelled "mum"
unless the author is deliberately emphasising the pronunciation by using
phonetic spelling.

Rick then said:
>> Early Americans are easy to satirize since most were
>> schooled at home by illiterate parents. I believe the
>> "redneck vernacular" substituted "mother" and "father" for
>> "maw" and "paw" respectively. Which is not surprising since
>> most uneducated folks tend to favor single syllable
>> simplifications of words over their multi-syllable
>> counterparts.

I think that is rather silly. "Uneducated folks" often have very high
linguistic skills, except that they are verbal. Linguistically, the pattern
is that languages tend to become more simpler as literacy spreads, not the
other way around.

Mum/mom and Dad has become the most common terms of address for parents in
most English-speaking countries, except in the most formal situations. I
can't imagine calling my parents "mother and father" directly, although I
will refer to them in the third person as "my mother and father".

Oh, for interest, here's an fascinating discussion on why the baby words for
mother and father are so similar across all languages:


Read the comments as well as the comic.

And Rick again:
>> Widespread centralized free schooling did not exists until
>> almost the 1900's. Heck, looking back at American history,
>> the world *SHOULD* be in awe. To go from a rag-tag
>> illiterate bunch of cowboys, to the worlds most powerful and
>> technically advanced society (in roughly one hundred years!)
>> has to be the most amazing transformation in the history of
>> the human society.

A ridiculous fantasy. The USA wasn't "a rag-tag illiterate bunch of
cowboys", you've been watching too many John Wayne westerns.

The United States as a world power wasn't created by cowboys from the
midwest or farmers from the heartland. It was created by the educated
elites on the east and west coasts, and immigrants from Europe, many of who
were already intelligent, educated and cultured. The rise of the USA as a
world power was World War One: the US started to industrialise to European
standards, while the European powers were slaughtering each other in the
trenches. Had the US only had the low-population midwest states to draw on,
they could never have become a world power. It was the industrialised
high-population states, with their millions of workers, who manned the
factories that allowed the US to become a world power.

Mark replied:
> I suspect that the engineers who pushed the railways across North
> America were hardly "a rag-tag illiterate bunch of cowboys".  I won't
> mention that the transformation involved wiping out 99% of the
> indigenous population.

In fairness, most of the genocide was over before the first English arrived
in North America. Disease inadvertently introduced by the Spanish travelled
north and wiped out probably 90% of the native American population. By the
time the English arrived, the continent was already depopulated, and
defeating and killing the survivors was relatively easy. Without the effect
of disease, I expect that the Americas would be more like the bulk of
Africa and Asia. Despite European technological superiority, apart from a
few special cases, mass European migration would simply never have been

>> Of course with all success stories, timing and luck had a
>> little to do with it, but it was undoubtedly the rebellious
>> and self reliant nature of Americans that made them so
>> successful. 

Rebellious and self-reliant, it is to laugh.

>> So before you go and spouting off about how dumb 
>> Americans are/were, ask yourself, what greatness has *MY*
>> country achieved in the span of a century?
> I'm not entirely sure how a little bit of gentle teasing about accents
> in fictional films translates into "spouting off about how dumb
> Americans are/were" but there you go.  Hardly a century but I believe
> that the British Empire covered 25% of the land surface on the planet.
> Quite an achievement for a tiny patch of islands sitting off the coast
> of Europe.  However I suspect that a large number of people were glad to
> see the back of us, although I still think it audacious for those people
> to actually want to run their own countries.

Yeah, the cheek of those people, wanting a say in how they are governed.


More information about the Python-list mailing list