Thursday, November 11, 2010

Words, Words, Words

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather 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


James is amused by the American media:

It does amuse me as an external observer to hear terms such as "socialist", "Marxist", "Maoist", "Nazi", "Fascist", etc bandied around in some areas of the US media, seemingly interchangeably and without any justification. Also, in the US it seems that "conservative" is good and "liberal" is evil? How is liberal defined?

To which I say, if you think it's so damn funny why don't you just take back Rupert f*****g Murdoch - whose minions are among the worst practitioners. I'm pretty sure, though, that this business of trying to tar your opponents with whatever word of bad reputation comes to hand is not an exclusively American rhetorical device. Witness, for example, our Czech friend, whose keen mind can't see any line between Krystallnacht and criticism of climate chicanery. An extreme case maybe, but I will guess that the big continent has its share of similarly spoken nut jobs.

Mr. Dumpty is spot on, though. It's really all about mastery or political power. One manipulates language to attempt to put one's rivals at a disadvantage. Of course the word "ludicrous" comes to mind in many cases, especially for extremes like Prof. M, but it does seem to work ... on some idiots anyway...