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Repeat after me: "I speak English, you speak English, he speaks English..."
Repeat after me: "I speak English, you speak English, he speaks English..."
Alan Posener

BERLIN - In the musical “My Fair Lady,” Professor Henry Higgins expresses outrage at the "cold-blooded murder of the English tongue." The guilty parties are the Scots, the Irish, the Welsh – and of course Eliza Doolittle, the Cockney flower girl from London with whom the linguistic purist falls in love. If Americans escape his scathing verdict it’s because "in America, they haven't used English for years!"

What would Higgins say today? Even on the BBC, once a bastion of the "Queen's English," the way presenters speak immediately identifies them not only as Irish, Scottish and Welsh but as American, Australian, South African, Indian, Kenyan, not to mention as hailing from South London or the wilds of northern England.

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In The News

War In Ukraine, Day 93: Is Kyiv Ready To Risk Taking War Into Russian Territory?

While Russia is accusing Ukraine of carrying out attacks on its territory, the U.S. is set to send rocket launchers that could fire into Russian territory. But Washington is also warning Kyiv of the high risks of escalation.

Malaya Rohan, town in Ukraine near Russian border

Shaun Lavelle, Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out attacks on its territory, the latest indication that the war may be escalating dangerously across the border. The head of the Border Service of Russia’s Federal Security Service, Vladimir Kulishov, claimed that Ukrainian militants were trying to enter the country disguised as refugees.

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In an interview with government-owned Russian daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Kulishov said the situation at the border was difficult and that “additional temporary border posts were deployed.” He said that such actions preceded the invasion: “From 2014 to February 2022, the Ukrainian side undertook over 40 anti-Russian actions on the state border.”

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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