If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher. If You Can Read This In English, Thank A Soldier
I was losing the light (even in Indiana, Land of the Midnight Sun Since 2006™), and had more painting to do, so I quickly passed on the urge to stick around and engage the owner in some linguistic fencing.
"You admire soldiers? Thank the French; it's their word. Marine, too. Maybe you should be thanking the Celts, for the poor soldiering that made way for the Angles and the Saxons and the Jutes, the much-less cultured invaders whose language proved flexible enough to evolve into modern English. Or the Vikings, the fearsome raiders from the north who left you the ability to lift your leg or take a husband. They came back two centuries later as Normans, and brought with them 10,000 items from Old French and a spur for the shift from Old to Middle English. For that matter, you might thank them if you didn't have to read Beowulf. While you're at it you can doff (contraction of do + off, both French) your hat (Old Norse) to Charlemagne for keeping literacy alive, and if you can count the number of words on your bumper sticker, hug an Arab. If there's a zero involved, hug an Indian, too. As in native of the Subcontinent, but go ahead and thank aboriginal North and South Americans for corn, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, squash...and the land your Family Panzer was parked on.
"Y'see, that's the best thing about English, I think: the way it was able to take both high and low, from conquerer and subject, trading partner and scorned captive alike. English is wonderfully egalitarian; excepting a few dialects that Thou and You stuff died out before the Declaration of Independence ever switched on its beacon. With all due respect to Jonah Goldberg (thanks again, Subcontinent!) English has never had need of that Official Language and Culture crap because it's naturally resilient, and it's naturally resilient because of its openness. Ever tried to buy a French copy of Roget's Thesaurus? Or Dutch, Portuguese, Lap? You can't, because those vocabularies are tiny. They're closed. English is open to the world.
"Whazzat? Oh, you didn't mean that nativist crap? Just trying to celebrate the American citizen soldier? Well, you ought to be careful about that sort of thing, since The Liberals have a field day with that whole warflogger/anti-brown person bigot thing, y'know. But if you want to put it that way, I might suggest that while you're thanking the teacher who taught you to read you might look up the history teacher for a refresher course. The only time we were anything more than vaguely, theoretically in danger of being conquered our opponent spoke English, too, probably better than we did, unless you want to add some Newt Gingrich wet dream of a War of the Late Rebellion that would have resulted in the whole country pronouncing grits like it has three syllables, like that woman on the Food Network does. We could thank Russian soldiers that we don't speak German, I suppose; they'd beaten Hitler before we got off the transports. I don't think US conquest was ever considered a real possibility in Tokyo, but even so I don't think avoiding Kanji class is the real reason to remember the men who died on Tarawa or the nurses who lived in Japanese captivity on Luzon. If we avoided some real chance that we might be reading bumper stickers in Cyrillic or Chinese by now, you can thank diplomacy and the cooler heads who avoided war, not the sons and daughters of America who sacrificed in stupid, worthless, proxy wars, although that's not their fault, of course.
"No harm ever in remembering those who serve. That's what those three magnetic yellow ribbons on your hatch do. But twisting history--and glorifying bigotry in the process--is not what they fought and died for, and nothing we need send anyone else to die for, either."