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Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Poetic Sincerity of Language

Language is important. Recently, I was reading an article on technology and came across two phrases, one of which, I have seen before. The first phrase,  referring to computers, cell phones, laptops, notebooks or even an espresso machine, is "sexy piece". Now, I cannot understand why a machine of plastic, diodes, and other semiconductor stuff is "sexy". But, I am over thirty.

Partly to blame is advertising, (surprise, surprise), which uses all types of buzz words and phrases to get one's attention in this age of too-much-information. But, I cannot label something like an espresso maker, "sexy". Or maybe some people just see sex in everything. What limited imaginations some have.

The second phrase may be particularly French, I do not know. The phrase is rude and used to describe ugly, outdated machinery at someone's workplace or in their home-office. That phrase is "desk manure". I suppose an 2002 fax machine, or an old monitor from 1998, would allow a person to use the language of agricultural derision, but not me.

Growing up in Iowa, on knows that manure means something useful, albeit unpleasant to the senses. I am not sure those journalists whose use these terms know anything about animal waste, or perhaps, even sex. My real concern is philosophical, of course. If sex, for example, is only one more commodity, bought and sold to the highest bidder, than certain machines would fall under the same subjective language code. If anything ugly is likened to something which is naturally useful in its proper context, I suppose there is room to doubt the poetic sincerity of the writer. Ah, I have just coined a new one, "poetic sincerity". That the Victorians were sincere and poetic makes them the ultimate arbiters of phraseology. Do you think they thought the items of the industrial age appearing in their homes, such as hot and cold taps, showers, gas light fixtures, or even incandescent light bulbs were "sexy"? I am sure William Blake would think not.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land