Culture

Accepting Unacceptable

Homeless Greek child
Homeless Greek child
Children are being dumped on Greece's streets by their poverty-stricken families who cannot afford to look after them any more. | Photo: Getty Images | Poverty, Greece, Hunger, Homeless, Art, Child,

Have our very tongues conjoined with our arses?

Has this happened to your eardrums? Some purportedly rather well-educated person of great public stature, possessing multiple degrees of seeming erudition, approaches some lectern and utters this bit of hackneyed palaver: "..I wish to make abundantly clear that such an event, in this day and age of the 21st century, is, er, um, unacceptable.."

If the reader is even a tad akin to this writer in expressive sensibilities, the next thing those stereophonic drums will have beaten down upon them will be that reader's very own audible gag reflex.

Think of it--these English speakers, for whom that tongue is a first and primary language, after having been exposed to its richness (more on that in a moment) have fired up their vasty cranial depths of neural pathways only to dredge up the very adjective for some weekly act of carnage that she would employ in tendering some retail clerk that ill-fitting blouse being returned for lack of a button.

Seriously?! Just what are the gatekeepers of Shakespeare's own tongue (much of it coined by him/her) busy doing in those ivy-clad auditoria of theirs at places once thought academically robust and therefore estimable? For all its vaunted lexicography (over 1/2 a million words, excluding technical & scientific terms, compared to say German at 185,000 or French at fewer than 100,000) our English tongue cannot, via that worm-like appendage in our gaping maws, spew forth anything more fitting than 'unacceptable'?! Tempted as one is, describing this verbal malady with that self-same term would be to proffer an indictment of both accuser and accused.

Where are the Ciceros, indeed, the Churchills, the rhetorical spellbinders? Has our collective tongue become but wormwood, rotting amongst its worm-eaten former waggers in its permanent destination, the moribund grave?

Surely a happening such as the Sandy Hook death of innocents/innocence warrants such a contrapuntal Shakespearean barrage as was laid down after the loss of 'a brace of kinsmen' by the ducal authority in the final scene of 'Romeo & Juliet':

"See what a scourge is laid upon your hate that Heaven still finds ways to kill your joy with love; all are punish-ed!"

Simple words, yet so rhetorically woven as to equip the heinousness of infanticide with such accoutrements as lips dripping with irony's unbearable sanguinary guilt.

Yet, today, 'in this, the 21st century', our less able lips do ape-like mouth that phrase as if it were ever sufficient to register fitting exclamatory shock at our own actions; instead, that invaluable tool of shame, 'rhetoric', has been itself relegated by our lesser tongues to the stripe of mere political banter whose lexicon consists in threadbare patchworks of bullet points. This latter phrase, serves as proof positive of this sad case of the brutal ape within reemerging like some blow-dried expensively suited trogoldytic insincere winker at 'your discord' so regretted by the aforementioned Duke.

And, so, do we even remember Pericles' rhetorical flourishes in mustering Athenians to the defense of their (and, hence, our) very existence as a democratic, civilized space amid barbaric times? It is 'altogether fitting and proper', summoning Lincoln's golden rhetoric, that the Greek's funeral oration be called to mind here, as we may, in this early 21st century (ahem), presiding as we seem to be over the death of truest rhetoric and its civic vitality itself, and its essential value to inspire to right action those who witness it.

Who, then, in the next centuries (should they come), will be stirred by this English of Shakespearean bent should his/her works somehow be lost to those times to come, as it is certain that some 500 years after his/her death, no writer in that tongue has equaled his poetry and consequent rhetorical brilliance.

Will the 'status quo', itself employing a dead language, prevail once again, and English, then, succeed to that dubious distinction?

So grave a dead end would surely be..unacceptable. Do not accept it, starting now.

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Updated Aug 12, 2017 12:04 PM EDT | More details

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