Friday, February 15, 2008

Language decline = threat to democracy

This just passed along by a regular reader.

We've all gotten used to the cries about the decline of language and the decline of civilization, but this one sounds a kind of unique note. Yeah, whatevs.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if this kind of thing is a little different from the usual peevology: You could see this cartoon as fear of or a complaint about the loss of a broad range of styles from flowery political rhetoric and adolescent in-group talk. I've heard thoughtful people talk about missing eloquence in public speaking, for example, and this could be echoing that.

Mr. Verb said...

Point taken, Anon. I love to listen to speakers who are good across a range of styles myself.

wcb said...

First of all I'm a big fan, newish reader of this blog. I have two comments about this cartoon. First it seems absolutely absurd to me to put up legislative speech as a paragon of 'good' speech. Anytime I've ever watched congress on c-span, the language has seemed practically designed to exclude the constituents, to muddle meaning so that the actual goings on of government are not available to the average listener. To me that is not proper English (whatever that is), and moreover certainly not good communication. Secondly though, I think the threat is real, not perhaps a threat to democracy, but a threat to the in club. A threat to power structures that rely on exclusion. A radical shift in language might mean a shift in power from the stodgy to the new. Mightn't it?

Mr. Verb said...

First off, thanks for the kind words. You make a good point, of course: We don't really look to closed-door sessions as models of good usage or good rhetoric.

And protecting the 'in club' is what most peevology is all about.