Sarah Palin’s “speak American” comment has just become its own “gotcha” moment. The former vice presidential candidate was attempting to add to the debate between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, but instead she had a foot-in-mouth moment that only Joe Biden can really appreciate. But it may turn out that Palin’s comment about an American language may have some historical support.
In a related report by the Inquisitr, the flap over Sarah Palin’s quote started when she claimed the American public does not give a “flying flip” about gotcha questions posed to 2016 presidential candidates. Instead, she claimed, “I’d rather have a president who is tough and puts America first than to win a game of Trivial Pursuit.”
Unfortunately, the Republican representative ran into a linguistic landmine when she tried to praise Jeb Bush for being bilingual.
“It’s a benefit of Bush to be able to be so fluent, because we have a large and wonderful Hispanic population building America, and that’s a great connection he has with them,” Palin told Jake Tapper during a recent CNN interview. “On the other hand, I think we can send a message and say, ‘You want to be in America, A, you’d better be here legally or you’re out of here. B, when you’re here, let’s speak American…. Let’s speak English, and that’s a kind of a unifying aspect of the nation is the language that is understood by all.”
If you wish to interpret this quote charitably, Sarah Palin’s “speak American” comment was simply a hesitation or a slip of the tongue where she meant to say American English. Of course, comments made on the internet are never charitable, and neither was Piers Morgan when he decided to belittle Palin with his own comment on Twitter.
‘Immigrants should speak American’ demands Sarah Palin. There is of of course no such language.
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) September 6, 2015
Others turned the incident into a joke related to native Americans.
I guess when Sarah Palin said to speak American this what she meant pic.twitter.com/i1o17lsmmx
— Internet Palace (@InternetPalace) September 6, 2015
Sarah Palin wants us all to speak American. I’m guessing she means Navajo, or is Cherokee an option too? http://t.co/l5FjjOgLsM
— Wesley Chu (@wes_chu) September 6, 2015
Of course, at this point, we have to interject a wee bit of history. According to Atlas Obscura, there were early references to an American language. Going back as far as 1778, one political directive claimed that “all replies or answers” to an English minister should be “in the language of the United States.” Fast forward in time and Mark Twain was referring to American as being its own language.
“I could pile up differences until I not only convinced you that English and American are separate languages, but that when I speak my native tongue in its utmost purity an Englishman can’t understand me at all,” wrote Twain in 1800’s.
By 1922, Washington McCormick introduced a bill to Congress that would have had the United States’ “national and official language” be “declared to be the American language.” While these types of attempts mostly failed, the state of Illinois actually did declare that the state’s official language was “American.”
How does this history relate to the modern controversy? Thomas Jefferson was known for creating words like “belittle” out of thin air, and when British writers cried foul he simply made up more words. So, yes, when Piers Morgan belittled Sarah Palin’s “speak American” comment, we only had the American language to thank for the description.
[Image via Getty Images]