posted by Thom Holwerda on Sun 25th Oct 2009 12:51 UTC
IconA couple of years ago, a professor at my university had a very interesting thought exchange with the class I was in. We were a small group, and I knew most of them, they were my friends. Anyway, we had a talk about language purism - not an unimportant subject if you study English in The Netherlands.


Purism

Most of our readers come from the United States, and as such, will have little to no experience in dealing with languages other than English (which, I can assure you, is a great loss - nothing broadens your horizon more than learning a new language). I, on the other hand, live in a very small country, and because the Dutch language is more or less irrelevant on a global scale, I was forced to learn other languages.

Dutch children start learning English at age 8 or 9, in primary school. When they go to high school, they will start learning German and French, too. I was in an even more privileged position - since I went to Latin/Greek school, I learnt those two languages too. Sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt. Eram, eras, erat, eramus, eratis, erant. 

I still wake up in a panic sometimes, drumming up conjugations.

With Dutch children learning so many other languages, and, of course, with English being the dominant language of the world, it will come as no surprise to anyone that minority languages - like Dutch - are influenced by it. English words make their way into the Dutch vernacular all the time.

In my country, people look at this in different ways. [generalisation alert] For the most part, people couldn't care less. We Dutch are apparently very accepting of all this, which probably results from our pragmatic "merchant" attitude, a necessity for a country whose entire history is built upon trade with other cultures. Most people do not perceive foreign language influences on Dutch as a threat.

However, as in any other country, there's also a group of people who absolutely detest these foreign influence, claiming it dilutes the Dutch language. While I personally do find that a number of complaints from language purists have merit, a lot of it seems like trying to fight a process which can't be fought: language evolves. What purists consider "proper Dutch" today would be despised by the language purists from the early 20th century.

Anyway, I was talking about that professor of mine. Well, he taught us various courses, and in one of them we got to talk about language purism and what it means. After discussing the topic for a while, he posed a very intriguing question which stuck with me:

Which type of person has more confidence in the strength and resilience of his culture and language - someone who feels threatened by outside influences, or someone who doesn't?

You might need to make a few 180s in your brain, but the answer is someone who doesn't.


Confidence

Now, years and years later, I can apply this exact same question to a completely different situation. If you read websites like OSNews, or more specialised Apple websites like MacRumors or AppleInsider, you'll see a lot of people who feel threatened by people and companies installing Mac OS X on non-Apple labelled computers. Apple itself, too, feels threatened by the practice, as evidenced by them trying to sue Psystar into the middle ages.

A lot of Apple fans are afraid that companies like Psystar are diluting the Apple language brand, and Apple itself, too, expresses the exact same fear - word for word, almost - in their filings in the Apple vs. Psystar case. Now, I ask you - 

Does that strike you as a company who has confidence in its own products and brand? Do the Apple fans expressing this fear sound like people who have confidence in their favourite company, computer, operating system, and brand? Isn't the Apple brand strong enough to withstand a small retailer in Florida?

Is Apple afraid that its customers will defect en masse to cheaper, non-Apple labelled computers running Mac OS X? What does that tell you about the confidence Apple has in its own customers and its products?

Are Apple fans afraid that people will opt en masse for cheaper, non-Apple labelled computers running Mac OS X, instead of buying the real thing? What does that tell you about the confidence Apple fans have in Apple and its products?

I would think that if Apple and its products really are worth their price tags, and really are significantly better than what other computer manufacturers have to offer, then there would be no reason to fear Psystar and cloning in general, right? People would continue to buy Apple computers with Mac OS X, right? Cloning or no cloning?

Right?

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