Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 20

Nous sommes encore de retour.


You know, I’m having second thoughts about that introductory phrase.  It’s French, after all, and not everyone reads French.  Besides, the way I italicized it makes it look awfully elitist, as though I’m catering to a rarified community of polyglots and smirking at a mental image of dull monolinguals flabbily moving their lips as they try to read it.

Hey, at least it isn’t Latin.

Bournemouth Council, which has the Latin motto Pulchritudo et Salubritas – beauty and health – has listed 19 terms it no longer considers acceptable for use.

They include ad hoc, bona fide, status quo, vice versa and even via.


Mary Beard, a Cambridge professor of classics, said: ‘This is absolutely bonkers and the linguistic equivalent of ethnic cleansing.

‘English is and always has been a language full of foreign words. It has never been an ethnically pure language.’

Ethnic cleansing? Part of the classicists’ argument against the Latin ban is that the phrases being banned have a specific, precise meaning.  Guess what, sugarplum?  So does the phrase “ethnic cleansing”, and this ain’t it.

Nonetheless, Prof. Beard’s last point should be well-taken.  The English language* was essentially conceived by Norman soldiers trying to pick up Saxon barmaids, and since then its main career has been following other languages down dark alleys and mugging them for vocabulary.  Trying to excise Latin words from English is like trying to get rid of one’s “chimpanzee” DNA.


Now that I’ve made Bournemouth Council look silly, I’m going to make them look good by comparison with a journey elsewhere in the British…

…oh, damn.  Sorry.  I’m sorry.  That just slipped out.  I’m so embarrassed.

The word ‘British’ can be as offensive as ‘negro’ and ‘half-caste’, according to a race relations body.

The publicly-funded organisation’s views have been adopted by Caerphilly council in South Wales for a leaflet advising staff on how to deal with the public.

In a section on what words or phrases not to use to avoid causing offence, the leaflet solemnly informs the council’s 9,000 workers: ‘The idea of “British” implies a false sense of unity – many Scots, Welsh and Irish resist being called British and the land denoted by the term contains a wide variety of cultures, languages and religions.’

The suggestion the word ‘British’ should be avoided appears alongside similar sections which warn that ‘half-caste’ implies ‘a person is not whole and so should be avoided’ and that ‘negro’ has ‘racist overtones and is linked with the slave trade’.

The term “British” implies a sense of unity only to those who have no fucking clue about the history of Britain.  Following the same reasoning, London “contains a wide variety of cultures, languages, and religions” — is “Londoner” also offensive?  For that matter, my family stretches across cultures, languages, and religions — is my last name a slur?

This sort of hysterical hypersensitive drivel serves only to mask real issues by drowning them in an ocean of specious bullshit.  (That’s not quite true: it also serves to make meddling polypragmatoi — that’s Greek, so it’s kosher (heh) in Bournemouth — look as though they’re doing something useful.)


On a different continent (I probably shouldn’t use its name, as that might imply a false sense of unity), we have more evidence that stupid hurts:

A Darwin man has been charged with firearms offences after shooting himself in the arm while hunting magpie geese yesterday.


He is believed to have been heading off to fetch a goose he had shot when he tripped, with the double-barrel shotgun discharging as he fell.

(Yes, he’s really from Darwin.)

At this point you might suspect that the plods down there are criminalizing multiple Four Rules violations.  Instead, they’re just upset that he’s, uh, armed:

Police said he has been charged with possessing an unlicensed firearm and possessing ammunition without a permit.

That sure makes me feel safer.  Don’t you feel safer?


Moving back to the Americas (I think I can at least write that without any implicit sense of unity, false or otherwise), we note with disapproval that Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is studying the 1956 edition of the Soviet playbook:

Venezuela’s increasingly bellicose President Hugo Chavez warned that he may put tanks on the streets if a former television star running for his Socialist Party loses a state election this month.

He’s also been studying his Orwell:

In Carabobo, where a Chavez loyalist and former late-night talk show host risks losing the governorship, Chavez told party activists he might use the tanks to “defend the people.”

“If you let the oligarchy return to government then maybe I’ll end up sending the tanks of the armoured brigade out to defend the revolutionary government,” he said late on Saturday.

Let me see if I understand: if the people vote against Chavez’s Socialist (who presumably claims to have the best interests of the people at heart), Chavez will defend the people against the people by sending troops to threaten and/or assault the people?



Finally, some bad news for Starbucks:

Surely the present state of the economy can’t be helping matters, as people facing anything from unemployment to foreclosure to simple malaise (there I go with the French again) look at their daily five-dollar-Starbucks habits with more skeptical eyes.  Nonetheless, I submit that part of the problem is a sudden rise in the scarcity of latte ingredients:

What are they supposed to put in a caramel macchiato now?


* I’m plagiarizing outrageously — I think either from Churchill, Heinlein, Spider Robinson, or all three at once.

1 Response to “Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 20”

  1. 1 Nortius Maximus
    November 12, 2008 at 22:01

    Re Chavez and the tanks: In the famous Bertolt Brecht paraphrase — “If the government doesn’t trust the people, why doesn’t it dissolve them, and elect a new people?”

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