I suppose that all groups develop their own patois.
That might even be what we mean when we say “group”: a set of people who all use words in the same way.
Most schools have slang expressions. But high-status public (i.e private) schools print their slang in little books and make the new boys learn it by heart. Because being an Old Etonian is a lot more important than having been to East Barnet Lower.
If you weren’t in the role-playing club you would probably be baffled when someone claims to have “failed their not-spill-the-coffee roll.” If you weren’t in the Christian Union you might legitimately wonder what the hell a “quiet time” was, let alone a “word of knowledge”.
Dave Sim, sorry, “the shitty aardvark writer”, pinpointed this some years ago. You may know what I mean when I say “Spider-Man” or “Wonder Woman”. But what if I say “Toro” or “William Burnside”? What if I say “Amazing Fantasy #15” or “Action Comics #1”? “Detective Comics #27”? “Incredible Hulk #181”?
The Internet and Streaming TV and those awful mobile phone things have caused the number of groups and the number of idiolects to multiply to the point when no-one is comprehensible to anyone else. How, given that this is the case can I ever write about politics again? How can I write about anything at all?
I could try to write as if I were addressing an intelligent eight year old. I could aspire to turning my prose style into that of Janet and John.
I could define every term. And then define every term in my definition.
I would not describe someone as a fundamentalist. That’s a loaded word; a word that tells you how I feel about the person I an describing and assumes that you feel the same way. But I could say that he’s “a Christian who takes the Bible literally.”
Except that “Christian” and “Bible” and “literally” are scarcely less loaded terms. Okay: a Christian is a person who believes in God; and who believes that God was specially present in an historical figure called Jesus. The Bible is a book which is specially important to Christians. To take something literally is, I suppose, to believe that it really happened, in real life, and not as fable or legend.
But when I tell you that someone is a fundamentalist I am not saying that they are a person who believes that the stories in the book which is special to the people who believe that God was particularly present in a person called Jesus really happened and are not just stories. I am also saying that they have conservative values; that they regard their beliefs as super-important and want to convert other people; that they are probably American, probably from one of the southern states and that they don’t like abortion or homosexuals. And I am almost certainly saying that I don’t approve of them. And this wouldn’t help even a little bit if what I had said was that someone was a free market fundamentalists.
So it might be better, in fact if I was deliberately obscure. If I eschewed words with obvious meanings and generated a kind of Klingon postmodernism."Quasi-scriptural theo-essentialist." "Non-narrative holy-writ absolutist."
Or I could say what I actually mean. American Christian. Bad Christian. Extremist. Bad thing.
All right: but what do you mean by American? And Bad? And Extremist?
Bad man have lots of money.
Bad man say bad thing.
Bad man like moon rocket.
Me no like moon rocket so much.
—Thy reason, man?
—Troth, sir, I can yield you none without words; and words are grown so false, I am loath to prove reason with them.
—I warrant thou art a merry fellow and carest for nothing.
Lewis defined Magic as objective efficacy which cannot be further analysed.
This is a magic spinning wheel, and anyone who pricks themselves will sleep for a hundred years.
You can’t ask why: it just is. Lewis was happy to say that the deepest truths of Christianity—the Atonement and the Holy Trinity and the Eucharist—were magical beliefs.
Science is the exact opposite of magic. Everything can be analysed: nothing “just is”.
Before Science everything was Magic: no point in asking why the sun rises or trees fly south in the winter: they just do. Science has spent thousands of years answering the “why” questions and abolishing magic. But sooner or later—probably very much later—it will hit the Grand Unified Theory Of Everything or Fundamental Natural Law and science will be complete.
“But why did those conditions exist at the very beginning of the universe, or of all possible universes?”
“Well, there’s no answer to that, even in principle. They just did.”
“Nothing is magical” may turn out to be the same as everything is magic. Which, I happily concede, is not a very helpful or interesting insight. All places are one place but that place is very big.
Perhaps words are magic in the same way.
You can only ask “what does that mean?” and “what do you mean by that?” so many times. Eventually you hit the undefinable; and the undefinable is what you really mean.
“What do you mean by the Woke Mind Virus?”
“I don’t mean anything by the Woke Mind Virus. The Woke Mind Virus is what I mean. Brexit means Brexit.”
—The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight. Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh. What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by. Richard loves Richard: that is—I am I.
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