Friday, 30 May 2014

Language matters (Warning - Rant Level:9 Coherence Index: 3)

So. We are reliably informed that LOL is 25 years old. God knows who had something to laugh about in 1989; possibly the East Germans, though I don't quite see them creating iconic lingo just at that point. 

Then the other morning the Today programme devoted 10 minutes
to the new use of the word 'beyond'. It is not just a preposition anymore; it is, if you were to believe the ancient, choked up presenter, a terrorist organisation affiliated to Al Qaida.

We seem obsessed by the inherent vulgarity of the evolving language, the ugly new words the kids use, the fate worse than death visited upon honourable old words tricked into a random new meaning.

All this is very exciting and all but let us not forget the more dangerous language manipulations that make fools of us all. 

In the novel 1984 Orwell imagined that in a modern dictatorship language itself would become propaganda.  Newspeak repressed rebellious thoughts by making them impossible to express, without having to deploy a single water cannon.

In the early 21st century Orwellian, "How to spend it", post-capitalist Eco-mageddon we live in, a grubby little fake-French quasi-Brasserie chain called Côte has introduced a form of commercial Newspeak for all its waiters. If you ask for tap water they will chirp, Stepford-like :"I will certainly bring you a bottle of our complementary water, madam."

Now Côte, where do I begin? Just because you've instructed waiters to decant tap water into, not a jug, but an imitation terracotta bottle you are not offering me a bottle of 'complimentary water' any more than you could say you are serving me in the glare of 'complementary electricity'. The air I'm breathing on your premises is not a gift from the Côte shareholders either. 

Before I've eaten a single morsel of their indifferent food I am made to feel like I'm being pampered and spoilt with free stuff.

Let me repeat this again: it's TAP WATER. You can bring it to me in vessels fashioned out of unicorn hair but it's still not complimentary - it's free and you are only giving it to me because its cost to you is compensated by the the bill I will pay you later. It's one of your costs of doing business. It helps me swallow your (non-complementary) rubber chicken.

Meanwhile, back at Ryanair HQ, the bright sparks in charge of 'humanising the brand', for so long synonymous with 'utter contempt for the people cheap enough to use us', have started with a thorough redesign of the website. The new model contains exactly the same tricks to entice you to purchase- entirely by mistake -insurance you don't need and luggage you don't want but in brighter colours and more vivid fonts. 

The final gift comes at the checkout where the price of the booking is described as 'discount price' if you pay by visa debit and no surcharge is levied, and 'normal price' when you pay with a credit card and the final tally jumps up by a few quid. 

Let me repeat this, because the bad faith is breathtaking. The £100 you have been looking at till a second earlier are described as a 'discount' if they remain £100 at the moment of paying. If they jump up to £105 that is considered the normal price (the previous quote of £100 being a joke price, or a tease presumably).

We are used to the oily and self-serving language of mature capitalism, of course: the machine message about your call being important to them, the whole canon of advertising bullshit. But this is a new mutation, people: language used not to lie but to manipulate you into a position of humble gratitude. 

Which brings me to Lord Rennard. How I do not know, but here we are. Remarkably the man has created a whole new semantic genre, we should call it 'The Rennard Non Apology Apology', which roughly translates into: "I'm, like, sorry - I guess-  if you were offended by stuff I didn't do, and everything, so my bad for any embarrassment you might be feeling."

The actual wording of the last bit is  "regret for any harm or embarrassment caused to them (the women who accused him of sexual harrassment) "  but see what he did there? Instead of feeling embarrassed (boy, I would) he seems to imply embarrassment caused by his behavior or its interpretation has somehow attached itself to his alleged victims. 

Gotta go now. I'm all out of rage. I'm 'beyond'. Literally.

1 comment:

  1. You made me laugh.. like beyond giggle.. lol - and because I am a rebel I mean it in the lots of love sense ;) xxx