Returning to society through English

Some words by Ludvig Köhler; does rejection of the English language make you an incel?

It’s rather hard to examine what English really is. I guess one has to start from the very beginning. The very beginning – where that is, I don’t know. Perhaps it is easier to grasp the very end. The very end feels closer than the very beginning, in this case. Language will always feel like something more than just language. It’s not very easy to explain. English came into my life when I was about five or six years old. I recall being fond of listening to Reggae music that my mom had bought on CD from a record store in an exclusive shopping mall in central Stockholm called Sturegallerian. It seems wrong calling it a shopping mall, it was more like a little street within a building that consisted of small boutiques and stores. Back then, the CD industry was blossoming and there was a record store in this posh shopping place, named after the square that lies next to the building, Stureplan. Stureplan is, unless I’m mistaken, named after the great Swedish regent Sten Sture, who had a son with the same name. My contact with English was very natural and the overall experience rather positive. Somehow things changed and English became something of the lingua franca in the Western world. I guess you could say this was already the case when I was a child. But along with the development of the Internet during the 90s, English became so much more important. Almost too important, one could say. I started to develop an aversion to the English language. I read Mikael Parkvall’s book on languages, Vad är språk, somewhere around the year 2006 or so, and became passionate about conserving near-extinct languages. It seemed like a good idea to maintain a rather anorectic position toward the English language. Consuming too much of it felt bad. Simultaneously, English became more and more present in the public space of Stockholm. McDonald’s had already been established in Sweden for many years. McDonald’s had become so established that the meals already had Swedish names, where an English speaker could hardly understand the words being used to describe the food and beverages at the Swedish McDonald’s restaurants. My strict English diet became harder and harder to maintain. I became a recluse, an outsider, where society started treating me like a freak. I read Erlend Loe’s Doppler and felt some kind of connection. I also read Jon Krakauer’s Into the wild, in English, since it hadn’t yet been translated. The feeling of being outside of larger society was thrilling and haunting at the same time. I graduated from high school, which actually is the wrong word for the Swedish gymnasium that once upon a time was something completely different from high school (but nowadays the differences are not very visible) and went on a trip to Israel, that had the flavour of being quite existential, but actually wasn’t that existential. What does it even mean when one uses the word existential? All I experienced was that English was rather necessary to know, and I had been wasting my life on avoiding the English language, making me somewhat of a stranger in the world, a deplorable, an incel. So I started to eat it again, the English, and I began my return to society.

WordsLudvig Köhler