While reading Reginald Shepherd's post entitled: " Working Class Hero" I came across this passage.
"...as intellectuals and artists from poor backgrounds, people who as kids knew lots of words we couldn’t pronounce correctly, because we’d only read them in books."
It describes a socialization process that (although different) closely mirrors my own. The love affair that I had (and still have) with the English language drew me to the etiology of words and ultimately to the doorstep of poetics. Words became my sole weapon against an Italian culture that I tried so compulsively to distance myself from. There have been numerous sociological studies relating to the second generation immigrant, the denial of their mother culture & the process of assimilation within the host culture. Acquisition of language is perhaps one of the first, if not most important step in the process of acculturation. After all language & culture are so closely linked - that the mastery of a language along with the all important knowledge of its semantics & idiomatic expressions often renders an immigrant - homogeneous and in essence almost indiscernible from the host culture. This is the worst case scenario for a 2nd generation immigrant. The third generation: once it has received a modicum of social acceptability, often seeks out the original culture's nurturing teat.
As a second generation immigrant I self-consciously tried to gain the approval & approbation of this host culture. I saw my neighborhood friends & acquaintances (who I perceived had a flawed knowledge of the host language) as the enemies. Their stilted efforts at mimicking this language grated on my perception of what constituted an acceptable auditory pattern of this purloined language - that was English. I spent many hours listening to recordings of my voice trying to rectify stilted language. In my blind efforts & haste to be accepted I thought that I had received the ultimate compliment when during my undergraduate years at McGill University in Montreal - I was asked to play Macbeth in a staging of the play by a Shakespearean class (I had taken as an elective) and was told that I sounded like a young Ronald Colman (Prisoner of Zenda). Little did I know!
Despite my love & devotion to its nuances and the grammar of its expression - my love of poetics has gone by and large unrequited. It has not welcomed me open-armed within the ranks of its favored proponents. I still await the caress of an accepted manuscript - for example. I have not as yet been granted audience to read the borrowed words which best imitate my thought processes via poetic rhetoric. Despite my bending to a purloined culture I have nothing tangible to show for it. I still maintain a silent vigil.