Thursday, September 05, 2019


The Word Controller

Cyril Connolly (1903-1974), "Writers and Society," The Condemned Playground. Essays: 1927-1944 (London: Routledge, 1945), pp. 260-287 (at 277):
Dictatorial powers to clean up our language should be given to a Word Controller.

The first act of the Word Controller (Mr. Shaw would be a good choice) should be to issue licences (like driving licences) to all journalists, authors, publicists, orators, and military spokesmen. Without such a licence it would be a criminal offence to appear in print or on the platform. The licences of all those found using the words vital, vitally, virtual, virtually, actual, actually, perhaps, probably, would then be immediately cancelled. This surprise action of the Word Controller would at once eliminate most journalists and politicians, and all military spokesmen. These words should be unmolested, and protected, for several years. The words democracy, liberty, justice, freedom, jackboot, serious consideration, island fortress, love, creative, and new should be suspended for six months, and the licence endorsed of anyone found using them. Lists (constantly brought up to date) of forbidden clichés with a scale of fines should be posted on every notice-board. The Word Controller, at any rate during the few hours of office before his powers turned his head, would be non-political. His aim would be to reshape the English language to its original purpose as an instrument of communication, and an invention for expressing thought. Thus the expression "The town is virtually surrounded" would become "The town is, or is not, surrounded," "vital necessity" would become "necessity," and a scientific machine for weighing words would demonstrate that while such terms as "coronary thrombosis" are as full of content as when first minted, other verbal coins are worn too thin for the public slot-machine and must be withdrawn from circulation. As he became more autocratic and more like other controllers he would find out that there is a connection between the rubbish written, the nonsense talked, and the thoughts of the people, and he would endeavour to use his censorship of words in such a way as to affect the ideas behind them, or, rather, he would give priority to statements of fact over abstractions, and to facts which were accurate rather than incorrect.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?