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Antidisestablishmentarianism Re-defined December 21, 2009

Posted by markswill in About me, Media, Navel Gazing.

To London last week for a spot of commerce, socialising and what passes for Xmas shopping, an enterprise characterised primarily by its cheery hecticness. Okay, that’s a noun that doesn’t really exist, but then so many words commonly parlayed in these digitally dominated times, don’t. On Radio 4 this week I heard a ‘top businessman’ refer to his services having “topicalism” and a politician who’s name I sadly missed and thus can’t ridicule claimed to have the “supportiveness” of his constituency association.  Technically ‘supportiveness’ is almost a transitive verb, formed from the adjective (‘supportive’) that stems from the original transitive verb (‘support’), but what was happening here was the increasingly common tendency to distort vernacular, or simply use more syllables than is necessary, in order to exalt the mundane. Either that or shite command of the English language.

Mentioning this at an increasingly well-lubricated supper I overcooked on Friday spawned all manner of appalling, or appallingist, examples of such grammatical excesses whose nadir was yrs. trly. trying unsuccessfully to pronounce “familiarisationism”. And next morning a postcard in my letterbox from one of my guests thanked me for an evening of such “cordiality, discussionality and jovialism”, which despite being so hungoverish had me falling off my chair with mirthfulism.

If only we scribblers were paid by the character rather than the word (if we’re paid at all, that is) then this all might – literally, or literatively – have some value but more generally I suppose it at least supports the joke maxim I coined in the ‘80s, “Why use three syllables when five will do?” However the evening itself served to illustrate how much fun heightened, if perhaps inebriated discussionality can be and how rarely we have the chance to engage in it as we spend more and more time huddled, iPods akimbo, over our laptops and smartphones. So as such isolationism (and that is a real word) becomes the norm and local pubs, clubs and other venues for social intercourse disappear and we have less money and time to spend in them anyway, it was encouraging to read in today’s Observer that the salon is making a comeback.

Which is kind of spooky since three of my supper guests and I had agreed to start exactly such a series of soirees (run for the hills, it’s an alliteration attack) in the New Year. It’s actually an idea I’d been harboring for some years but the problem was finding a site which didn’t involve rent, expensive drinks or upsetting a friend whose house was big enough to house 15 – 20 alleged free thinkers involved in animated intellectual discourse… a/k/a getting shouty about stuff they think matters. Happening to mention this when we four bumped into each other one Saturday morning elicited unexpected enthusiasm from all concerned and a venue and a list of like-minded culture vulturists and socio-political opinionaters quickly materialised. I just hope that our little salon will live up to what novelist Giles Foden defined in the Observer as being a cross between “a well stocked library, a bordello and a boxing ring”. 

Now of course much of what ails our language and fuels social disinteraction (or disinteractionalism) is the omnipotence of Google in all its tentacular guises, so I was pleased to hear last week that a French publisher had won its case against the company who, in their campaign to digitise and freely distribute all the world’s literature had posted many of their authors’ works online without permission or payment. This landmark case will hopefully encourage other publishers to take on the info-giant and may well bolster Rupert Murdoch’s plans to charge for content that his and other newspapers have hitherto given away for nowt in the mistaken assumption that it would boost ad. revenues (see previous blog, Paper Tiggers, April 20th). I was less pleased to read, unsurprisingly in Murdoch’s Sunday Times, that ‘Google pays no tax on £1.6bn’, that figure being its 2008 UK earnings which, were it not for some frankly shabby avoidance schemes, would’ve generated £450m for our beleaguered exchequer. I was further incensed to learn that the average salary of Google staff here was circa £90,000. (But if the job application I’ve just mailed off to them  – via the interweb, natch – is  successful, please put everything I’ve just written down to mental aberrationism).

Finally whilst I’m in media rant mode, during lunch with a friend in London we were bemoaning the infantalism (another real word) of much of what appears in the ‘quality press’ which willfully refuses if not to acknowledge that most of its loyal readers are over 45, then at least fails to adequately cater for them… albeit with the exception of other otherwise egregious Mail titles. My regular reader will recognise this as a familiar hobby horse but our discussion concluded that the reasons for the disconnect between reader requirements and editorial imperatives are twofold: the people who run the shows think that by relentlessly focusing on celebs, style and cultural ephemera (a/k/a vacuous nonsense) aimed at twenty- and thirty-somethings, they will brainwash their older, core readership (which, incidently, is not generally being replaced by a younger one) into lapping it up and this is because advertisers, or those that haven’t already migrated to the web, are apparently only interested in the young adult markets and not very interested in the ‘grey pound’. The fools.

