How Language Tricks Our Feelings, Shrouds Our Thoughts

17 06 2009

“Become you own magician, and show others how these tricks are performed.”

Continuing discussion about how we think and talk about matters of ultimate concern in home education, from the Snook post Homeschool Freedom Fighting: It’s SO Not About the UN . . .

We’d communicate so much better if it weren’t for the darned words! 😉

I prefaced a teasing comment last night with the words “mischievous grin” in brackets. As I quick-checked my spelling on Google, I saw four meanings, only the third of which was the meaning I had in mind. The other three were qualitatively different and would have been trouble if anyone had taken my usage those ways:

mis⋅chie⋅vous
  –adjective
1. maliciously or playfully annoying.
2. causing annoyance, harm, or trouble.
3. roguishly or slyly teasing, as a glance.
4. harmful or injurious.

So I used the word anyway but not without thinking to myself (for the millionth time) that our beautifully powerful words are being turned against us on purpose, as in 1984’s Newspeak, as when I listen to Sarah Palin channeling nonsense as presidential-level utterance, as Meg Ryan said to an insulting French concierge in the movie French Kiss:

Kate: Hi there. C’est moi.
Concierge: [coolly] Welcome back, Madame, to the Georges V.
Kate: Huh… it’s incredible how you do that. The words come out – “Welcome back” – but the meaning is completely different. What’s the deal, is that a French thing or a concierge thing?
Concierge: As Madame wishes.
Kate: You did it again. Tell me something, because I just… I don’t get it. Do you enjoy being that rude? Because when you do that, it just gets underneath my skin, and it makes me… completely… INSANE!

frenchkiss

. . .One character says admiringly of the shrinking volume of the new dictionary: “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

. . .[In Orwell’s] essay “Politics and the English Language”. . . he laments the quality of the English of his day, citing examples of dying metaphors, pretentious diction or rhetoric, and meaningless words – all of which contribute to fuzzy ideas and a lack of logical thinking. . .

Orwell said that political prose was formed “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” Orwell believed that, because this writing was intended to hide the truth rather than express it, the language used was Read the rest of this entry »