The mystery goes on, what language they speak in the great state of Maryland. Some said it was English; others said no.
The state Senate, which has probably been wrestling with this for several centuries now, finally took the bull by the horns to consider legislation to make English the official tongue of the state, then this was changed to make English the basic language of instruction. But it failed. The more the Senate thought about it, the greater doubt they had that English was the basic language of the place. Or maybe they thought there were too few people in Maryland able to manage the instruction part of it.
In any case, there were not enough votes to make English either official or basic, so the question remains vexed and nobody knows what to say once you pass Western Avenue.
There are enclaves, even in Maryland, where English is still spoke. But let's say we lose Maryland. No big deal. That is what most people think in this capital. Wait -- this is wrong. We always said we were a city of Democrats, just as the nation was overwhelmingly Democratic in its political registration. Well, we sat around feeling ourselves part of the mainstream and because we were not vigilant you know what happened. All of a sudden there came an Election Night when our town blinked red on a map that was universally blue except for an obscure state near the North Pole.
And I fear that just as we became a trembling minority politically, we may become utterly isolated linguistically. Maryland has grave doubts that English is our language. Maryland is a straw in the wind.
Nobody will mistake me for a chauvinist, surely. I rejoice to hear Greek, Baltimorean and other vigorous babels on our streets. They should have their own newspapers, they should be free to have their Friendly Sons of Bistros and other institutions to preserve whatever culture they more or less derive from.
Spiro Agnew was a great son of Maryland, and whatever else may be said of him he spoke English with considerable flair and force. If he had not learned English, if he had not believed it was totally basic, we would never have heard of him. I wish he would address the legislature up there and testify for the language of our Constitution.
Now the language changes. My wife still speaks of egg yelks (an ancient pronunciation) while the tide of centuries has turned it to yolks. Which, by the way, has always been pronounced "yokes," but now people are starting to sound the formerly silent "l."
Television is a straw in the wind and a distressing one. They are starting to say awf-ten instead of awf'n for "often."
The word "falcon" has always been faw-kun, but now is called fal -- rimes with Al -- kun. The word "aren't" is now commonly pronounced ahr-unt, and (if you are seated steadily and are quite ready) I have heard Weddensdee for Wensdee for that day of the week. Tew-es-dee will soon be heard.
When I grew up, "travail" was identical with "travel" in sound, but now it's truh-vail to rhyme with "avail." The word "concord" was always kahn-kud, and still is if you speak of Concord grapes, but if you speak of harmony and concord it's now kahn-corrd.
"Trespass" has changed from tresspess to tress-pass with the accent at the end. Barbarous, but fairly standard now. Not important, since the word does not occur much these days.
There comes a time when outrageous pronunciations become standard, used by college presidents (a very poor example, come to think of it) and we have to adjust to the new barbarism or risk the charge of affectation.
This we all know, this we all live with. It is the normal course of language for words to accumulate new meanings and new sounds. "Prevent" no longer means what it did, and hardly a word in the language has remained unaltered except maybe "brock" and "honeysuckle," and even honeysuckle has picked up an "l" and come to mean something other than the clover. Brock still means badger, for which I thank God and use the word on all possible occasions. It entered the language even before the Saxons came.
So did "crock." Which ought to be used a great deal more than it is.
Thus we see that steady fellows do not object to foreign languages, nor to the inevitable changes of sound and meaning in old words. All these unsettling changes we accept with grace, except that on my deathbed I hope yet to have lungs sufficient to holler FAW-KUN, damn you.
But by that time, far in the future, God willing, I suppose we'll be using a completely different word for the bird. Flappy-pouncy, most likely. Or flappiopouncio or flappengutten or flaponceux.