Language and Immigration

When I type ‘oldest reference to immigration’ into Google the first link is Wikipedia (unsurprisingly): ‘Historical Immigration to Great Britain’. I click the link, hoping to find some interesting facts and statistics for my blog post.

As I’m reading through though I’m struck by something; right from the start a word keeps cropping up over and over, ‘invasion’.

‘The first Roman invasion of Great Britain was led by Julius Caesar in 55 BC.’ (Wikipedia)

And I understand why. When we look at our language and its many varied influences we do so by looking at the various times Britain was invaded by the Romans, Vikings, Normans etc. It makes sense, as battles and invasions are loud, important things that tend to be recorded by multiple sources and so are remembered centuries later.

The instances, sometimes hundreds of years, between these invasion when immigration was driven by other factors, such as trade, are less well documented.

We are taught about these invasions in school. Perhaps it is not surprising that so many people are still talking about ‘invasions’ of immigration.

 

We now come to the actual reason for this blog…

President Donald Trump gave an address, his first address, from the Oval Office at the start of this year. He spoke about immigration and his rhetoric had changed.

President Donald Trump’s speech from the Oval office: January 2019.

“This is a humanitarian crisis – a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul,” Trump told primetime viewers, describing the situation at the border. He argued that the current immigration system allows, “vicious coyotes and ruthless gangs” to prey on immigrants, especially women and children.”

Compared to…

Donald Trump: June 2015.

“They’re sending people that have a lot of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Why has his language changed? Why have we gone from ‘They’re rapists’ to ‘a humanitarian crisis’?

We see this change in rhetoric in response to changing attitudes towards immigrants in the USA. Greater understanding of a situation leads, we hope, to greater empathy and sympathy. This in turn means that politicians must adjust their rhetoric or risk losing the support of their base. What was bold and brave now seems callous and cruel.

We often think that it is our leaders who influence us but actually it is often it is the electorate, with the power of social media, who influence our leaders.

Have you noticed any changing rhetoric?

David Crystal in The Story of English in 100 Words has some very interesting, more nuanced, ideas about language and immigration. He explains how languages bounced between countries, changing gradually and evolving in unexpected ways. It is well worth a read.

 

Comments below.

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‘Big Mac’

Who owns a word?

MacDonald’s has lost the trade mark for Big Mac.

Here are some interesting articles to peruse.

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/15/mcdonalds-loses-big-mac-trademark-legal-battle-supermacs

 

https://thetakeout.com/swedish-burger-king-trolls-mcdonalds-parody-big-mac-1832462273

‘That’s so gay’

I recently re-watched an episode of Doctor Who. Chris Eccelstone, northern accent, brilliant. However, at the end of I was jolted out of my familiar, happy, sci-fi zone when I heard ‘that’s so gay’, not from a villain but from Rose Tyler, the moral, grounding influence (I say Rose Tyler rather than Billy Piper because it was the character that said it not the actress, if you catch my meaning).

In recent years I’ve had friends warn me against re-watching the shows I loved as a kid, ‘Don’t watch Friends, they’re so homophobic…fat shaming…whitewashed’ etc, because viewed through a modern lens we see how problematic they are. I’m sure there were plenty of people watching them first time round that realised this but as a young, straight, white girl it wasn’t until I re-watched them (yes I ignored the warnings), with a greater awareness of my privilege, that I saw it.

This links into this blog post about the changing nature of language from the Eng Lang Blog.

http://englishlangsfx.blogspot.com/2019/01/topics-topic-areas-and-overlap.html

It includes some interesting graphs looking at how words like ‘awesome’ and ‘gay’ have changed their meanings over time and about what they mean to people of different ages.

Is this just an issue that crops up when we re-watched old TV programs?

No.

I still have to pull students up for using gay as a pejorative (insult) and whilst many understand, after a moments reflection, how inappropriate it is to use someones sexuality as an insult, I still get my fair share of blank looks or ‘it’s only a joke’.

What’s your opinion? Have you heard the word ‘gay’ used as in insult?

Please comment below.

Welcome back…

New year, new us, right?

Many of us start January with an abundance of resolutions and even if they don’t always see out the year they can still do us good.

If your resolution was to read more books or to read more widely check out these recommendations.

Miss Holdrick:- ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman: an excellent book dealing with identity and what it means to be a man or a woman.

Ms Eyre:- ‘Life After Life’ Kat Atkinson (and then anything – anything – by Kate Atkinson).  Because it’s creative storytelling and explores the idea that we can go back and start again and who wouldn’t want that?!

Mrs Jefferson:- ‘The Tennant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte which is about a mysterious young widow who arrives at Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which has been empty for many years. She lives there in strict seclusion under the assumed name Helen Graham and soon finds herself the victim of local slander.   I would recommend it because the plot has twists and turns, violating social conventions and the laws of the day.  I also think she is possibly the best writer when compared to her sisters as it seems as though her ideas were ahead of the time she was writing in.  Unlike her sisters, Anne Bronte’s novel achieved instant success when first published; sadly, after her death, her sister, Charlotte, prevented its re-publication.

Please comment and recommend a book.

 

 

Literature and Gender

I was having an interesting discussion with year 12 today about ‘The Snow Child’ by Angela Carter.

A student commented on how passive one of the characters was and that led to a discussion about the messages of fairy tales and how, as a society, we still accept them and teach them to the next generation.

Here are a clip that I think helps to explore this idea.

 

Book recommendation…

This week from Mrs Jefferson, Head of English.

One of my favourite books is, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Anne Bronte which is about a mysterious young widow who arrives at Wildfell Hall, an Elizabethan mansion which has been empty for many years. She lives there in strict seclusion under the assumed name Helen Graham and soon finds herself the victim of local slander.

I would recommend it because the plot has twists and turns, violating social conventions and the laws of the day.  I also think she is possibly the best writer when compared to her sisters as it seems as though her ideas were ahead of the time she was writing in.  Unlike her sisters, Anne Bronte’s novel achieved instant success when first published; sadly, after her death, her sister, Charlotte, prevented its re-publication.