April 30, 2006

Nuestro Himno

Much has been made of president Bush's recent comments on the newly appeared Spanish version of the Star-Spangled Banner. When asked if the song would be just as good in Spanish, he said no. Now everybody knows what this is about; if he had said yes it would be interpreted as an affirmation that Spanish was just as good a language for Americans as English.

Never mind that the United States is hardly a nation unto itself in the classical sense, but an artificially created middle-modern experiment in human optimism. And you have to admit, it's been a modest success. But that doesn't give it much claim to being a nation in the classical sense, with a proper culture and language, etc.

Of course everybody knows that things are better in their original language; if you can learn Greek so as to read the New Testament without translation, all the better.

But what really struck me in the president's remarks was his suggestion that people who come to the U.S.A. ought to learn to sing the national anthem in english. Now this is unreasonable. The Star-Spangled Banner has a range of almost two octaves, making it a big stretch for most ordinarily voiced people. Singing half-drunk at a ball game encourages one not to notice such things. And how many Americans know all four verses? How many even know that there are four verses?

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