EU Set to Standardise Diacritics Following Brexit
In a rare piece of positive Brexit-related news, the EU this week issued a statement regarding the linguistic situation in the bloc post-Brexit. From the steps of the EU’s Brussels HQ, Arnheim Von der Scottleganger d’Urphy, Chief Underlayer of Language to the Bureau of the EU Office of Manifest Destiny, spoke to the press on the topic of proposed linguistic harmonisation of the EU’s languages once English is no longer cluttering things up by being lingua franckic (or anglic), and having far too many tenses for its own good and stuff.
Von der Scottleganger d’Urphy said, “Of the 24 official languages of the EU, English is one of very few with no diacritics. Post-Brexit, the EU will at last be able to take a step forward into diacritic harmonisation and standardisation, thus allowing greater freedom of movement for meanings (denotative, connotative, metaphorical, metonymic and other) across national boundaries which in turn boosts trade and makes everything perfect in an otherwise imperfect world.
“Not only has the UK been messing around like a giddy two-year-old on a beach in
Scarborough Cromer Brighton Blackpool Torquay Nice (not pronounced like ‘mice’, thank you!), but the absence of diacritics in this often clunky and indecisive language means that the long hoped-for union of diacritic systems of the EU’s languages was dead in the waters of the British Channel Mediterranean long before it began.”
Translation costs of the EU’s linguistics diversity policy run into the hundreds of millions. By standardising diacritical systems across the bloc, at least several euros and maybe even a few cents of that cost could be saved. More importantly, both trade and bloc-internal migration would be boosted by a transparent system of diacritics which is inherently a Good Thing.
Having realised that Von der Scottleganger d’Urphy’s statement was less impactful than something on fish quotas or bloc-internal roaming charges, most of the assembled press pack were packing up and pressing on. However, Von der Scottleganger d’Urphy cleared his federalist throat and continued. “Of course, diacritical harmonisation is merely the first step towards a complete linguistic fusion of the languages of the superbloc. While we recognise that language is an inherent part of the vital, historical individuality of Member States, and that pride and a strong sense of identity can manifest itself in the use of one’s national language, in my role as Chief Underlayer of Language to the Bureau of the EU Office of Manifest Destiny, I can announce today that by 2070 the EU wishes to have fused all official languages into one. While, as I say, respecting the individuality of those languages. Ultimately, we believe that a set of only 27 lexemes (e.g. blue, borderlessness, four freedoms) will be sufficient to express any meanings that a citizen of the EU may need to articulate.”
Most of the reporters had drifted away at this point (speaking English) but Von der Scottleganger d’Urphy had one final, critical point to make. “We could of course adopt Esperanto as the single working language of the EU. Although a supreme European intellectual achievement which would shine out as a beacon of efficiency and identity, almost the PR exercise par excellence in articulating European identity to itself and to the wider world, we’ve unfortunately decided that this would be too cost-free, have too many intuitive benefits and not create enough bureaucracy to maintain itself as a policy. Thus, with regret, we will not be moving ahead with that course of action.”
Media channels back in the UK reacted with fury to the announcement. The BBC said “This is the BBC. The time is seven o’clock and the news is read by Hugh Humbert Hughbert Humberton” in a slightly more excited voice. Down in Whitehall, when asked for comment, the UK spokesperson from the Department of Language, Language-related, Language-tangential, Linguistic, and Linguistical Matters, Literacy, Literature, and the Post Office (DoLLLLLMLL&PO), Ms Shirley Smythson-Symtham said, “The DoLLLLLMLL&PO was not aware until today that languages other than English were spoken in the EU. We are most surprised by this negotiating strategy of using non-English languages and not having told us about it beforehand. This puts three years of hard work under threat and suggests that the EU has not understood our red line on the use of English in all trading negotiations whether we leave with a deal, a no-deal, by the front door, back door or in a hurry. In any case, given that English is spoken everywhere else in the world apart from small parts of Wales, other countries will be rushing to make trade deals with us post-Brexit—in English. Indeed, the fact that the deal will be in English may be among the most attractive features of future trading negotiations.”
With Welsh as the only other official language of the UK, we contacted the Welsh embassy in London for comment. Although most of its diacritics were removed during the reign of Edward I to help build his string of castles, a few remain, including the circumflex for long vowels. The Welsh embassy’s Office for Wales spokesperson, Dafyd ap Dafyd, said, “Although a narrow majority in Wales voted to leave in the 2016 EU referendum, we see the anti-diacritical history of English imperialism as a far greater issue. Therefore, on Brexit, Wales will seek to move itself to the north of Italy and reapply for EU membership. We in Wales have much to contribute alongside choirs, rain and Eisteddfods: we believe that we can play a leading role in the exciting proposals to standardise diacritics and we have sent some red dragons to Brussels to make this clear.”
White and Blue
Linguistics and Politics Correspondent
The Times of Lowdon