What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation

Explore : language

Ideas

Noah Webster Would Have Loved Urban Dictionary

The Founding Father of American English Was a Radical Who Wanted Us to Write the Language the Way We Spoke It

NoahWebsterhighres

By Rosemarie Ostler
May 12, 2015

In the late 18th century, as the recently independent states were working to define what America was—after fighting with England about what it wasn’t—grammar books were still teaching American children to speak like proper Englishmen and women. The books taught such formal, outdated usages as the correct verb forms for thou (thou goest, thou wilt) and proper uses of shall (used with I and we for simple future, with you, he, she, and they to imply insistence or a threat). …

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Identities

My American Languages

I First Learned English, Then Spanish, to Navigate My Identity in This Big Country

Don Quijote

By Manuel H. Rodriguez
April 24, 2015

Sister Paula, our eighth grade teacher at Holy Cross Elementary School in South Los Angeles informed us one morning in 1944 that Fridays would be devoted to public speaking. Which meant that each of us, standing in front of the class, had to recite something we had memorized. She said we could recite anything we wanted. Most boys opted to tell jokes.

When my name was called, I stifled an inner groan (I was very shy), walked to the front of …

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Identities

New Orleans Is My Second Language

We Lived in Los Angeles, But My Mother’s Songs, Stories, Cooking—and Most of All the Way She Spoke—Made Louisiana Feel Like Home

New Orleans Is My Second Language

By Lynell George
September 22, 2014

For a time, most likely between the ages of 5 and 8, I floated around with a secret: a dogged yet utterly erroneous notion that my family spoke a second language—on my mother’s side at least.

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