Monday, July 28, 2008

Lingua Quartus Imperii.

The Latin above means "Language of the Fourth Reich." I've updated the Latin from Viktor Klemperer's "Language of the Third Reich."

Klemperer was a "mischling," a "half-Jew" living with an "Aryan," so though he was stripped of all his civil rights, his ability to make a living and though he suffered massive cruelties and indignities, he was somehow allowed to live in a "Jew House" in Dresden and--almost inexplicably survive both WWII and decades of Communist rule.

Along the way, Klemperer, a philogist--a studier of language--kept a diary thousands of pages long and also wrote extensively on the perversion of language--the masking of meaning--perpetrated by the Nazis.

Right now I am reading "The Dark Side: The inside story how the war on terror turned into a war on American Ideals." And Jane Mayer, the author, details the Bush/Cheney/Addington's assault on our own language.

Here's what I mean: "As William Safire, the conservative language columnist for the "New York Times, wrote, "Some locutions begin as bland bureaucratic euphemisms to conceal great crimes...In this past century, the "final solution" and "ethnic cleansing" were phrases that sent a chill through our lexicon."

Mayer then points out that the President used euphemisms like "enhanced," "robust," and "special" interrogations that included beating people to death, applying electric shock to their genitals, waterboarding and the like.

Listen carefully. And you will hear.

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