The following passage is quoted from an article in the Observer, Sunday 15 September 2013 titled This glorious and unruly English language that lets everyone in What does the phrase "to find within it their own unique cadences" mean?

What the would-be linguistic dictators called the "anarchy" of the English language has been redefined by writers from the greater anglophone world as its great generosity. Its glory is that it lets everyone in without making them all the same. English was multicultural long before it contained that word. Because it is itself an unruly bastard tongue, it is capacious enough for everyone to find within it their own unique cadences. The England that once had pretensions to govern this glorious tongue is gone.

  • It's not strictly true; many opera singers for instance prefer Italian for singing. Dame Joan Sutherland answered 'What is your favourite language to sing in?' with 'Well of course, Italian and French: Italian first and then French. German becomes too guttural; too many consonants as with English but the French and Italian flow so beautifully.' One or two prefer Welsh. Feb 18, 2015 at 8:34

3 Answers 3


The word cadence has a strict meaning in music, bringing a piece to a satisfying end by using a sequence of chords. When speaking about language it means the style of the language, the rhythms and inflections of speech. In your passage I think the writer is taking the latter meaning a step further to imply the creation of a personal "voice".

A person using English can use many different styles, each equally valid. Words can be put together to give many different effects, different rhythms can be used. There are so many synonyms and possible allusions that by carefully choosing words interesting effects result.

So each person can find (seek out, design) their own unique (personal choice, possibly in particular situations - I use formal language in business, much different language when writing songs) cadences (voice, sounds, expression).

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    +1 But I think you will find that the literary sense is much older than the musical, going back at least to Chaucer in English. Feb 18, 2015 at 13:13
  • Yes, StoneyB, I made an assumption that a precise term would predate a poetic meaning. I had no evidence for that. Fixing answer.
    – djna
    Feb 19, 2015 at 6:36

It means

To find one's individual (personal, special) way of speaking and writing.


It strikes me as related to this famous qoute, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away,---Henry David Thoreau

To do things in one's own way regardless of societal norms and conventional expectations. (idiomatic) 

A quote attributed to Penn Jillette, "Las Vegas: Tonight! Miracles, Live!," Time: Siegfried and Roy, two nuts from Germany, are out of their wealthy little minds. They live in a mansion whose ceiling is painted like the Sistine Chapel, with either Siegfried or Roy (who can remember?) in place of Adam. Roy has a "meditation chamber" (the rest of us have dressing rooms) furnished with a mystic rug and cages for his tigers. They wow the crowd with heavy machinery and endangered-species eugenics. I love S&R. They march to the beat of a different drum machine."

Translations: to do things unconventionally

From the wiktionary

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    I think that ' own unique cadences' just refers to the different nuances of pronunciations that the English language has developed being spoken by a great variety of people all over the world. I understand is as a positive reference to the adaptability of the English language.
    – user66974
    Feb 18, 2015 at 7:40

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