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December 18, 2002

Out-Bushing the Bushes

Just when you thought no politician could make wring less sense out of the English language than George H.W. and son Shrub have managed to do, Trent Lott comes along and stammers his way through an interview on BET. Slate has this deservedly merciless critique of the whole painful episode.

All of this makes me long for an Orwell among the punditry, someone who could write an essay like "Politics and the English Language" for today. To quote that masterwork:

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.
Posted by jay at December 18, 2002 11:12 AM | TrackBack
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Comments

While we're on the topic of 1984, can we also proscribe the current trend in American broadcasting to substitute the word "good" for "well"? Nothing is quite so discrediting of a commentator (in my somewhat anal retentive perspective) as the "he/she did good" construct.

Adjectives, adverbs, memories of nuns with yardsticks ...

Posted by: Bob on December 18, 2002 01:16 PM

"Adjectives, adverbs, memories of nuns with yardsticks ..."

My warped brain automatically tried to fit that to the tune of "My favourite things" from the Sound of Music, but it didn't scan well.

On a related note, check out this Onion article: http://www.theonion.com/onion3847/bill_of_rights.html. Sadly, parody and real news is starting to become indistinguishable these days.

Posted by: david on December 18, 2002 02:32 PM
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