Not making a difference since 2006. Blog motto: Always be sincere whether you mean it or not.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Say what? David Gelernter

How can I teach my students to write decently when the English language has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Academic-Industrial Complex? Our language used to belong to all its speakers and readers and writers. But in the 1970s and '80s, arrogant ideologues began recasting English into heavy artillery to defend the borders of the New Feminist state. In consequence we have all got used to sentences where puffed-up words like "chairperson" and "humankind" strut and preen, where he-or-she's keep bashing into surrounding phrases like bumper cars and related deformities blossom like blisters;

Thus David Gelernter begins his article titled Feminism and the English Language. I don’t know if he called it that reflecting Orwell’s Politics and the English Language. Not bad, though as I guess we shall always have some would be caste wanting to appropriate control of lingusitic expression.

In 1984, Newspeak would be a language of as simple expression as possible in order to limit rebellious thought. I guess it is always thought control.

Men and women should be fighting any group that wishes to control minds. They talk about “liberation.” No mind can be liberated that is controlled by an ideology, no matter how well meaning.

Now, I will never be considered an exemplar of good grammar, but the official controlling authority of the voice of humility is by our decree, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, 1962 edition, even if I never open my copy again.

Mr. Gelernter is somewhat neoconnish and this article was found at an AEI site. No matter, it is a good job. I’m not going to be controlled by ideology.

Here in Massachusetts the speech police are ever busy. In the Peoples' Republic of Amherst, the elected officials are called the Select Board instead of the Board of Selectmen. The writ of the Correctarians is not absolute. My town still prefers the old usage even though the ablest members that have ever served that I know of were two women.

The ne plus ultra of feminist inspired speech was the construct used by Marty Sender on WBZ-TV Boston's Evening Magazine. He commended someone for showing great showpersonship. What is amazing is that happened way back in the seventies.


smallylerned said...

A "good job"? Has your need to resist "ideology" clouded your judgement?

David Gelernter's article is a load of alarmist nonsense. Geoffery K. Pullum at the linguistics blog Language Log tore it to shreds.

tvoh said...

Mr. Pullum makes some good points. However, he puts his ideology on display by accusing Mr. G. of hating women.

"The danger when encountering a misogynist prescriptive grammar rant"

Bad form for someone who later writes,

"I'd like to assume that intellectual content can speak for itself rather than having to be diagnosed ad hominem as a symptom of broader personal character"

Fair points about Austen and Shakespeare. I doubt, however, that the people who in these latter days started using what Mr. G. protests, actually went back and said, hmmm, Bill and Jane did this. The thought control aspect of it, is what should be objected to. I read about an author whose woman editor would correct his writing by changing "he" without discussing it. Of course, tolerance means you accommodate me, not I tolerate you.

At the end of the day, free speech means you get to write (s)he and if I say "mankind," you don't shout me down.

Also, you don't scream Speech Crime when someone says "Colored People" instead of "People of Color."

Of course, "As he shaves or blow-dries his hair or pulls on his panty hose" is a straw man. I don't think Mr. G. would object to "her panty hose" though some in the drag community might object that this was heteronorming.

For another fascist use of language see, Choose Obfuscation