This is really apropos of nothing, but we have a forum, and we have to call out the New York Sun and John McWhorter. Now, we love to kid the Sun here, what with its weekly parenting column written by the daughter of its major investor, and its Murderer's Row of looneytunes right-wing contributors. But this may be the day the laughter died. Today the Sun ran "Dying Languages," in which columnist McWhorter claims that it's not really so bad that native languages are dying out at a faster rate than at any time in human history, though he concedes that "[e]ach extinction means that a fascinating way of putting words together is no longer alive. In, for example, Inuktitut Eskimo . . . 'I should try not to become an alcoholic' is one word: Iminngernaveersaartunngortussaavunga."

Oh, really? Of all the languages in the world, and all the possible phrases that could be chosen as examples of those languages, all McWhorter could think of on deadline was how a Native American might say, "I should try not to become an alcoholic"? And his editors had no problem with this? What if McWhorter had chosen as his example the German phrase for "I should try not to become a genocidal dictator," or the Animere phrase for "I should try not to be shiftless"?

For all kinds of reasons, the Sun should know better.


Channel 13 in New York is replaying the Sesame Street special, "When Parents Are Deployed," starring Elmo and Cuba Gooding Jr., Sunday night at 6. The Times praised its "good intentions" the other day.

December 28, 2006 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS


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