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Topics: Language, boston, dialect

Monday, 8 February 2010

image for Ancient New England Dialect Extinct After Last Speaker Dies

One of the country's oldest dialects, which traces its origins to before the American Revolution, has become extinct after the last person to speak it died.

Winthrop Quincy Endicott Lowell VI, the last surviving heir to the Endicott compost fortune, took his life Sunday after declaring bankruptcy, the result of his family's close ties with financial institutions heavily vested in the fraudulent derivatives market. But sociologists and historians argue that Lowell took with him more than his legacy and a pile of debt. He was also the last known speaker of the uppity Boston Brahmin dialect.

"With the death of Winthrop Quincy Endicott Lowell VI and the extinction of this snooty Boston dialect, a unique part of human society is now just a memory," said Stephen Crowninshield, director of The Bean and Cod, an organization that supports aging New England aristocrats and other disadvantaged heirs of nineteenth century robber barons.

"The old, upper crust New England families of British Protestant origin were extremely influential in the development and leadership of arts, culture, science, politics, trade and academia," Crowninshield continued. "We now, in our lifetimes, have witnessed the tragic end of an erudite breed of Yankee. Lowell's passing is a bleak reminder that we must not allow this to happen to other wealthy American dynasties. Who is more qualified to run the economic and financial systems of the United States than these overly interbred, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant relics? They exist in a perfect bubble that accords them the time and energy required to focus on matters of money and social welfare. Everyone else is distracted by the broader world, which has become much too diverse and international."

Winthrop Quincy Endicott Lowell, the last Bostonian known to use the Brahmin accent exclusively, was described by fellow Masons as fiscally conservative, socially liberal and well educated. He was born in Beacon Hill to a wealthy family of Brahmins who were anti-Franklin D. Roosevelt Republicans. After finishing his secondary studies at Choate, he graduated summa cum laude class of '49 from Harvard College where he lettered in Crew and Polo. While the contemporaries of his forebears profited off the creation of the steel, shipping and manufacturing industries -- which engendered and subsequently destroyed the American middle class -- Lowell's family built an empire from fertilizers and compost.

Crowninshield said of the Endicott-Lowell family, "They did for agriculture what Henry Ford did for the oil industry. And anti-Semitism."

"We had access to unusually vast amounts of manure," Lowell wrote in an unauthorized 1974 biography of his family. "While Morgan, Carnegie and Vanderbilt abused the working classes so they could play with their trains and boats, the Endicotts were providing portable lavatories to collect the waste of these workers. This refuse was transported back for treatment and conversion into fertilizers. But after the Endicott and Lowell families united, the business of 'dung and turd,' as Great Grandfather Endicott called it, became dangerously more complex and unethical. Asa Farthington Lowell Sr. found that sending the bodies of dead Irish and Chinese workers back to the treatment centers yielded a much higher quality of compost. There was also some related ado with his ham and baked bean plant. The ensuing scandal, as most people know, transformed the family's business concerns forever. The focus shifted from agriculture to investment in the stock market."

The Endicott-Lowell family leveraged its expertise in agriculture to predict, with unparalleled accuracy, futures for pork and produce commodities. As the decades progressed, however, the Endicott-Lowells became inextricably entwined in the failed derivatives market, which led to the worst U.S. recession since the Great Depression.

Unable to sustain his lifestyle, Lowell succumbed to mounting contemplations of suicide. His body was discovered on the floor of the master bathroom, covered in thousands of self-inflicted paper cuts. "What an awful and horrendously irritating way to die," the coroner remarked. "The boredom alone would have killed a normal person."

A piece of stationery Lowell used to cut himself contained his suicide note: "It is with indescribable regret that I give my soul back to the Lord. To my friends and my collie, Hortense, I have nothing to leave you, save my sincerest apologies for a life misspent. I once sat atop an empire of fertilizer only to see it become a mountain of shit, festering in the clarity of the morning sun. At my funeral, should you find the funds to inter my remains properly, do not play that ghastly Ravel piece. I would prefer, please, Mozart. You will find the phonograph on the Victrola."

Crowninshield expects The Bean and Cod to receive the suicide note after the conclusion of the investigation. "As it stands, this is the last preserved record of the Brahmin dialect. It's far too valuable to ignore, and I think the local constabulary understands its historical significance."

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