April 29, 2006

More water cooler chat from Language Log Plaza

Another set of stitched-together emails, this time from Roger Shuy, Arnold Zwicky and Eric Bakovic:

RS: Eric's excellent post on Nuestro Himno might have been called, Nuestro Himno-no-no. Now what's the next step? Changing the Spanish names of towns and cities in Texas? How about Body of Christ? Saint Anthony? Saint Mark? On the River? Wild River? The Pass? The Field?
AZ: Why stop at Texas? there's a lot of Spanish out there to expunge. Arnold, in Tall Tree, waiting for a Saint Francis friend to bring two visitors from Flowery...
EB: Well, you know, what's good enough for Jesus ...
-- Eric (of St. James, apparently -- I never knew that!)

Roger was of course referring to Corpus Christi (which is actually Latin, but the similar principles apply), San Antonio, El Paso, and so on. Arnold is in Palo Alto waiting for his visitors from Florida.

And Eric (in San Diego, I think, which in English would be Saint Didacus, as Ambarish Sridharanarayanan pointed out by email) is alluding to a quotation often attributed to Miriam Amanda "Ma" Ferguson, "[c]laimed to be said as she was holding a bible, about her reason for objecting to the teaching of Spanish in schools":

If the King's English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for the children of Texas!

As the Wikipedia article on her explains,

She was an educated woman and fairly well-read, so it is somewhat unlikely that she actually ever uttered those words. That quote has also been widely attributed to many others, both before and since the time of Mrs. Ferguson.

The main issues in her first primary campaign were Prohibition and the Ku Klux Klan, with her opponent Felix D. Robertson being in favor of both, and Ferguson opposed. She trailed Robertson in the first round of the primary, but won a run-off, and then defeated the former dean of the University of Texas law school in the main election. More on Miriam Ferguson here, here, here, here.

Posted by Mark Liberman at April 29, 2006 03:59 PM