Officially, Arizona politicians don't speakie da English
Mar. 15, 2005
I completely agree with
those members of the Arizona Legislature who want us to have an "official" state
language. I'm surprised, however, that they did not choose their native tongue.
Instead, they picked English.
This is fine for most of us. We were raised speaking English and, in my case,
remain minimally fluent even after many years in the newspaper business.
But our elected officials have clearly struggled with the language. They have
proven time and again that whatever spoken vernacular they use among themselves,
it gets hopelessly lost in translation.
What other explanation is there for a
piece of legislation that, when transformed into English by linguists at the
state Capitol, says that it is a good
idea to bring guns into bars and restaurants? Would an elected official with
even a hint of common sense suggest such a thing if he could speakie da English?
Such language errors happen all the time. Just last week, after it was learned
that a better than expected economy could add $100 million to the state
Treasury, the obviously erroneous translations of the state Senate's budget
proposal called for cuts of $8.7
million from child abuse prevention programs and $18 million from child-care
subsidies for the working poor.
Who would attack the poor in a time of prosperity? I figure that the interpreter
must have made a mistake.
Likewise, an obvious misinterpretation of the legislators' language must have
produced proposals in English saying that science-based sex education should be
eliminated from our schools and replaced by abstinence-only programs, while at
the same time classes in which shotguns and rifles are carried in schools to
teach firearms safety should be instituted.
In what motherless tongue do responsible grown-ups tell their kids to say "no"
to condoms but "yes" to guns?
That would be as crazy as a bunch of elected officials saying that they would
like to spend millions of taxpayer dollars on vouchers to send children to
private schools, which are not required to administer the Arizona AIMS test, but
upon which our elected officials have spent millions of taxpayer dollars. And
yet, when the secret parlance of Arizona lawmakers was translated into English,
that's exactly what the proposals said.
Just last week the problems of transforming legislative mumbo jumbo into English
became apparent during the vote on a piece of legislation that was aimed at
making the crime of spousal rape as serious as any other rape.
Somehow the votes of four Republican members of the House Human Services
Committee were registered as "no," effectively killing the bill. Intelligent,
God-fearing conservatives wouldn't say that it's OK for a man to abuse his wife,
The problem must lie in the origins of the language spoken by our elected
officials, which doesn't seem to have originated from any recognizable
linguistic group. It's not Germanic or Slavic, not Asian or Arabic. Certainly
Near as I can tell, Arizona legislators speak some derivation of Klingon, Elvish
or pig Latin.
I believe that it's admirable of them to want to learn English and to make it
our official language, but I have a sneaking suspicion that doing so won't help
us to understand them any better. Nor will it help them to understand us.
In fact, just in case our legislators are unable to decipher the English I've
used all the way through this, let me put the gist of the column in a language
they'll understand: Oliticianspay areway
Reach Montini at
firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 444-8978.