E Unus Pluribum

Noting that more than half of our 50 states have declared English their official language, Eric C. Miller argues against English-only advocacy:

Language is an organic force, and difficult to control. The troublesome example of official French policy in Quebec offers a cautionary tale. The US is so much larger, home to hundreds of millions of people and their myriad cultural traditions. Enforcement brings other problems, too, not least ideological ones; many supporters of Official English are political conservatives, critically opposed to government intervention in the lives of citizens. If imposition is to be avoided as a rule, then federal speech codes must surely qualify. And since laws are valid only to the degree that they can be enforced, language law is bound to be tenuous at best.

If the English language were under threat, matters might be different. But any honest appraisal of the situation in the US must concede that it simply is not. At the close of his excellent 1997 essay on the subject, Robert D King said that Americans are ‘not even close to the danger point’, and that we can ‘relax and luxuriate in our linguistic richness and our traditional tolerance of language differences’. Dismissing the idea that language was a threat to unity, he concluded: ‘Benign neglect is a good policy for any country when it comes to language, and it’s a good policy for America.’

(Update: yes, as a Latin scholar I know that headline is ungrammatical in Latin. Ex Uno Plures is the right formulation. But I figured the entire pun might be lost to non-Latin-proficient readers.)