Wednesday 11 April 2012

More modern rhetoric before breakfast

touch-feely - this can be used perjoratively - to insult people who aren't talking precisely, or who are just talking about emotions, or who are just trying to win people over with blandishments. 'That's all very well, but it's all a bit touchy-feely, isn't it?' (to be said after a presentation on 'how to greet customers') Or it can be used by a touchy-feely person,as in 'I'm going to be quite touchy-feely now...' ie switching off the factual stuff, and turning on the emotional stuff. TV blind date shows quite often feature people who announce that they're 'touchy-feely'.  They don't seem to mind that this makes them sound quite creepy.

-ese and -ish like -speak can be added on to almost anything to indicate that someone is talking a jargon or 'in-group' language or 'lingo'. So legalese is one of the most famous and useful for describing the fact that you don't know what a lawyer is talking about, unless you're a lawyer. Which I'm not. 'ish' is good for talking about 'creoles' ie a way of talking that's thought to be a mixture eg 'Yinglish' which is talking English with lots of Yiddish in it but not, talking Yiddish with lots of English in it. The most famous creole-user is Chaucer (very good at combining 'late middle English and French' though I don't think he called it 'late middle English' because he didn't know it was late or middle. However,  we don't call Chaucer's writing 'creole' because Chaucer didn't live in the Caribbean or the southern states of the US.  Enough of that, already (a bit of Yinglish there for you) but  'ish' and 'ese' are very useful. However, franglais is not fringlish. I mean, it is fringlish but we don't say, 'fringlish'. But you could. I wouldn't stop you because I'm...

anything goes - I'm not, but that's what people accuse me of ie that people like me who say that language doesn't have rules, it has ways of speaking and writing which human beings have developed over time (and go on and on developing) in order to make meaning. In truth then, I'm saying just the opposite of 'anything goes' and that we talk and write because of culture and tradition which is both learned but also changeable.  Even so, you can say of someone's views and ways of talking and writing  'Oh, he's anything goes'. This is quite funny because it turns a clause, 'anything goes', into an adjective  which is precisely the sort of thing people like Simon Heffer would scream in your face about.