Biographical Analysis of John Mcwhorter

Topics: Language, Ket language, Ket people Pages: 5 (1720 words) Published: March 24, 2013
Han Bin Kim
Comp II, Class B
Assignment 2, Draft 1
February 23, 2013
John McWhorter Interview

Over the years I have interviewed a good number of people, but there has never been anyone quite like John McWhorter. Upon reading the article “The Cosmopolitan Tongue: The Universality of English” as published in the 2009 Fall edition of World Affairs, I found myself delighted by the mellow but powerful tone and the writer who could use it with such ease. Here was a man with brains, consideration, and humor. Lost in my reveries about what McWhorter would be like, I didn’t quite realize that I had somehow dialed his office number until a deep voice filtered through the receiver. “Yes? McWhorter speaking.”

With a tingling sense of nervousness I had forgotten since my rookie days, I introduced myself and asked if he could spare time for a brief interview. He replied, “Interviews, my dear sir, are rarely brief,” and I could almost hear his smile. There was that brilliant wit which had inspired him to state that there were “no feminine-gendered tables that talk like Penelope Cruz.” (McWhorter, 251) After a turn or two of friendly wrangling, he gently suggested meeting Saturday afternoon at a quiet café we both knew. I agreed to the designated rendezvous and, unable to control the temptation, asked, “How long have you said café like that?” The way McWhorter pronounced the word was this: the ‘c’ was sweeter and lighter, in the way Italians and Spaniards speak, and the ‘f’ was said like a soft ‘p’—sounding simply foreign. He said simply, “Since I was very young.” I already knew that he had “taught himself languages as a hobby since childhood” (McWhorter, 247), and unsatisfied as I was with his answer, I vowed that Saturday would be a new day.

On Saturday afternoon I drove down a peaceful country road and walked silently into the café. A tall man stood with his back to me, gazing out the large French window, and without prologue asked, “Isn’t that a beautiful poem right in front of us? Anne Shirley said it a century ago, but I’ll take the liberty to repeat it. The lines and verses are only the outward garments of the poem; the real poem is the soul within them… and that beautiful scene is the soul of an unwritten poem.” I smiled quietly at his analytical but sensitive analogy, reminded immediately of his description of the word ‘ał— “an evergreen branch, a word whose final sound is a whistling past the sides of the tongue that sounds like wind passing through just such a branch.” (McWhorter, 247) I later asked him what his childhood nickname had been, and laughing, he confessed that he had most often been called “poet”. Small wonder for a man who could condense a long, everyday sentence—say, for example, “there are an innumerable number of books that could have summed up to no mean weight”—into three pithy, creative, imagery-filled words: “Bookstore shelves groan.” (McWhorter, 247)

He folded his long self into the armchair, crossing his legs, and leaning slightly forward he told me to sit down. As I sat, I remarked, “You look a great deal like I imagined you to be.” His quiet question and intelligent gaze compelled me to elucidate. I had gathered much of the premises from his writing. The contrasting thoughts “I hardly rejoice when a language dies” (McWhorter, 247) and “Would it be inherently evil if there were not 6,000 spoken languages but one?” (McWhorter, 252) could hardly have revealed themselves in a single piece of writing unless the writer was a man of exceptionally precise, cold logic. Thus I had already envisioned the deep-set, handsome eyes that flashed fire from under his brow, and the firmly set mouth. I had also imagined him to be a handsome man, and he was that, too. Humor saved the chin from tapering too sharply, the mouth from being dour: “Spanish speakers do not go about routinely imagining tables as cooing in feminine tones.” (McWhorter, 249)

McWhorter laughed at my analysis, wryly telling me that I...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • john Essay
  • John deere financial analysis Essay
  • Essay about The Story of an Hour: A Biographical Analysis
  • Biographical Analysis of the Crucible Essay
  • Biographical Analysis Essay
  • Essay on john
  • Analysis of Cargoes John Masefield Essay
  • John Keating Analysis Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free