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Language defines a culture, through the people who speak it, what it allows speakers to say—the stories told and history recorded.

 

As a young child you grasp at as many words as you can. You repeat and imitate what is said around you. It’s okay if you say them wrong the first time...it’s the curiosity and the struggle that keeps a toddler coming back for more.

 

Once we learn the words we use it to uplift, degrade, personify, describe the metamorphosis of life…

 

Empowerment

Education

Endangered

F*g

Fighter

Freedom

Teacher

Tolerance

Tramp

N*gger

Narcissist

Narrator

Loser

Loner

Lover

 

The acquirement of language is often taken for granted. It is been withheld from so many—a tool for oppression and submission.

 

“Some us think we are accidents of literacy. I do. We think we are people who might not have been able to go to school at all, who might never have learned to read and write. We think we are the children of people who have lived in the shadows for too long.” -Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat


 

Language is often used to cause fear. To hurt us.

 

I was nine years old sitting in the car at the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin waiting for mom to return. Two white boys my age come towards me saying, ‘run, nigger, run.’ That was the day I became colored.

 

Language gives us our history. Language can’t be erased to make us feel better.

 

In 1884, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain gave an insight into the time period. The text of Huckleberry Finn includes 219 instances of the word n*gger.

 

Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery, approached a publisher with the idea of replacing the word n*gger for slave in an updated version of the book. Professor Gribbin said that he believes the substitution of slave for n*gger will make it easier for teachers to teach the book.

 

This change may confuse some students, though, since Jim has freed himself by running away from Miss Watson, and so is not actually a slave during most the book

 

The origins and transformation of a word keeps us yearning for more as when we were toddler learning how to repeat multi-syllable words

 

N*gger words stems from the Latin niger, black, as does Negro, but where the latter came directly from the Spanish or Portuguese negro, n*gger was adapted from the French nègre. It’s been transformed to be said nig*ga to be a term of endearment among young people of color. A staple vocabulary word in hip-hop songs that have transcended color lines.

 

 

Language does not only transform. Language can vanquish. Erasing memories.

 

Every 14 days a language dies. By 2100, more than half of the more than 7,000 languages spoken on Earth—many of them not yet recorded—may disappear, taking with them a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment, and the human brain.

 

Many endangered languages have rich oral cultures with stories, songs, and histories passed on to younger generations, but no written forms. With the extinction of a language, an entire culture is lost.

 

Mark Twain gave us a language in order for us to remember not forget our history. The culture that shames many but is a part of the United States.

 

“I am even more certain that to create dangerously is to create fearlessly, boldly embracing the public and private terrors that would silence us, then bravely moving forward even when it feels as though we are chasing or being chased by ghosts.” -Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work by Edwidge Danticat

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