Monday, October 01, 2007

Ethnic Mix

Like many an American, I'm something of an ethnic mix. A mongrel, a mutt, if you will.

I'm a quarter Norwegian and a quarter German, that's the easy part of it. The other half is an indeterminate mix of English and Welsh, with a sliver of Scottish thrown in.

On census forms I enter myself as "English-Welsh." I guess the Welsh part of it is what I really identify with. What, you don't pick up on the Celtic aspect of me from this blog? Mad Welshman, and all that?

Though it all tends to boil down, over the course of a couple of generations, into one big Mulligan stew. My Great-grandma spoke German fluently, she spoke English with a German accent. My Grandma could understand German just fine, and speak it okay if she put her mind to it. My Dad picked up some words and phrases in German. Me, I was totally innocent of the German language until I took a German reading course somewhere along the line in my academic studies: reading, no idea how to speak or pronounce it, and of course 20 years later it's all fled my mind.

On the other side of the family, at age 102½ my Grandma is still fluent in Norwegian. She was born in this country, but didn't learn English until she started school.

The usual pattern is, culturally assimilated no later than the third generation. I've sometimes wondered what I would've done if I'd been born into some small ethnic group in this country with its own language, you know, Navajo, Louisiana Cajun, or whatever. Somehow I suspect I would've zeroed in on the language and other aspects of the culture, immersed myself in it, and carried it on yet another generation. A generation further than usual, even.

Judging by that language of my own which I actually did concoct, I think that supposition is not too far fetched.

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2 Comments:

Anonymous redjack said...

i'm 1/2 irish and 1/2 italian

and yes the celtic side of you does show through a sort of poetic madness :)

Monday, October 01, 2007 3:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

Ich habe Deutch studieren, aber ich wisse not that much.

What's funny is when I was watching Heroes the other night and Mohinder's French might almost as well have been English to me. I chalk that up to a non-native speaker going slow and using basic phrases. French was 7th, 8th and 9th grades - that's the three school years ending in 1976. German, on the other hand, was the four semesters ending in spring of 1984. Which come to thinking of it isn't that much more recent! But... but... college was just yesterday...

My mix is more varied: English, Scottish, French and if I stopped there it would cover most of it. Heck, leaving out the French would cover most of it. Then there is German, Dutch, Irish, Wampanoag Indian, and maybe one I am forgetting. Wouldn't be surprised if there's technically Welsh in there.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007 9:31:00 AM  

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