One God, one country, and Mercan, our official language  
Arizona Daily Star

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

 My opinion Andrew M. Greeley

Like every good American, I am delighted that the Senate of the United States has decided that English is the only American language. One God, one country, one language, right?

Except it isn't English, which is the gibberish we hear on BBC mystery movies and for which they should provide translation subtitles. We speak Mercan in this country. If we are to eliminate all diversity of languages, we should eliminate all diversity of dialects, too.

The New Englanders must restore the "r" to the end of their words and drop the "r" they add to words that end in vowels. No more driving the "ca around the cone when we're in Atlantar."

The denizens of the Bronx, Brooklyn and the West Side of New York must drop their simianlike guttural talk (the result of the early Irish-speaking settlement in NYC).

Chicago must be prepared to adjust. We must abandon the notorious flat Chicago "a" as exemplified in the speech of Cardinal George and Senator Clinton. Moreover, we must extirpate intra-city dialects. Thus, the West Side Irish must no longer "warsh" and "wrench" their laundry and the South Siders must abandon their Celtic subjunctive of polite request as in "would you ever turn off da Cubs game."

Both groups must no longer eat "samwitches" and restore the "th" sound to the definite article as in "the" Bears, "the" Bulls and "the" Sox. There is no distinctive North Side dialect because the North Side does not really exist, save for Poles who must use more frequently the definite article as in: We are going to "the" mall. And African Americans must understand that though "sk" is pronounced as "x" in most West African languages they should "ask" instead of "axe."

These differences may all seem trivial. Some might even note that they add richness and color to Mercan. However, in the current climate of Nativism, we must eliminate all pluralism of speech.

Pittsburgh also offends with its unusual regional variations. Only in Pittsburgh do mothers admonish their children to "redd up their rooms" (redd is Scots Gaelic for clean). Only in Pittsburgh are "towel" and "tile" homonyms. Only in Pittsburgh is a gossipy neighbor a "neb-nose" (meaning poke into other people's business from the German word "nebb" bird's beak).

All "Southern" accents and dialects must go. Like the Confederate flag and "Dixie," they are offensive remnants of slavery, though admittedly the latter was written by an Irishman from New York. However, in fairness we must make the word "y'all" a nationally required second-person plural because now we don't have one.

Texas probably has as many dialects as all the rest of the country combined, but they must all disappear. East Texans talk like hillbillies, as someone has said, and West Texans like cowboys. No President of our Republic should speak Texan. We've had too much of that in the last 50 years.

The complex and flexible Appalachian talk of mountain folk presents a bit of a dilemma. It is probably a remnant of Elizabethan English and, as such, a fascinating archaeological relic, as in "I apart'in' tonight down to the crik with my jularker." (I'm attending the party down at the creek tonight with my boyfriend.)

Perhaps we should permit that kind of talk up the hollers, but not outside their own strict boundaries. No one seems to know the derivation of jularker, incidentally. It does not appear even in the Oxford English Dictionary. But then why should it?

We must ban all hoosier talk, which was brought there by immigrants from the "Danelaw" region of northeast England. The very word "hoosier" of which the Hoosiers are so proud is, in fact, an insult in Danish, not unlike the Irish "amadon," though the latter is sometimes used affectionately.

You might want to insist that the varieties of spoken Mercan make the country an interesting and vibrant place, endlessly surprising and delightful. However, in this time of immigrant-caused strain and fear of terrorists, such pluralism is a threat to our unity and freedom.

We must all speak the same language, from sea to shining sea. One God, one Nation, one Flag, one Language, one Party, and one dialect, preferably ours, whoever we may be.

The next step will be to develop a national cuisine that will cement our unity against the terrorist threat. Tamales will have to go. Pizza, too. And corn beef and cabbage.

The Rev. Andrew M. Greeley, a Catholic priest, teaches at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona. Contact him at