Fragments of English Texas has never been monolingualand it never will be BY MICHAEL ERARD FEATURE Lyndon B. Johnson poses with students at a South Texas school in 1928. photo: LBJ Library 111Ihere is a concoction of self-satisfied myth and ignorance about English that is served up at Sunday services, on the floor of the Texas Legislature, in newspaper editorials, and in political party plat forms with the alacrity of nachos at a high school football game. This myth holds that English in Texas was God-given, inevitable, and inherently superior. In the immortal words of Ma Ferguson, “If the King’s English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.” Thanks to Mel Gibson, everybody knows that Jesus didn’t speak English but Aramaic. \(He probably knew Hebrew and multilingual Alamo, where German, French, and Spanish speaking men died alongside those who spoke English, it would be easier to point out the obvious and make it stick: Texas is populated by recent immigrants and the descendants of immigrants, slaves, and conquered natives. Contrary to what the Republicans are writing in their political platforms these days, this state has never been monolingualand it never will be. So if you were going to tell the real story of English in Texas, which is really the story of English and other languages, too, you could very well begin with a Spanish grammar book that was stolen from Stephen F. Austin by a Comanche war party. Accompanied by two other settlers, in April of 1822, the founder of the earliest Texas colony set out on horseback for Mexico City; despite warnings, they went without military escort. Austin rode with his grammar tied to his saddle, so he could study as he rode. Two days south of San Antonio, they stopped so that Austin could make coffee. Almost immedi 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JUNE 30, 2006
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