Thursday, January 11, 2007

No 10 and the Ministry of Patronisation

Along with the notion of rule by divine right, pledged to govern ‘whiter than white’, goes the self-aggrandising presumption that one is necessarily the fount of all knowledge and wisdom, if only because God put one there. In a democracy, the governed are not merely an electoral inconvenience; they simply just don’t know as much as they ought. In short, they are thick.

Or at least that is the inference one may draw from the No 10 website. It has a ‘jargon buster ’, that is to say, for each press notice comes a patronising helpful explanation of the vocabulary deployed. In clear and plain Year 9 language, it states: ‘The glossary below can help you understand some of the terms’. Such terms include the definition of a Bishopric, which (not unsurprisingly) is defined as ‘the office of bishop’.

The presupposition must be that we lesser mortals of inferior intelligence are incapable of deducing this for ourselves. There is no lesson differentiation, no notion of ‘personalised learning’, no recognition of the ‘gifted and talented’: all are placed at the lowest level of attainment in comprehension and linguistic ability.

Or is it simply that, after a decade of education, education, education, the Government acknowledges that no-one knows how to use a dictionary?

16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A peasant from a neighbouring village has wondered into your Cathedral of learning your Grace. Me. In my rough hewn way what i think is this ..

Its interesting isn`t and I cannot help thinking of the symbolic inference.Instead of speaking plainly and with clarity, you speak in Jargon .Then , you employ an new lot of people to explain the Jargon.

Perhaps it should be called a Word Credit Scheme .That should ensure chaotic failure

What fun they could all have if they were required to invent and uninvent and reinvent the jargon in multiple languages at the tax payers expense...I cannot imagine the waste and obfuscation that might ensue.

11 January 2007 at 13:15  
Blogger Eddie said...

I quite like some of the new words in the jargon buster (or are they just typos?). anepiscopate is presumably the state of not having a bishop?

11 January 2007 at 13:49  
Blogger Croydonian said...

Pleased to see Your Grace has used my humble offering.

11 January 2007 at 13:56  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Many years ago Your Grace in the United States an Englishwoman told me of her experience with New York Bell. She asked a woman nearby if this tone on the phone line was an engaged tone........No. the woman opined, it was the busy signal

Thereupon began my acquaintance with restricted-code English. In the US it used to be that only a certain elite could communicate in a sophisticated form of using analogy or conceptualising words.........when dealing with most Americans it had to be very simple.

VOA used to broadcast The News in Special English which consisted of being slow and ponderous with the vocabulary of a Jackanory episode.

I used to think this was because of the Us High School - the fount of aggressive ignorance and of most US social problems until I returned to the Uk and found it rather as H G wells suggested in The Time Machine, that the Eloi and the Morlocks were not communicating well

In short Britain which used to have quite articulate people irrespective of schooling or class now had a stratified and almost caste system in terms of vocabulary.

I notice the BBC has the same problem now using tabloid language like "Watchdog" instead of Regulatory Body; or "dug up" in place of disinterred or exhumed.

I presume it is because those operating the teleprompter are oiks from some public school whose addled brains from excessive coke-sniffing meant only a job at the BBC could keep them on the party circuit after leaving school.

11 January 2007 at 14:55  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Croydonian,

His Grace always takes very great notice of your email missives.

They are invariably nuanced nuggets replete with fascinating insights, for which he is immeasurably grateful.

11 January 2007 at 15:31  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE. Voyager
My pet hate word is "Bosses"
Railway "bosses"
Supermarket "Bosses"
Any use of the word "Bosses"
If it grates upon the sensibilties of a phlistine such as myself what agonies must it cause to his grace or the learned Mr Croydonian?

11 January 2007 at 15:50  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Quite agree PH.........

"row" instead of "discussion"
"climbdown" instead of "agreement"

It is the tabloidisation of public discourse and the means of circumscribing thought by controlling vocabulary

It is probably the cause of the coarsening of public life and the attempt to turn every difference of opinion as if it presages duelling pistols at dawn

I think it is the Gramscians again..........restrict language and rather in the Wittgenstein mode you restrict thought and debate since every dumbed-down word lacks subtlety or compromise but is harsh and abrasive

11 January 2007 at 15:59  
Blogger Croydonian said...

His Grace is graciousness personified.

