“English is an ugly, lurching fool of a language.”
“But it communicates hate well.”
“That is nothing to be proud of.”
– Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan.
English is arguably the world’s dominant language, spoken in more places than any other. Why?
Well, mainly because the British empire managed a combination of economy and military conquest that gave it half the world, followed by America doing a similar thing with its own variant of English. But other than that, I mean.
It’s not a very poetic language. Much like the German it’s derived from, it’s a gutteral language, defined by its hard sounds rather than its soft ones. It’s also not a very complex or sophisticated one; the CIA regards it as one of the easier languages to learn. However, I think its main strength is that it borrows so readily from other languages. George Bush famously declared, “The problem with French is that they have no word for entrepreneuer,” [Edit: OK, not really. Thanks Tom.] and as stupid a comment as that was, it’s really a testament to how easily foreign words, from pretty much any language, fit into our own. Schadenfreude. Millieu. Chai. Padre.
In many ways, the English language mirrors the classic cry of America, give us your poor, your disposessed, your huddled masses! We’ll take them all! Both countries and languages are strengthened by diversity, by being capable of taking on anyone, regardless of whom they are. (As an intriguing side note, Al Capone discovered this too – His major reform to the Chicago mob was taking on people who weren’t Italian, a decision that increased the quality of his troops enormously.)
Which brings us to humans. In particular, Stormwind.
Why are the humans such a dominant race? In terms of sheer political power, they have no rival. They dominanted the Alliance from the word go, creating a military and economic empire so powerful it makes the British empire look very ordinary. Their reach extends to two of the three continents of Azeroth, and their numbers (according to the World of Warcraft RPG) dwarf that of the horde. While there are many explanations, one that stands out is simple: They accomodate other races well. This, perhaps more than anything, is The Human Spirit.
There are nods to this in the game. Humans do not get the Diplomacy buff for nothing; they’re a race who have done well to accomodate others into their vision, regardless of whom they are. And consider Stormwind City, buffeted to the East by the Dwarvish District and the West by the Garden District, the latter dominated by the elves. Give them a decade more, and I assure you a Draenei District will sit just behind the Cathderal of Light. Does Ironforge compare? No, for while they do have Tinker Town, there’s no Human Quarter, and nothing of the Night Elves anywhere. And don’t even get me started on the Night Elves, whose Darnassus has not even a single nod in the direction of their new allies. (And no, they don’t get an exemption from this for their recent entry to the Alliance, because Darnassus was built after this fact.)
Now, some will point out that the humans also have the most racist elements within their society. Absolutely true. (See the Bloodsail Buccaneers and the Scarlet Crusade as proof.) But this also fits the model; it’s commonly accepted that increased ethnic diversity actually produces racism as well as decreasing it. (The average level of racism drops, but the radical element increases.) It still seems true that the Stormwind humans are the most ethnically tolerant race on Azeroth, and they’ve reaped the benefits of this.
I first got this idea while writing a Blood Elf stereotype of the humans. And to the Blood Elves, I’m sure the stereotype holds. The humans do nothing themselves. They only steal the ideas of others.
This isn’t true. Human ingenuity and strategy was just as important to defeating Archimonde as Orcish strength or Night Elf cunning. The first troops to lock heads with Archimonde’s forces were the humans. But it is true. Humans steal from other cultures whenever they see something that works. They stole magic from the high elves, technology from the gnomes and dwarves, and I’m sure will soon find things to steal from the night elves and draenei. Their culture is one of borrowed concepts.
And they’re ever stronger for it.