English is a fun tool. It is much more malleable than French, especially for a non-native speaker. Lucien Carr, [Jack] Kerouac’s friend at Columbia, wrote that they were both constantly “overawed by the versatility of the English language.” The poetic form and the English language allowed me to shed two rigidities: that of classical prose and that of French grammar. In English, verbs and nouns often have the same form (a race, to race; a treasure, to treasure). Conjugation is childishly simple: just add an S to the third person singular. The words retain their core while fulfilling many functions. The words are chameleons. They keep the same shape, but change colour. In French, the words have to accessorize instead, put on -er, -ais, -ette. They have to put on hats, pearl necklaces, the right capes or the right masks in order to switch roles. The language is much more dressed up. When I write in English, I feel stripped of the costumes.
- Dominique Bernier-Cormier, from his essay "Taking English for a Spin" over on The Puritan's Town Crier blog. You can read the whole thing here.