Broken English

Note: the WP auto timestamp of this post is wrong. It was written and published on Monday, January 1st 2018. I have now reset the blog’s time zone to Cairo time. Happy New Year!

el gouna marina
The hip marina scene on the last morning of 2017

The marina in El Gouna was hopping this morning, relatively speaking. We could not find a seat around 11ish on Sunday at 7th Star, so we walked around, had some pictures taken for our monthly carnet bus tickets, and then just bought croissants and some American coffee and sat by the quay on the other side of the marina and had breakfast in front of the boats.

Zoom into the pic above, and you will see examples of the new Cairo elite.  Like the old elite before them, many also speak a foreigner’s language, snatches of which pervade their Arabic.  We saw their children running around the marina — these being Egyptian children — speaking English to each other.  I will repeat that. Egyptian children at play speaking half-fluent English to one another, rather than their own language.

Just like it was like for me, many years ago, when I spoke a mix of pidgin English and Arabic with my friends at the Gezira club, the English my wife and I overheard was mostly broken, non-idiomatic, accented, and odd-sounding at times, but nevertheless charming and readily understandable.

The Azhar is lamenting the corruption and looming disappearance of Arabic.

For the Arabic you hear in El Gouna and in the capital is only partly Egyptian Arabic. An enormous amount of American slang loan words have crept into the language.  It has always been so: French to Arabic, Arabic to French; and so on with other languages.

But there is something different at play here other than normal linguistic pollination. There is this idea that English, and in particular, American English is better. Send your kids to English school, and you will cement your family’s ascent into the elite class.

Before Nasser, English was the language of the hated occupiers of Egypt. Now, it is the language of those who willingly submit to the appropriation of their culture.  For it’s not just in language, but in manner of dress, choice of music, choice of lifestyle, and attitudes, that you see Americana permeate Egyptian culture, resulting for many in the distancing if not outright disappearance among the elites of any real connection to their homeland.

But what will these children turn out to be?  I saw, to my dismay, a little kid bicycle around with an expensive late model smartphone dangling down from a badge cord around his neck.  He could not have been more than ten, and was shouting to his friends excitedly in Broken English.

How is this kid going to turn out? Half here, half there, rooted to “Arabish,” schooled by his parents such as to end up to be covertly self-hating,  unmoored to “Egyptianess,” which they are ashamed of, he will most likely turn out to be a cultural half-breed, a linguistic mongrel, as pure Arabic crumbles throughout the Middle East, replaced by the various levels of Broken English that is sifting through much of Egypt, like a linguistic algae bloom, with its attendant late Empire toxicities.

(A particularly egregious example of this phenomenon is the zine Cairo Scene, whose appropriation of American slang and misuse of English words — “infamous,” for instance, being understood as a superlative — borders on self-parody.)

We had bought a French baguette at 7th Star, and took the bus to Downtown, where I bought three cuts of fresh chicken breast from The Butchery, then some tomatoes, a red bell pepper, a red onion and a bottle of Sinai olive oil. This entire basket of goods, or shebang, if you want to imitate American-English speak, costs around seven dollars American.

Then we went home, and sunned ourselves by the pool.  The cat took to Zouz, who soon changed her name from “Tyger” (the name I had temporarily bestowed on her) to Sandy.  Much better name, as the wild creature always has sand on its paws. My wife then fed the cat, and while Sandy ate, Zouz took this picture.

el gouna cat

Later on, we were invited by a friend to a NYE party, but we declined.  Zouz and I were both tired from our recent travels, and in fact were fast alseep by 9PM, well before the party was about to start, but not before we watched a mediocre chick flic called Broken English on TV, and when the credits rolled, my ears pricked up at Scratch Massive’s cover of Marianne Faithfull’s 1979 dance-rock standard “Broken English.”

It is now 2018.

The anticipated noise from the next door turned out to be a false alarm, although there was plenty emanating from the multi-family vacation rentals from across the lagoon till very late at night, which caused Sandy to get frazzled and eventually woke me up.  So I ended up writing this post at 3:30AM, with CNN on mute, and airhead announcers like Anderson Cooper babbling on inconsequentially about how great it was going to be freezing your ass in Times Square waiting for the ball to drop.

At the start of a new year, things are looking up.

Zouz and I have now both escaped the clutches of Konafa Head culture (see previous post), and for now at least, are not personally subjected what we perceive as the grotesque social illness that is America.

Our marriage remains unbroken, despite the up and downs of a multi decade marriage. We are most likely to return in October for 6 months.

I reflected back, but only briefly, on all those elite Broken English people at the marina, and especially their unfortunate kids, who don’t even realize what is happening to them.

Why would you ever want to mimic that which — when the chips are down — essentially holds in contempt everything about you that’s authentic?

Why would you willingly participate in the slow death of your own culture?

Verily, for some, Broken English is nothing more than a form of identity suicide on the installment plan.

I’m not into that shit any more.

leaving america