April 1, 2008
Special to the Web of Language.
Sarah Josepha Hale, owner of the popular L.A. eatery, Vegan King, has forbidden her employees to speak English. Hale has strongly urged customers not to use the language either, it has been reported.
One radical enemy of English floated a suggestion to ban the language as long ago as 1996, but the plan was treated as if it were some kind of April Fool’s prank.
But Hale, whose restaurant claims to serve the best tofu imitation-cheese steaks in California, read the ban English essay and was moved to do just that.
The long-time vegan activist and language rights advocate complained to the L.A. Weekly that when her employees spoke English at work, she never knew what they were saying. “They might be talking about me behind my back, making fun of me” she told the newspaper.
Hale added, “Speaking only English like that, they wouldn’t be able to read the safety manuals or deal with emergencies. I mean, what if the tofu caught fire?”
Sarah Hale at the Vegan King take-out window. Hale insists she’s never turned a customer away for speaking English, though she actively discourages the language
Anti-English spokesperson Vlad Tepesh was even more blunt in speaking out against English. “People come to this country speaking English and they want everything handed to them on a platter. They live by themselves in gated communities. They don’t want to do any work if it means getting their nice white collars dirty,” Tepesh said.
“They have all these children, then they want somebody else to take care of them so they can spend the money they get from the state at the mall on clothing that isn’t even made in America. Or they send the money back home to England, where they plan to return one day after sucking this country dry,” Tepesh added. “These people don’t even mow their own lawns,” he said.
While Hale discourages her customers from ordering in English, offering to teach them how to say “tofutti with sprouts on a toasted multi-grain bun” using phonetic flash cards and pointing to pictures, she insists that no one has ever gone away hungry from Vegan King, even if the only language they can speak is English.
“I want them to enjoy the healthful benefits of soy-based foods,” she said. “But I feel sorry for people who only speak English,” Hale added. “One language! It’s so limiting, economically. And politically. How can you be an informed citizen of the vegan world if all you can speak is English?”
Hale, who believes that tofu is the glue that holds American society together, fears that unless people in America give up English soon, the country could be split between those cosmopolitan and successful bilinguals and nonanglophones and the English-speaking permanent underclass holding down jobs in the service sector or worse yet, living out their lives on welfare.
But Los Angeles, where the anti-English movement began in the 1960s, is also home to the activist U.S. Anglo organization, which has been lobbying for more than thirty years to make the federal government recognize the rights of English speakers.
According to U.S. Anglo spokesperson Virgil Starkwell, the organization isn’t going to sit still while Hale hacks away at the language rights of ordinary, patriotic Americans.
Starkwell, a sponsor of the “Defense of English Act” currently before Congress, has threatened to sue Hale and Vegan King for discrimination and violation of constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment rights. “She won’t let her employees use the language of their birth,” Starkwell complained. "And she won't let them carry guns."
Starkwell vehemently denied starting a rumor that Vegan King had been condemned by the Los Angeles County Health Department for spreading the dreaded tofu fever, a vegan plague thought by scientists to have its deadly origins in soybeans fertilized with bone meal from downer cattle.
But he did say, “From now on, I’m buying my tofu imitation-cheese steaks down the street at Soya-Vite, where I feel welcome because I can order in English.”
To which Hale replied, “Well, I sure hope he doesn’t want fries with that.”