Whose words, ideas, and, most importantly, policy decisions are we hearing when the President speaks? They almost certainly aren’t his.
What orators lack in depth, they make up to you in length
Here comes the orator, with his flood of words and his drop of reason.
Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1735
Now that Elon Musk has dared to say what everyone, including Dr. Jill (who really wanted to be First Lady and talks about when “we” won) already knows…and to suggest that the President is bereft of ideas or original thought…the “empty suit” accusation now has a much louder amplifier, and I thank Elon for having the courage to utter the unutterable. Read more at https://www.language-expert.net/now-president-zero-the-final-devolution-of-presidential-rhetoric/
A dictionary reports equivalencies. A “racial equity glossary” dictates them.
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”
From Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There” (1871)
Recently, OpportunityNow, a San Jose-based website/resource for entrepreneurs, invited me to comment on the City of San Jose’s Racial Equity Glossary.
Here’s what I sent them:
As with any religion, the p.c. folks make it up as they go along. Self-appointed experts decide that yet another word – in this case, a word in a different language! – is a “trigger.” The cancer of political correctness advances, one word at a time.
But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
— George Orwell
In these times of language abuse and language control – when a Supreme Court nominee cannot define “woman” (because she is so politically compromised) – I must once again note that manufactured offense knows no limits. There is no end to it, even though it crosses the bounds of commonsense and reason.
Political speech is full of lies, euphemisms, deceptions, and nonsense, with words large and small. One of the most deceptive small words is political “we.”
Pronouns, considering that they comprise only a short list of words, are one of the most fascinating aspects of English grammar. All of them have multiple meanings, and there’s a lot of room for fuzzy interpretation and language deception.
Let’s focus on “we.”
It can mean ‘you (singular or plural) and I,’ but nobody else. Or ‘you and I and (un)named) others.’ Or ’I and one or more others, but not you.’
The real pronoun problem: political “we” full post
(392 words, 1 image, estimated 1:34 mins reading time)
Bad decisions flow downward and outward in the organizational pyramid, spreading bad ideas through obedience and the suppression of cognitive dissonance.
Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
Governments and organizations of every kind evade personal responsibility by making the organization the subject of an active sentence, as if it moved of its own will. Granted, it’s sometimes a useful shorthand: Procter and Gamble has introduced…, in which case the company as a whole pulled it off, presumably in adherence to an agreed-upon business strategy; we don’t really have to know just whose idea the product was.
“Defense Department” or “War Department”? Repetition breeds acceptance. But what part of America are these soldiers “defending”?
“The truth is what most people believe. And they believe that which is repeated most often.”
Paul Josef Goebbels
The quote is from the man who served as Hitler’s Propaganda Minister and who (BTW, he was a linguist like me, with a doctorate in philology) would today feel quite at home in a PR or ad firm, or at the CIA or a related secret agency, or at one of the big tech companies.
Somewhere in this word cloud is “comment on language abuses in public discourse” and “resist political attempts at language and thought control.”
Nothing happens without language, and in the current social turmoil, one side is blatantly attempting control through language.
Linguists remain silent..
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
- – Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Political speech relies on verbal manipulation, one prominent example: impersonal language that avoids assigning (or taking) responsibility.
“Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, a retired rear admiral, recently said that during the long U.S. undertaking in Afghanistan ‘the goals did migrate over time.’ Did the goals themselves have agency – minds of their own?”
When I listen to or read the speech of the people who represent the government and the military-industrial complex, I hear impersonal language and, typically, malicious obfuscation. By that I mean that they speak, as bureaucrats and politicians always have, in terms that, because people on the receiving end rarely subject them to critical scrutiny, are accepted at face value, though a moment’s consideration reveals how devious and deceptive they are.
A profusion of pronouns
Pronomania [pro-no-MAY-nee-ah], n. an obsession with multiplying third-person personal pronouns to indicate a large number of genders, subjectively defined, resulting in the proliferation of personal pronouns, the announcement of “my” pronouns, and the user’s enhanced self-image and feeling of virtuous sensitivity to gender.
Some people think they know about pronouns. They know nothing. They think they can multiply English personal pronouns at will. They announce their “own” pronouns and feel virtuous. They don’t know that pronouns are one of a few classes of words that are so fundamental that the inventory is limited and rarely, if ever changed.
Calling for an end to pronomania full post
(1019 words, 1 image, estimated 4:05 mins reading time)
It takes courage and clear thinking to question the all-pervasive indoctrination of Critical Race Theory. But what does the phrase actually mean?
As there is now an inexorable push to make Critical Race Theory a required part of America’s educational system, pushback is required. Kudos to Andrew Gutman, the Brearly (NY) School father who stood up, in no uncertain terms, to the relentless indoctrination to which his kid had been subjected (for $50,000+/year).
As Candace Owens notes, CRT is a double poison, taking time from teaching academic skills and at the same time producing a generation of non-thinking, malleable sheep.
It takes courage and clear thinking to resist the liberal preoccupation with racial/gender preference and language control.
[In George Orwell’s 1984] Syme [a Party official] encourages Winston to recognize that the ‘whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought’. He explains that ‘in the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible because there will be no words in which to express it.’ Syme refers to the fact that individual thought, rebellious or ‘unorthodox’ thoughts will be impossible and so, too, will the true concept of individual freedom. Each concept will be expressed in just ‘one’ word. Any ‘subsidiary’ meanings will be rubbed out and forgotten. (55).The party controls the mind through the control of language (Newspeak), the control of history (the past) and the control of war/ enemies, [via] the process of DoubleThink.
Latest language crime: “equity” full post
(908 words, 1 image, estimated 3:38 mins reading time)
A demagogue in a red tie spreads his arms in a gesture of love to his followers.
Where the laws are not supreme, there demagogues spring up.
— Aristotle, 4th c. BCE
The people are capable of good judgment when they do not listen to demagogues.
— Napoleon I (1814-5)
Demagogy enters at the moment when, for want of a common denominator, the principle of equality degenerates into a principle of identity.
— Saint-Exupery, 1942
The current chaos begins with words, or as Proverbs 18:21 has it, “The tongue has the power of life and death.”
American chaos: Did Trump incite? full post
(969 words, 1 image, estimated 3:53 mins reading time)
Code-switching can be used in the service of pandering, as when Presidential candidates lapse into Spanish to win favor in the cheapest manner.
Spare me the sight / of this thankless breed, these politicians / who cringe for favors from a screaming mob / and do not care what harm they do their friends / providing they can please a crowd!
Euripides, Hecuba (c. 425 BCE)
This post introduces my Blahblahblah Award, bestowed upon the politician using the most devious and manipulative language since…well, since the previous award. The grinding Presidential race will continue for many months, so there should be plenty of material.
Code-switching and pandering – a new low full post
(671 words, 1 image, estimated 2:41 mins reading time)