Skip to Content
/ Articles / Opinion /

I hereby declare the official language of Berks County to be Lenape

By Mike Zielinski, Host of The Mike Zielinski Show

Jul 09, 2019
Mike Zielinski

There has been some debate whether Berks County should officially be a bilingual society.

Of course, the languages most people are talking about are English and Spanish because Latinos constitute 23 percent of the Berks population.

But what about those folks who speak Polish (not me, since I have enough trouble with English as readers of this column may have noticed)?

Or Pennsylvania Dutch (which actually is a German dialect)? Or Vietnamese? Or what about those people who speak in tongues? Ditto those who find everything to be Greek to them?

I guess it’s the same old story: Crack open a window and suddenly you’ve got all sorts of turbulent winds blowing in and swirling up a Tower of Babel mess amidst the shattered glass.

Diversity in people is a good thing. Diversity in language can be problematic. A common language is more adhesive in bonding a community than a multiplicity of tongues.

So I have a simple solution: First come, first served when it comes to the official language of Berks County.

According to historians — those tireless academics who hurdle backwards to the past without benefit of a time machine — the Lenape Indians ruled the roost here in Berks long before anybody else showed up.

Indeed, their name means “Original People” — how’s that for a sense of ownership?

So take that, Penn brothers!

But then the white settlers moved in and used their sharp elbows and firecracker-spewing muskets to nudge out the poor Lenape.

The Lenape apparently were a sedentary matriarchal society, and thus their warriors were no match to fend off the white undesirables. So the Lenape had to relocate.

Exactly where I’m not sure, but not being a square-jawed brood, none of them apparently moved to Hollywood and found work in Westerns playing the part of lambs fleeced by the lion-hearted John Wayne.

By extension, all of us who now live in Berks are guilty by association of hijacking the rich Lenape heritage.

Henceforth, I propose that the official language of Berks County to be Lenape. Of course, it may take a bit of time before all the documents in City Hall and the County Services Building can be translated. But all good things take time.

Actually, maybe eons of time. Apparently, there are two Lenape languages (also known as the Delaware languages), Munsee and Unami. They are two closely related languages of the Eastern Algonquian subgroup of the Algonquian language family.

Will the plethora of countless languages ever end? No wonder so many folks are either tongue-tied or speaking with forked tongues.

Upon further review, perhaps the official language of Berks County should be smoke signals. After all, it works in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. where the politicians perpetually blow smoke.

We need your support!

Your contribution makes community media possible.

A donation of any size to your nonprofit media organization supports the future of media access in our community - the things you love, and the places you care about, by the people you know.

Live Streaming