Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Zombification of Language -- A New Rolling Eyes Column! ((0) (0))

by Meg Curtis, PhD

The use of language as a club offers the first sign that zombies have invaded America. 

Consider current phrases involving "there." 

1. "There's no there there.": Even a neuroscientist could not translate this sentence into a meaningful statement. First, repetition creates a tautology, which repeats the subject in the predicate. In such circular logic, the speaker whips listeners' heads around in a verbal tornado so fast that they forget to scream: "You aren't saying anything! You're short-circuiting my brain!" This is a classic case of violence committed on a literate audience. 

The same example serves to illustrate how language can be used to distract, instead of reveal, meaning. No speaker uttering these words can accuse anyone of obfuscation or propaganda because that speaker is violating the most basic principles of honest communication. To check the speaker, just proceed to to catch the press conference on May 13, 2013. 

Researchers may be surprised to discover that this sentence was not original to the speaker that day. Gertrude Stein uttered it first, as this website records: So, are elitist speakers in American now quoting even more elitist American authors to confuse the American public? Gertrude Stein is famous, of course, for saying: "A rose is a rose is a rose." Write that on a valentine, and see what happens. 

2. "S/he was always there for me": This common claim illustrates the trickle down effect of both economics and language. No listener will ever be able to determine where "there" is from this sentence. Was this anonymous "she" waiting outside the speaker's bedroom with a hot towel and nuts, like an airline hostess? Was "she" the one who turned up to provide bail money after the speaker was charged with DUI? Meaningless tributes praise no one.

George Orwell spoke these words bravely: " It [the English language] becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." His famous essay on this subject, "Politics and the English Language," is online at https://www.mtholyoke. edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm. Consider Orwell's warnings carefully. He fights zombification where it begins: in the brain.

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