84: National Language

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National Language
She's pretty sharp when provoked.
Title text: She's pretty sharp when provoked.


This comic is about the concept of nativism, which is the view that those who are native to a place should have more rights than immigrants. A frequently expressed view in the U.S. (and in other countries) is that immigrants should learn English, which is the primary language in the United States.

In the comic, one character is arrogantly arguing the nativist position. However, the woman next to him interrupts him and says a phrase in the Cherokee language - "Hello, my name is Sarah" - which is an Iroquoian language used by the Cherokee Native American people. Although Cherokee seems to be a relatively young culture, it is much more native to America than any European culture, such as English.

The woman is therefore effectively suggesting a "what's good for the goose is good for the gander" argument, that if the Europeans did not have to learn the native language, why should current immigrants learn English? She points out that even the English speakers are immigrants who did not learn the native language. Alternatively, she is saying that the term "national language" has no clear meaning, especially in the United States, where there is no official language; therefore, the "language they speak there" can be any of the languages spoken in the country: e.g. English, Spanish, German, Cantonese or Cherokee, to name just a few.

The title text reveals that Ponytail (identified as Sarah in the comic) is in fact Randall's friend; in the comic it is unclear who his friend is.


[Caption on top:]
This happened to my friend:
[Three men and two women are standing in a row, next to a table on the right.]
Cueball: English should be the national language. These immigrants should have to learn English when they come here.
Megan: Yeah.
Cueball: When you go to live somewhere, you learn the language they speak there.
Cueball: English is the language of the land.
Ponytail: Excuse me, but osio Sarah dawado.
Cueball: What the hell was that?
Ponytail: Cherokee.

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Any idea what she's saying? 08:37, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, she's introducing herself: "Hello, my name is Sarah". -- IronyChef (talk) 14:00, 24 October 2012 (UTC)

Is it worth noting that the United States does not actually have an official language, at States-wide level? The United Kingdom has English legislated for, while officially recognises various Celtic languages regionally (equivalent to that Cherokee example that may well be a state/sub-state official lingo?). India has English and Hindi on the relevent official national statutes (as well as many and varied other ones listed regionally, IIRC), so may technically demand English usage more so than the US itself.

(It is somewhat an urban legend that the US was just a hair's-breadth away from adopting German as its official language, but still fun to speculate how that might have affected its alliances for either World War, had it been linguistically more connected to the 'other side', and perhaps having a Special Relationship with the different European power thus affecting what side they'd officially support in 1914/1939.)

It's a convention, of course. But there are any number of communities that (many generations since the original settling event) still maintain their own non-Anglo/non-Native language, internally, as a majority tongue for the community. Albeit to various lesser or even effectively insignificant degrees in the grand scheme of things, compared to the national usage of English. (Somewhat mis-spelt English, of course. ;) 07:09, 24 June 2013 (UTC)

Indeed. Those who don't know me already tend to consider my English strange, if I visit the States. And that's without my deliberately invoking any pericombobulations or general contrafibularities...
Not that my accent and dialect are typical of the UK, either (we have a wide range of linguistic/vocal variation, as indeed most long-and-continuously inhabited places do), but most people are used and prepared to deal with even quite strong variations that are perhaps not so well known (or even comprehenisible) across the Pond. 21:03, 5 December 2022 (UTC)

I did this when my Human Geography teacher asked the class if English should be the United States' official language. Best moment of that class. 04:40, 28 October 2013 (UTC)

I should really try this out sometime. 42.book.addict (talk) 22:49, 2 February 2024 (UTC)

That kind of illustrates the point, doesn't it? Either assimilate into the natives or beat them. Naturally, the natives would not be happy about the second option. 23:00, 27 January 2014 (UTC)

Yeah! Peepl what wanna go inta me cuntri shuld learn dat wat language we speak and how 2 speak it properlys! 17:37, 23 July 2015 (UTC)

Are you for real?

The official language of Belize is English, and only 42% speak it there. The rest speak Spanish like all the rest of the countries around them. Belize was settled by the English pirates rather than by the Spanish settlers.

starts speaking in p r o t o i n d o e u r o p e a n (talk) 14:45, 26 October 2020 (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

South Africa has eleven official languages. All forms, correspondence etc. has to be made available in all eleven languages, by law. Although everyone speaks English to some degree. The Cat Lady (talk) 15:47, 11 August 2021 (UTC)