Proper Engrish

We are accustomed to hearing the phrases ” King’s English ” and ” Proper English “. Also the more localised ” Oxford English “. All intended to be an unquestionable standard of language – spelling, punctuation, grammar. A gold standard to which one may adhere.

One may also adhere to a vinyl car seat on a hot day, so don’t get too proud or arrogant.

But passing this by, the fact that there are rigid standards of language – such as the rules of the Académie français – is no surprise given the top-down ruling structures of the older societies. The King, Kaiser, Pope, or Tsar rules and the people obey – as much with their voices as their bodies. The rulers know, however, that there will never be exact obedience to their dictates – and this disobedience can be dangerous if allowed to grow. So the language of the nation can be used as a social grounding wire. The masses can be left to their patois and slang and their rulers can retreat to the proper language.

Okay. That’s the political view of the thing – now lets think about the language as it is mangled by foreigners. Weve all heard or read Engrish. It might be Japlish, Chinglish, or Thailish. Of any number of local adaptations of what is becoming the universal commercial language. We can hear a Singaporean person talk pure Orchard Road and understand it perfectly, is it? Rikewise a Japanese person can terr us of their thoughts and we furry comprehend them. We have stopped laughing and now appreciate the compliment and the communication.

And that brings the curious mind to the gate; is there a standard of Engrish? A proper form of word or letter substitution that is so common as to be good communication? Grammar that approaches the ear from a different direction? Is there a Berlitz that can teach it? May we hear a Hungarian to speaking with a Samoan in Engrish and not go mad as we eavesdrop?

Is it?

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