And then when I saw page 2 of Saturday’s Guardian I realised that this was not perhaps just the cynical if ineffectual* manipulation of reader demographics, but the naive  evangelism of those still lucky enough to have jobs in the press. For there at the top of the page were the mugshots of the paper’s top 28 scribblers and editors, only five or six of whom could be over 40 and mostly looked to be fresh out of uni. And what would they really understand of what us eldsters empirically like, love and value?

I rest my case. Or case-ism.

 *(as circulations continue to decline)

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1. OldHack - December 21, 2009

Merry Christmasalisation!

2. Paul N. Blez - December 21, 2009

Great pearls of wisdom Mark. Impressed with your knowledge of transitive versus intransitive verbs!
One word which used to really bug the hell out of me was “functionality” but I’ve reluctantly come to accept that it is a useful new term with a legitimate purpose in our gadget-filled 21st century world.
And while new words arrive, some old ones die out.
“Whom” is definitely on its last legs while “whilst” seems to be in remarkably robust health, to the point of being often misused IMHO.
Which begs the question, what is the difference between “while” and “whilst”? Beggered if I know.
Most mis-used expression after “you know”?
How about “to coin a phrase”?
Most mis-used word? Got to be “mitigate” for “militate”.
A cool yule to one and all.

3. Martin Craig - December 21, 2009

Excellento, Mark! You must have been listening while I was looking out of the window, all those decades ago in English Lang.

I seem to remember D. Bowie extemporalising some extendicated vocabulations during his spot on Live Aid, circa 1985. Maybe some schoolboy future ministers and top businessmen were impressed! And while I’m messing with Latin, could it be that ‘Paul N. Blez’ is in fact the Roman denizen of ‘Pedantry Corner’ in Private Eye 1251, one ‘Paulus Nicholas Blezard’? That’s me beaten to a lifetime ambition, getting something into Private Eye, which I pretended to like without really understanding in its early years (and continuing to furtively buy ‘Mad’ magazine) and to which I am now addicted. So, congratulations Paulus, of whom I am jealous.

I narrowly missed being caught in the Eurostar Tunnel Trap recently, returning from gigging at the 59 Club’s 50th anniversary bash in Paris, an all-night party which also celebrated the 50th anniversaries of the Triumph Bonneville and the ill-fated 1959 Winter Dance Party. Thinking of the fate of the WDP musicians in ’59 made me reluctant to push my luck by flying home, and out of hundreds of Eurostar passengers I was the only one detained by customs at Santa Pancreaticus. Why? I was wearing my old leather bike jacket, complete with an even older metal Velocette badge.

I was asked if I was entering Europe for the first time, if I was carrying drugs or weapons, etc. etc. Trying to point out that a terrorist would probably not dress as a sixty-something rocker, and that if terrorism was my goal, I’d probably wear a suit and carry a briefcase, produced the response, “And HAVE you been thinking about terrorism, Sir?” I bottled out of saying, “Not until now…”

The other Mark in my life, Wilsmore (of the Ace Cafe) tells me that he was made to take all his bike kit off, down to his thermals, when he tried to take a bike to France on the ferry not long ago. A subject for the next installment of ‘The Biker Hordes’, methinks.

Eurostar have just announced that the breakdowns are due to issues around the Winterization of their trains – that’s sooo like waay coool, they must have read your blog, duude!

Compliments of the season to you and your erudite readers!


4. WTK - December 21, 2009

Very entertaining, Mark! Almost infotainmentalism in its structure. For a lousy 3 letters “ism” is a handy little device. I try to use it as often as possible, especially around the Board table. I puff my chest and just blurt it out. “I vote ‘Ay’ for resolutionism at this meeting.” See. So handy. I’ll close now as I am adding “ism” to all the words in my dictionary. I think that 1.1 million words is pushing it, tho…

For those of you sending me Christmas gifts note that I have moved my offices to the 50th floor, same address. And definitely enjoy a politically correct Winter Festival Season.

5. Paul N. Blez - December 30, 2009

Just for the record, Martin, yes, tiz I wot got my Latinate letter into Private Eye, although they only printed half of it. It’s actually the third or fourth one I’ve had printed, but the first in which I’ve used my middle name (Nicholas). This was, believe it or not, to avoid confusion with the other Paul Blezard, aka Paul S. Blezard-Gymer whom I also refer to as ‘The Impostor’ even though he is much better known than me, at least in literary circles. The fact that there are two of us led to a delicious confusion earlier this year by which Private Eye invited me to one of their luncheons rather than my namesake. I naturally went anyway and had an extremely entertaining time mostly thanks to Messrs Wheen and Rice. Amazingly, it turned out to be the second occasion on which the ‘wrong’ person was invited to one of their lunches due to having the same name as the ‘right’ one! PNB

markswill - December 30, 2009

It’s nice to know that my random witterings are bringing people together.

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