Love and abuse

Saturday, 21. January 2012

It’s a shame that modern parlance abuses our fine language by reducing it to grunts and ad fab exaggerations like when people describe something fairly nice as “super” or get carried away with a simple liking for something as in “I adore carrots” or even when they twist a beautiful word to enhance their idiotic blog with things like “what is your passion in business?”

I think we’ve all had quite enough of grandiose exaggerations such as “core purpose” to describe basic choices made in life but we do all this with the language of course because it flatters our aching egos and we think it sounds cool.

You aren’t to blame, really, all those of you who were brought up in the perfect storm of British education when Labour progressive teaching theory was telling your dis-empowered teachers that instead of making you learn grammar and spelling you should all be invited to draw pictures accompanied by a bit of “creative writing” – when the Conservatives came along and hamstrung those self-same teachers with their National Curriculum, causing all the good educators who lovably threw blackboard dusters at you to quit forever.

It is a shame, however, that you do not know how ignorant you are, how little sense of sociological perspective or history you have, how you think this modern world is so iPadically marvellous and have no idea that human beings like us have lived differently, thought differently, felt differently and used much more subtle language. In Sixteenth century England even common people were able to speak with almost Shakespearean complexity and inventiveness, whereas those self-same social classes today can barely grunt and swear at each other, can mostly just jeer at people they hate and cheer at nasty reality TV which they think is entertainment.

So, a huge amount of ordinary parlance amounts to a cruel abuse of the meanings of words, some of which I have mentioned above. That kind of utter exaggeration for effect is called “hyperbole” and in the hands of a great writer is a legitimate communication device. In the hands of a 21st century ignoramus, however, it becomes a means of spoiling, diluting and obscuring the real meaning of anything.

Possibly the most abused word of all is the word LOVE. We routinely deploy it these days to mean just about any state of being from slightly liking a garment in a shop window to pretending we care for the whole human race. Worst of all, we have become so cynical about it that no one laughs when someone declines to use the word at all, even to those who need their affection, their partners and their children, their lifelong friends, parents and of course, their lovers.

It may interest you to know, then, that from the ancient Greeks and Romans onwards, before we shut them down, there were many words that had the meaning of love, all differentiated as to the object of your love.

EROS was a deity that stood for naughty love, erotic, taunting, teasing. AGAPE mean a generalised love of humanity and was later colonised big-time by the Christian religion. PHILAUTIA meant self love, tending towards self-centredness and behaviour such as we see online, vying for approval and affection. LUDUS was playful love, on the borderline between friendly playfulness and physical contact and could be with either sex or inter-generational, thereby making it potentially dodgy but great if it stayed relatively innocent. PRAGMA, the source of the word pragmatic, meant sensible love or the affection between ageing partners who have learned to live together. And there were other words and concepts for very strong friendship amounting to love, for family love, for love of your class or tribe or trading partners or colleagues or comrades.

They didn’t have clichés all narrowed down to one word and one concept, as in “Love is never having to say you’re sorry…” There weren’t ten thousands uneducated, juvenile bloggers piling in to show how very nice and wise they are every time the word “Love” or any other nice word came up. There weren’t a load of smarmy gurus quoting the Dalai Sheep, Mother Tormenta, Nelson Mundelo, a cunning poem called Desiderata, Krishnamurti, St. Steve Jobs or any other saintly source to show how much they understand love and everything else that’s nice.

People used to know that life is complex, subtle and paradoxical. They used to be adults. The price you pay for abusing your rich history of language and thought is that you reduce yourself to a simplistic, childish level of dreary assertion whose chief purpose is not to explore life but to make you look good. Nothing else. Most people do not speak or write a single thing without checking that it makes them look good first.

You can see that from the emptiness of their language. All idiotic, supposedly-branding memes and clichés. God help us if there is a God, and there’s another much-abused word….

(IGNORE the word “you” is it doesn’t fit you. This polemic was aimed at the Ecademy audience of ignorant space cadets)

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