Give us back our language

Not content with taking back control of their borders, the ‘hard Brexit’ campaigners are now demanding that the UK take back the English language too.

In a controversial move that is guaranteed to further test already strained international relations, the Leave campaign has given notice that they want to stamp the UK’s sovereignty over English.

Samuel Johnson, creator of the first comprehensive English language dictionary

Sam Johnson – probably spinning in his grave

A spokesperson said: “We gave English to the world, but now we want it back. We will be more successful on the international stage if we are seen to be in command of our own language.”

But more moderate elements on the Leave side are hinting that rather than fighting what they see as a rearguard action, the UK should be commodifying English and demanding that the 57 countries who declare English as an official language start paying licensing fees. Details of how this would work in practice – or how much would be charged per annum – remain as elusive as details for the Brexit negotiations.

Undeterred, however, it is understood that the issue of licensing fees will be raised as soon as Article 50 to withdraw from the European Union is triggered. America is not expected to be subject to the licensing arrangements as ‘American’ is regarded as a separate offshoot language, which conveniently avoids upsetting the ‘special relationship’ that is enjoyed with the USA.

Meanwhile, the proposals have been roundly criticised by those who voted to Remain with the other 27 countries of the European Union bloc. “It is a crazy notion,” remarked a Remain spokesperson. “A third of English words are French. We could use eatery or inn instead of restaurant, business person instead of entrepreneur, but the list goes on and on. What, for example, would we call a passport?”

If we are to extend the logic of the ‘hard Brexit’ backers, presumably, the UK will have to give back all the words it has acquired from other languages, including Greek and Latin. Pressed on this point, a ‘give us back our language’ spokesperson replied: “I am not surprised. After 40 years in the European Union what did you expect? EU law being imposed on us was bad enough, but it’s the insidious insertion of foreign words into English that really sticks in our throats.”

With the prospect of future editions of English language dictionaries requiring heavy revision, talks are already underway within the lexicographical community. Speaking exclusively to Hà Nội Scribbles, a representative commented: “Hopefully there is only an outside chance of this coming to pass. That said, the UK did vote for Brexit in the first place, so who knows? Potentially there is going to be some almighty blanks to be filled in. This would be an unprecedented wholesale change to the language and the biggest job since Samuel Johnson. We are already looking at forming a committee to invent new English words to replace all those that will be stripped out. It could take years and years to complete.”

Quite where the UK as a nation is going is difficult to fathom right now. Especially with plans for a second Scottish independence referendum being announced and calls for a Welsh vote on independence if Scotland reverts to being an independent nation. Indeed, all bets are off at the moment until some clarity emerges over the next two years or so.

Quite what the state of the UK economy will be then is anyone’s guess. If it still exists as an entity. Some are already referring to the UK as the former United Kingdom or fUK for short. Commentators are pondering if the UK is already fUKd given the ongoing negative impacts on the economy before the Brexit talks have even begun.

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