The Missouri Senate faces a grave responsibility when it returns from its spring break on the 28th. It will be facing the bill passed by the House earlier this month that says all drivers license examinations will be given in English and only in English. The senate is proud of its heritage as a deliberative body that makes sure our laws are written properly.. It has long been said in the Senate, “The House passes the bills; the Senate makes the laws.”
The House has passed the bill but it appears to have left a gaping hole in it by not specifying the kind of English that will be used. That is an important issue in a state where people say Missourah and where others say Missouree. After 190 years of statehood we still have not designated how to pronounce this one word in the English language Lawmakers who have avoided for almost two centuries determining how to pronounce this single word derived from Native Americans now must figure out an entire language to be used for English-only drivers tests.
Today we offer a new suggestion for the kind of English that might be appropriate. Jock English, the language of the player, the words of the stars admired by so many, the expressions of those whose position in society commands salaries greater than the winnings of most lottery winners, the utterances of those adults and children alike see as role models. Surely these people have the credentials to guide our lawmakers in defining the kind of English that will be used for English-only drivers license examinations. Or for any other English-only laws.
Here’s a University of Missouri football player from several years ago when Missouri was, well, pretty darned awful. The Tigers had just beaten a ranked team for the first time in almost a decade. After the game this star player explained how the Tigers became motivated enough to gain the victory:
“Well, you know, we was kinda down, you know, because we just got, you know, beat pretty bad by _____,you know, and you know, everyone’s thinking you know we want to play Saturday, you know, instead, you know, of working through it, you know, so we just, you know, waited for Saturday, you know, and eventually it got here.”
Wait. He’s not done.
“You know, last night we had a good meeting, you know. Coach _______ told us some stuff, you know, and it sunk in and we just said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go out there and play well.'”
Well, of course.
“Well, you know, beatin’ a top-ranked team, you know, you feel you know you can beat, you know, you play against them, you know, you can play against anyone, you know, because they’re top-ranked and they’re in the top 20. So we just goin’ in there thinking, you know, and play ball and not be denied again.”
The comment lasted thirty seconds. He averaged two “you knows”—or more accurately ‘y’knows”–every three seconds.
Football should not be the only sport to demonstrate this kind of facility with the English language. Here’s a baseball player after his team lost and fell farther behind in the pennant race:
“Oh, yeah, there’s always hope. Anything can happen, you know. I mean, you know, we, we got a good club and all, and we have to do, you know, is just get it, get it together offensively, you know, and score some runs, put some pressure on the opposition and, uh, you know, get, get, uh, get, get our, you know, pitchin’ together and get our bullpen strong and, you know, and, and we can, uh, you know, we can be right back in it, you know. It don’t take that long either.”
That was a much more concise use of the English language to express optimism in team sports. It lasted twenty seconds and improved the “y’know” rate to about one every 2.2 seconds.
The Revenue Department has its guide to the drivers exams online. We picked out a sample question and offer it in the way it might appear on a test if Jock English is the language choice state lawmakers prefer for English-only drivers exams.
18. Well, when, y’know, you are approaching a railroad, y’know, crossing you should:
- y’know, slow down
- look for a, like a, uh, train
- get it together, and be, y’know, be ready to stop
- just, you know, thinkin’ all of the above
English, as she is spoke, comes in a wide variety of forms. We’ll be monitoring our lawmakers as they deliberate to decide the correct English to be used.