National languages

Richard Salomon rsalomon at
Thu Apr 7 17:29:19 UTC 1994

Funny, I heard the same story, but the language was Hebrew.  I guess it 
depends on where you're coming from.


On Thu, 7 Apr 1994, Richard P Hayes wrote:

> As an interesting but utterly meaningless coincidence, as the
> discussion of Sanskrit as a possible official language of Bharata
> takes place on this list, the CLASSICS list has been carrying a
> number of items on a recent report that the founding fathers of the
> United States of America (you'll find it just south of Canada on your
> map) were so enamoured of the classics that they almost made classical
> Greek the official language of their newly independent Republic. The
> issue (so the report goes) was so close that it was decided by one vote;
> the deciding ballot was cast by Benjamin Franklin in favour of English!
> Apparently this story is told fairly often to students struggling with
> the middle aorist participle in American universities, for several
> classicists have reported hearing it from their professors. It turns out
> that the Greek story is a variant on a theme. Apparently the prototype
> of the story is that German was almost made the official language of
> the USA but was voted down by one vote (name the American hero or
> villain of your choice for caster of the decisive ballot). The German
> story has been traced back to the 1930s, when it circulated widely among
> newly arrived German immigrants, no doubt discouraged by the horrors of
> English orthography (not to mention the ridiculous number of irregular
> verbs).
> My own prediction is that when Quebec separates from the rest of
> Canada so that the Quebecois can preserve their culture, Mohawk will
> become the official language of the new nation. (I myself would prefer
> Sanskrit, since it is the mother of all Indian languages.)
> Richard P. Hayes                                   cxev at
> Faculty of Religious Studies     McGill University      Montreal, Quebec

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