America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Trump Bans Non Indo-European Words
By Kenneth Langer
11 February 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. Following massive protests in the United States and around the world, President Trump has rescinded his ban on immigrants from seven Muslim countries. In its place, he has issued a new Executive Order (EO) banning non Indo-European words. “From this day on,” the EO states, “no words will be allowed into the country if they do not hail from Indo-European languages.” It is believed that the president picked up the phrase hail from during last week’s meeting with British Prime Minister Teresa May. The new EO was announced during a speech the president delivered yesterday at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
“By banning non Indo-European words,” President Trump told his audience at DHS, “I’m keeping America safe from terrorists and rapists who speak all those squiggly languages like Arabic.” He called Indo-European “the original Aryan language” and said it was “pure and really beautiful, the best ever.” The president also suggested the new ban could be a “no-cost alternative” to building a $20 billion wall across the Mexican border.
During the Q&A that followed, Elaine C. Duke, former undersecretary for management appointed by President Obama, noted that Spanish is an Indo-European language. “Who is this nasty lady?” Trump asked angrily and ordered her removal from the hall. When asked by DHS Secretary John Kelly whether the EO applies only to words “immigrating” into the U.S., or to the use of non Indo-European words by ordinary American citizens, Mr. Trump appeared to be taken by surprise. But he quickly rejoined, “I’ll speak with my consigliore [Steve Bannon] and he’ll get back to you through Sean Spicer.” The president then repeated that our borders would be safer without the “infiltration” of non Indo-European words, which were “one hundred and fifty percent losers.” He ended the session claiming that the idea of the ban was his alone. “It was me, only me,” he said.
However, the president’s claim appears to be contrary to the facts. In a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post dated January 28, Noam Chomsky, MIT professor emeritus and founding father of modern linguistics, wrote, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Donald Trump were to ban people from speaking foreign languages in the United States. After all, people are inseparable from their languages. Banning languages is as good as banning the people who speak them. Before we know it, Trump might even ban words that do not have Indo-European origins.”
During a White House press conference immediately following the announcement, New York Times White House Correspondent Mark Landler cited Professor Chomsky’s Letter and asked how the President expected the American people to believe that he came up with the idea himself. Press Secretary Sean Spicer insisted that “the president never saw Chumpsky’s [sic] Letter.” He added that Mr. Trump gets all his news from tweets and doesn’t read newspapers. At 4 p.m. today, the president tweeted, “Noam Chomsky is a gnome and should go back to his cave in Ethiopia.”
In an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, Kai von Fintel, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Linguistics at MIT, explained that many words in the English language are borrowed from non Indo-European languages. A few examples cited were buggy, bloke, bozo, bug, Bollywood, and bamboozle. Hannity cut Fintel off and went to commercial break.
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a guest on the same show, said emphatically, “there is no doubt in my mind that the use of non Indo-European words is unpatriotic.” When Hannity questioned whether words like buggy and bamboozle were really unpatriotic, Mr. Giuliani replied, “Well, yes and no. I mean, who doesn’t like to bamboozle? It’s good business—New Yorkers do it all the time.” He added that the new administration is being extra cautious in order to protect this nation’s welfare. “Listen, I am one-hundred percent with the president on this. Just minutes ago he tweeted that non Indo-European words are ‘like terrorists who sneak into the country,’ and he called them ‘illegal aliens.’ And so I’m with him all the way.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued the following statement: “President Trump’s ban on non Indo-European words is an affront to our democratic values. Words from one language don’t ‘sneak into’ another language. They are borrowed in a natural and healthy process of human interaction.” Not surprisingly, the President sent out a tweet rejecting Pelosi’s statement: “Look how she tries to cover up her age. No way. How can you trust a woman who is all wrinkled up like that?”
In an Op-Ed in today’s New York Times, Steve Bannon wrote,
American needs foreign words like it needs a hole in its head. Take the word hummus, which means “mashed chick peas” and is eaten mostly by Muslims. Some of you may like this gooey crap, especially liberals who don’t know shit from Shinola. But did you know the word hummus comes from Turkish. I’m not a racist, but TURKISH? Now listen to what Wikipedia says about the Turkic language and judge for yourselves.
‘Common Turkic is closer to the original state of affairs, and reconstructs Proto-Turkic *z, *š. The glottochronological reconstruction based on analysis of isoglosses and Sinicisms points to the timing of the r/z split at around 56 BCE–48 CE.’
Not very all-American, if you ask me.
At 3 a.m., President Trump responded with a tweet to his followers, which he now puts at 300 million,
“Don’t you just LOVE Steve Bannon? I do, he’s SOOOO smart. And isn’t he right on about hummus? We don’t want illegals like THAT coming into our great, well, not-so-great nation.”
The president followed this with a second tweet at 3:23 a.m.
Hey, why don’t we just ban all recipes like hummus that come from Huns and other Muslims?
Then, at 4:05 a.m., the president tweeted a third time:
And, while we’re at it, let’s ban English words that are more than three syllables. They’re ELITISTS! TERRIBLE!!!
Kenneth Langer recently completed his debut novel, The Bird’s Nest. His reincarnations include Sanskrit scholar (Harvard Ph.D.), university vice president (Brandeis), founding president of an international green building consulting company (EMSI), and aspiring cellist. Ken’s blogs can be found on his website: www.kennethlanger.com/kens-blog.