What is the theme of the poem "Ode to American English" by Barbara Hamby?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"Ode to English" by Barbara Hamby is a delightful recounting of all the kinds fo things that make American English different from proper British English--and that is a good thing. The narrator of the poem is in England and obviously misses the quirky, funny, changeable language of her country.

The theme seems to be that American English is a distinctly unique entity, "a Hungarian goulash of everything / from Anglo-Saxon to Zulu."

Hamby has written this poem as a kind of list of fun-sounding, idiosyncratic American words and phrases that race trippingly off the tongue. The narrator misses even the transformations in the language, like

Ebonics, Spanglish, “you know” used as comma and period, 
the inability of 90% of the population to get the present perfect: 
I have went, I have saw, I have tooken Jesus into my heart, 
the battlecry of the Bible Belt, but no one uses 
the King James anymore, only plain-speak versions, 
in which Jesus, raising Lazarus from the dead, says, 
“Dude, wake up,” and the L-man bolts up like a B-movie 
mummy. “Whoa, I was toasted.”

To continue the theme, the narrator refers to "the mongrel plenitude of American English," and she misses it--all of it. The craziness, the cartoonishness, the bits and pieces of American culture which have worked their way into our language. 

American English is a unique entity for which the narrator (and Hamby) has great affection.

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