Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
Fabian Nunez, speaker of California’s Assembly, trotted south of the border recently and discovered that Mexico’s government is unhappy with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The governor, you know, has called illegal immigration a problem and has lauded the Minutemen border watchers.
Nunez, D-Aztlan, has been noted for his efforts to grant illegal aliens the privilege of a California driver’s license and for battling to secure illegals’ access to publicly funded social services.
His latest move appears to be an attempt to establish the Golden State’s lower house as a source of foreign policy. Though we were unable to gain an audience with Nunez to discuss this matter, we did manage to arrange an interview with one of his factotums, Doroteo Arango.
Arango, who bears the title primero osculador de nalga, ushered your reporter into his office with ceremonial greetings, “Bienvenido, a sus ordenes. Como puedo servirle?”
“Mr. Arango,” we began, but he corrected, Senor Arango!”
“OK,” we said, “Senor Arango. But do you mind conducting this interview in California’s official language, which happens to be English? We’ll stipulate that Spanish is ‘la lengua mas hermosa del mundo’ if that will help.”
“Very well,” he said, somewhat huffily, “we’ll proceed in English.”
“So, why is the speaker fixated on things Mexican?” we asked.
“Sr. Nunez is of Mexican parentage,” Arango replied. “His heritage is Mexican, as is that of most of his Los Angeles constituency.”
Next we asked, “Why is he so concerned about the welfare of people who are in this country illegally?”
“How can people be illegal?” he countered. “The speaker is concerned with the well-being of these people, who generally are poor and downtrodden – and of course with the safety of our highways, if you’re talking about drivers’ licenses.
“Let me note that the speaker did ask the governor to declare a state of emergency on the border to deal with immigration ‘problems.’ Of course, we shouldn’t regard those problems as coming exclusively from the Mexican side.”
“Well then, how about this concept that the Assembly leader should have his own foreign policy?” we pressed. “Isn’t that a bit out of bounds?”
“Let me ask you: What do you mean, ‘foreign?'” he riposted. “Mexicans were here first, after all.”
“Well,” we said, “a lot of Americans think he expends a lot of energy on behalf of people whose very presence is a violation of American law.”
“He’ll worry about that if he ever starts representing Americans,” said Arango.
English is a living language. It’s a fact linguistic conservatives must abide. We’ve learned to live with “standing on line” when we used to stand in line; we grind our teeth and bear with “off-ten” for “often” and have grudgingly accepted the secondary pronunciation of “applicable,” with the accent on the second syllable.
But must we endure “woken”?
Don’t get us wrong. “Woken” is a word, though archaic and found chiefly in British dialect. However, it is the past participle of the verb “wake,” not a stand-alone verb itself.
We all should cringe, therefore, when we hear the almost ubiquitous, “He woken up.”
We have encountered this abomination in otherwise sophisticated novels and in the movies; we have read it in newspapers; we have heard it during TV news broadcasts. (Of course, in the latter, illiteracy is more or less accepted – and expected.)
There are a number of graceful ways to describe the ascent from sleep to consciousness: “He woke;” “he waked;” “he wakened;” and the most lilting, “he awakened.”
Generally, we don’t suggest letter-writing campaigns, but perhaps you could save these paragraphs somewhere on your hard drive, and when you find the participle misused, copy them and send them to the offending parties. They need to be woken up.
When you find certain names – like Howard Bashford or Amy Handleman – in these columns, you know that yours truly is engaged in satire.
The former moniker was coined by a beloved boss of mine, the late Frederick J. “Monte” Monteagle, who used to send hot notes to erring news people, but couldn’t sign his own name because, as a public-relations man, he couldn’t risk offending those in the media.
So, one morning when a radio news reader referred to the Hopi Indians as the “Hop-eye,” he sent her one of his super-heated postcards, signed with a flourish, “Howard Bashford.” We liked it; we stole it.
Amy was our own creation, as was the column’s latest lampooneer, Doroteo Arango. We thought that by now one of you would have figured out why we chose this name to represent the satire-worthy characters south of the border, but nobody has sent us a “gotcha” e-mail, explaining why this is funny (well, we think it is).
Heartiest felicitations and a coveted mention in this column will go to the first reader whose accurate explanation crosses our desk.