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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review June 5, 2013/ 27 Sivan 5773

The state of the language

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | What ever happened to the once strong, vital, unique American language? It hasn't been seen in some time. Maybe because it's been completely covered by the thicket of "you knows" and "whatevers" and various other verbal tics that by now have overwhelmed the poor thing. The way kudzu, given sufficient time and neglect, will completely hide a great oak.

H.L. Mencken, who wrote his authoritative three-volume study "The American Language" in between his provocative columns for the Baltimore Sun, would be hard put to recognize the once vibrant American vernacular.

In recent years, a tumorous mass of text-message techno-lingo has only added another layer to the overgrowth covering a once muscular, colorful, ever alive, ever adaptable language -- until you have to wonder if there's still a language somewhere underneath all of that mass trying to get out. Or has it simply rotted away?

To read some of the alleged prose that crosses an editor's desk is like trying to follow the "deliberations" of Congress when one of its more verbally challenged members is wrestling with what remains of the English language. (The language usually loses, two falls out of three.)

A whole plague of talking points, PowerPoint presentations, and TED talks now seems to have replaced anything as simple, profound and moving as the spoken word. It's a step down. Way down. Someone once said there is nothing so fascinating as listening to an intelligent, well-educated man, or woman, just thinking aloud -- without props, audio-visual "aids," and other substitutes for real thought. Margaret Thatcher could do it in the House of Commons, Winston Churchill at the dinner table, Franklin D. Roosevelt on the radio, Ronald Reagan before the television cameras. But such speakers grow as rare as they were engaging.

Is all this mourning for American articulateness just the usual generational grousing about the younger set?

No, there's something more to it than that. If you seek evidence of the language's decline, just listen to some of the conversations around you in public places. Or turn on your television. Almost any comedy from the '30s -- see the Marx Brothers -- sounds so much more articulate than its clumsy counterpart in these verbally soggy (and often enough vulgar) times. Those old movies actually have dialogue rather than the simulacrum that passes for it today, when obscenities are used as a substitute for wit.

Dialect was once a rich source of American literature. Alas, it seems to have been snuffed out by a combination of (a) political correctness, and (b) an insistence on bland, homogenized, respectable -- that is, dead -- language. Maybe that's why there's no successor to Mark Twain or even S. J. Perelman in sight.

These days the successful political leader is told to avoid specifics and traffic in generalities, the vaguer the better. The object of political speech becomes a kind of glib opacity -- to make a speech rather than say anything. The occasional, premeditated sound bite may then be thrown in to give the consumer the illusion of solidity, the way gravel is be added to chicken feed.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, that magisterial arbiter of American eloquence, has noted that "leadership often requires telling the citizenry truths it does not want to hear" and that "one test of the maturity of a people is a willingness to act on facts requiring sacrifice."

Such a definition of leadership might strike modern political operatives as suicidal. They know that the way to win an election is to muffle unpleasant truths and soften hard principles. Besides, clarity is hard work. It's so much easier to fuzz the message and so write around any inconvenient facts that may disrupt the smooth flow of currently fashionable patter. Just ask any American editorial writer. We're experts at it.

But don't give up on the American language. And settle for the current murk. Have faith. Language, the real thing, is going to come back. As sure as quality always does. Because there'll always be a demand for it, and the rarer quality becomes, is, the greater the demand for it will grow.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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