11 January 2007 at 16:00  
Anonymous newmania said...

Voyager I understand the New Speak problem although I `m not sure language works in quite that way . The problem with political jargon is rather different t.. Tediously worn concepts are given frightening neologisms to give the impression of expertise and learning. No new words are required very often and if you are familiar with the “Ink horn “ debate about the direction of the language , redundant coinage has always been a concern..
Less words compound words and explanatory adjectives to existing words should be the first choice. Latinate pseudo learning is usually evidence of a very deep ignorance.
. Attending to the clarity of the language is often considered an outmoded idea but it seems important to me and not just politically.

11 January 2007 at 16:38  
Anonymous dexey said...

His Grace wrote:
In clear and plain Year 9 language, it states: ‘The glossary below can help you understand some of the terms’.
Or is it simply that, after a decade of education, education, education, the Government acknowledges that no-one knows how to use a dictionary?

Your Grace should know that a year 3 child (aged 7 or 8) of average ability (SAT's level 2) will know what a glossary is. They are taught it to help them distinguish between fact and fiction books. They are also taught how to use a dictionary.
Many parents in this country are not native English speakers, several of them will not have been educated here and a large number of those that are native English speakers are irredeemably thick. Once they would have found simple jobs in manufacturing now they are expected to get a 'degree'. These people need these tediously simple instructions to be able to cope.

11 January 2007 at 18:31  
Blogger dearieme said...

Ooh, I'm, like, I just so disagree. "Boss" is right. Would you rather they were referred to as "business leaders"?

11 January 2007 at 20:57  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Attending to the clarity of the language is often considered an outmoded idea but it seems important to me and not just politically.

on the lines of that Essay by George Orwell -

http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/site/work/essays/language.html

this looks interesting too

http://www.k-1.com/Orwell/site/work/essays/fun.html

11 January 2007 at 22:34  
Blogger Alfred of Wessex said...

We need to start with the Teacher Training Colleges, which have been under the control of Cultural Marxists for a generation.

A good start would be to teach the following rules to all teaching students, so that they will in turn inculcate them in their charges (source:
http://www.snopes.com/language/document/liferule.htm ):

Rule No. 1: Life is not fair. Get used to it. The average teen-ager uses the phrase "It's not fair" 8.6 times a day. You got it from your parents, who said it so often you decided they must be the most idealistic generation ever. When they started hearing it from their own kids, they realized Rule No. 1.

Rule No. 2: The real world won't care as much about your self-esteem as much as your school does. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. This may come as a shock. Usually, when inflated self-esteem meets reality, kids complain that it's not fair. (See Rule No. 1)

Rule No. 3: Sorry, you won't make $40,000 a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a car phone either. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a Gap label.

Rule No. 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait 'til you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you feel about it.

Rule No. 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. They weren't embarrassed making minimum wage either. They would have been embarrassed to sit around talking about Kurt Cobain all weekend.

Rule No. 6: It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of "It's my life," and "You're not the boss of me," and other eloquent proclamations of your generation. When you turn 18, it's on your dime. Don't whine about it, or you'll sound like a baby boomer.

Rule No. 7: Before you were born your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. And by the way, before you save the rain forest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents' generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.

Rule No. 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. In some schools, they'll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. Failing grades have been abolished and class valedictorians scrapped, lest anyone's feelings be hurt. Effort is as important as results. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life. (See Rule No. 1, Rule No. 2 and Rule No. 4.)

Rule No. 9: Life is not divided into semesters, and you don't get summers off. Not even Easter break. They expect you to show up every day. For eight hours. And you don't get a new life every 10 weeks. It just goes on and on. While we're at it, very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself. Fewer still lead to self-realization. (See Rule No. 1 and Rule No. 2.)

Rule No. 10: Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs. Your friends will not be as perky or pliable as Jennifer Aniston.

Rule No. 11: Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could.

Rule No. 12: Smoking does not make you look cool. It makes you look moronic. Next time you're out cruising, watch an 11-year-old with a butt in his mouth. That's what you look like to anyone over
20. Ditto for "expressing yourself" with purple hair and/or pierced body parts.

Rule No. 13: You are not immortal. (See Rule No. 12.) If you are under the impression that living fast, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse is romantic, you obviously haven't seen one of your peers at room temperature lately.

Rule No. 14: Enjoy this while you can. Sure parents are a pain, school's a bother, and life is depressing. But someday you'll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now. You're welcome.

12 January 2007 at 12:49  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Very good...........should be on billboards and in every political Manifesto

12 January 2007 at 13:31  
Anonymous Dr Samuel Johnson said...

Your Grace skates upon thin ice; there is no hyphen in "no one".

12 January 2007 at 22:20  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bow to your superior being, your Grace

12 January 2007 at 23:58  

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