Wednesday, March 25, 2009

527 Call Out the Riot Squad

527 Call Out the Riot Squad

Roving bands of right wing wackos, having exhausted themselves beating up the President about the mess at AIG, are turning back to one of their top ten greatest hits.  Yes, the English Only crowd is back.  They worry that when you see signs in English, Spanish and Arabic, the country will be taken over by hoards of invading savages, who will destroy God and Country.

Ain't gonna happen.  Not via their scenario, at any rate.

There's a strong link between a national language and national values, for sure.  But the destruction isn't coming from Lithuanian sign painters, terrorists from the middle east or the Great Red Menace.  (We should re-think this last phrase, lest we misspeak  about Republicans rather than Soviet Communists.)

Within the above parentheses lies the real menace to language, a word like "misspeak," which has become so common, spell check ignores it.  "Misspeak" takes the wind out of the language and out of the concept it really describes: the lie.  Or, more charitably, the mistake.  You don't need another dozen examples of weightless words.  You see and hear (and we all probably use) them every day.

But what about this: inflated language leads to diminished concepts.

A long time ago, a lovable and super talented colleague passed away young and after a slight heart attack.  Because he was fairly well known in his trade, the story was pretty public.  By the time it made the papers, the heart attack had become "massive."  It wasn't.  Unfortunate, yes.  Fatal, yes.  Massive?  No.

In a small college town, recently, there was a comparatively large celebration over the winning of a football game, which turned into a relatively large and hard to control disturbance.

Publicity hungry public officials and local media immediately declared it a riot.  Which can mean either or both of two things:  (a) the publicity hungry public officials and local media had never seen a real riot and (b) there's an insurance benefit to someone if it's called a "riot" rather than a "disturbance."

Best get the language mavens together and form a riot squad.

Another piece of inflating language deflating concepts:

Is it a war in Iraq?  It certainly seems so.  But in America, Congress declares war.  So what is it then?  A "Police action" as they called the fighting in Korea?  An "undeclared" war?  What.

Worry all you want about the raging hoards of Spanish or Korean or Chinese or Russian speaking legals and illegals. They're not the ones destroying the culture by destroying the language.  You are.


Shrapnel:

--Traffic control here in Moot Point is no control at all.  Combine that with some of the world's worst drivers and what do you get?  A need for more one-way dead end streets.

--Don Rickles has written a new memoir.  If you're a fan you'll get more warmth from Mister Warmth than you'd expect.  If you're not a fan, you won't become one by reading the book.

--Speaking of aging celebrities, Mr. T did an interview the other day.  Said all he really wanted in life was to be able to buy his mother a house and pretty dresses.  As the "old" Mr. T would say "very sentimental.... fool!"


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

1 comment:

John said...

So, why are we so sloppy with language, and tolerant of sloppiness?