Someone else near and dear to me (you know who you are!) is less tolerant of the term. “It’s a website! You’re writing!” Did I say it wasn’t or I wasn’t? But while all blogs are websites, not all websites are blogs, and words that help clarify distinctions are not the sort of linguistic tinkering that gets my Irish up.
It was a slow day today at the bookstore (the crowds obviously having raced to Traverse City for big sales at big stores), so I had a chance to do some reading. Bill Moyers, in his new book, Moyers on Democracy (NY: Doubleday, 2008), a collection of speeches he gave from 1986 to 2007, writes about threats to freedom from many sources. Among the dangers are government secrecy, national policies driven by ideology, and the failure of journalists to do their job (relying instead on carefully crafted government statements, studded with red herrings). Language per se is not one of his main targets, but he can take aim at it now and then, when necessary.
Day after day, the egalitarian language of our Declaration of Independence is shredded by sloganeers who speak of the “death tax,” the “ownership society,” the “culture of life,” “compassionate conservatism,” “weak on terrorism,” the “end of history,” the “clash of civilizations,” “no child left behind.” … We have all the Orwellian filigree of a public sphere in which words conceal reality[,] and the pursuit of personal gain and partisan power is wrapped in rhetoric that turns truth to lies and lies to truth.
‘Shredded’ is a strong, precise word. ‘Orwellian filigree’ calls up a host of associations (and the paradox there is surely intentional). Moyers is a master of language, and he pulls no punches. The phrases he skewers aim to reshape thought to the speakers’ [intentional plural] own ends. I have written elsewhere of my contempt for the phrase “politically correct” and for terrorists’ who “claim responsibility.” Are they planning to stick around and clean up the mess, rebuild infrastructure, heal families and communities? The boasting of criminals has nothing to do with responsibility.
Back to the less inflammatory term, ‘blog.’ My own use of language (unlike my politics) tends toward conservatism, but slow as I am to adapt new usages, still I recognize the fluid and constantly evolving reality of language. Any hope for fixity or purity in language is misplaced. Language can do as much as it does because it is flexible, because in its heart it is inherently ambiguous, and because there is no fencing it in and stopping its growth.
On the way home tonight, we stopped at Fischer’s Happy Hour Tavern for a bit of post-holiday conviviality. The lights and wreaths and garlands inside were festive, and the colored lights outside shone on icicles hanging from the eaves. Tomorrow, perhaps, the rains will come, but for tonight it’s still winter.
And what am I doing this evening, right this minute? Once again, I’m blogging!