Art is the proper task of life

{June 3, 2007}   Stop Abusing the English Language!

Just read another example of pomo (Postmodernism) gone wrong. There is a limit to the use of euphemisms after which it starts to sound absurd. Yes one can analyze everything in terms of power structures but after a certain limit it starts to sound redundant, detrimental and even counter productive. Criticism for the sake of criticism and for sounding erudite is detrimental. I do not think that this is what Foucault had in mind when he was talking about power structures. Reading this article was like reading 1984. Consider the following excerpts.

At the beginning of his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” George Orwell made clear that he thought the language had become disheveled and decadent. Intending shock, Orwell offered five examples of subliterate prose by known writers. But these selections don’t look as ghastly to us as they did to Orwell, because language is so much worse today. Consider some recent usages.

In plain English, what does it mean when students “achieve a deficiency” or reach a “suboptimal outcome?” It means they failed. A “suboptimal outcome” is even worse in a hospital. It means the patient died. The airline industry sometimes speaks of a “hull loss.” What it means is that a plane just crashed. Here’s more twisted language: your doorman is now known as an “access controller,” and a receptionist is a “director of first impressions.” Hospital bills can be filled with such language. How about a “thermal therapy unit”—an ice bag—or a “disposable mucus recovery unit,” also known as a box of Kleenex?

But the institution that wins the coveted convoluted-language award is the government—any government, in any country. A U.S. document speaks of “ground-mounted confirmatory route markers.” Translation: road signs. In Oxford, England, city officials decided to “examine the feasibility of creating a structure in Hinksey Park from indigenous vegetation.” They were talking about planting a tree to get some shade. Joyce Kilmer’s famously awful non-poem reads: “Poems are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree.” Today, Kilmer might have to write: “Versified and rhythmic non-prose verbal arrangements are fashioned by people of alternative intelligence such as myself, but only the divine entity, should he or she actually exist, can create a solar-shielding park structure from low-rise indigenous vegetative material.”

I would recommend reading the whole article. It offers a good short primer on the abuse of language. Since language is the primary construct through which we create our worlds, manipulating language may be the best way to manipulate people. Imagine if people that out. Wait, they already have!

This gave me an idea, from now onwards I will be doing a postmodern analysis of some of my blogging friends. Lets see if you people can figure out what I am trying to say. 🙂


Sumera says:

I quite like the new fangled dressed up terms – especially for those with mediocre jobs! 😀

but i like abusing the english language 😦


p.s. wonderful blog, i am glad i found it

Aliana says:

Welcome to the blog LoA

navcity says:

I get a lot more out of reading Walter Benjamin or Simmel essays than boring Monsieur Foucault

Aliana says:

Monsieur Foucault is boring! What have you been reading!

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