Monday, 25 July 2011

Duck Speak

I never tire of saying just how much I love the writing of George Orwell, particularly his essays, the true heart of his genius. His concerns are my concerns, especially when it comes to the question of good English usage, though I can only muster a fraction of his insight and literary brilliance.

I share the same passion for language, a belief that the corruption of language comes from a corruption of thought. He was writing at a time when the greatest threat to accurate and meaningful expression came from the malign ideologies that dominated the middle part of the last century. In Politics and the English Language, an essay published in 1946, he makes the following observation;

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

Yes, that’s it exactly; language becomes ugly and inaccurate because thought is ugly and inaccurate, the one reinforcing the other in an ever tighter circles. The more extreme examples, the sort of thing favoured by Stalinist publicists, the sort of thing that Orwell proceeds to analyse, are gone. Or are they? Well, the stupid, like the poor, are always with us, so I think I might be able to amuse you with something I came across recently.

I should say that I was the target though I think it best if I avoid mentioning the context and the circumstances; it wasn’t here, that much I should make clear. I’ll just say it was in response to my efforts to add a little balance to the ongoing hysteria over Rupert Murdoch and News International. In reaction a barrage of meaningless, and contradictory, epithets were thrown in my general direction, to which I responded in general terms, drawing on the expressions themselves;

Meanwhile I shall continue to buy the Times in my corporate, right-wing, fascist, libertarian, anti-government, laissez-faire liar, anarcho-totalitarian manner! I sometimes think that George Orwell was never born or that stupidity really is the wave of the future, like a clown throwing verbal tomatoes at a face forever.

It was only after I published that comment that the players in Hamlet came to mind. Oh, how I regret not adding that I was the best in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.

Poem unlimited and speech unparalleled! That’s the thing about left-liberals – they are more ridiculous than dangerous. Yes, I do despise them but I laugh at their sheer intellectual incapacity far more than I frown at their ideas. They have no ideas, not an original thought, just a cycle of clich├ęs, round and round for ever, as in a washing machine. They do not think; they are incapable of thought. The words come, yes, but from the vocal cords, not from the brain. They are the beetle people of Nineteen Eighty-Four, whose language is not New Speak; it’s Duck Speak. :-)


  1. Sometimes I despair of dealing with the wider world and look in vain for somewhere to retreat to where people share my values. There are a lot of us but we are scattered. Maybe the technologies that have done so much to erode cultural traditions will also help to create and sustain a community of respecters of language and thought.

  2. I must agree totally that language and thoughts relate to each other tightly and "the one reinforcing the other in an ever tighter circles", ugly or beautiful. I cannot communicate with ones who disrespect language. It happened to me before and it drove me crazy - too much misunderstanding.

  3. Mark, I'm not sure; in some ways that makes matters worse.

  4. Great post, Ana. To the 'progressive', language is just another weapon to be used to advance the agenda. Linked:

  5. I agree with Mark and Yun Yi - it is SO tedious trying to have meaningful conversations with ignorant and illiterate persons. For being around other literati, the internet has been a godsend! But I also agree w/AFB since it CAN be dangerous if intellectuals allow themselves to get too isolated from the mainstream.

    This will be hopefully the first of many postings to this marvelous blog. I discovered you totally by accident, and was thrilled to find such well written posts by such a well-read, conservative, English patriot. I confess, I didn't realize that such as you even existed in the blogosphere. In my own case, I am a well-read (tho' not as well as you), conservative, American patriot. My family moved from Scotland to here (the Virginia Colony) in 1608 (hence my nick) so I have a looong viewpoint on issues. I hope y'all will get to know me better, and I, you. [Note: I mostly use American English, but as I grew up w/the Encyclo Britannica, I don't always use Ami spelling]

  6. CB, thanks and a very warm welcome to my blog. I certainly hope to see a lot more of you. :-)

  7. Re Hamlet: Don't you mean Osric? (The players seem quite worthy.) That little part of the play is a perfect capsule of all that should be said of the would-be intellectuals with their obscure language. And as for Fascist? That's the most abused word in political discourse (Socialist is the close second). The original fascisti were labour organisers in the late 19th Century and had nothing to do with Mussolini's later muddying of the term. One thing Fascism never qualified for is being 'Right-wing' but the word is now ubiquitously conscripted to mean 'bigot'. I once saw an Aboriginal activist with more enthusiasm than information ranting against the government of Richard Court while wearing a black and white keffiyah as a neckerchief. The poor devil was quite inarticulate and unable to form coherent sentences. He fell back repeatedly on shouting, "This Fascist government!" I always remember him when the idiot brigade start denouncing the right-wing, Fascist, neo-Nazi regime. I also enjoy seeing the decorations on each side of the Prsident's rostra when there's a broadcast of proceedings from the US Senate. Yep, there they are on the wall, large as life; two great, big bas-relief...fasces.

  8. Retarius, Osric would serve very well here. :-) I wholly agree about the misuse of that word. In fact I wonder if it has any meaning at all now? I never tire of telling of the the reaction of the German Communist Party when Heinrich Brunning became Chancellor of Germany in 1930, a minority administration supported by Presidential decree. Their newspaper blared out Fashismus ist schon da! - Fascism is here! They were to find out three years later just how wrong they had been.