June 18, 2004

THE DRAMATIST'S LANGUAGE:

In praise of English (George Weigel, June 16, 2004, The Catholic Difference)

[E]ven as I regret not being able to work comfortably in four or five languages, I continue to exult in English. It’s frequently said that English has become the world language because of its plasticity, its ability to create and absorb new words as the technological revolution roars ahead at full throttle. There’s certainly something to that. Still, I’d argue that what gives English its unique strength is not so much its flexibility as its subtlety.

Why is it important, as Waugh said, that English has several, slightly-differently-shaded words for every idea? Because that gives English an unparalleled capacity to capture in language the human drama, with all its own subtle shades of difference and nuances of meaning. English gives us the human world in technicolor, with pastels and greys and chiaroscuro as well as bright primary colors.

Is it possible to love your native language? I hope so. Because mine is eminently lovable. Why? Because it’s eminently human and thus, in a sacramental perspective, eminently revelatory of the divine.


Even God chose to speak to Man in the English of King James.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 18, 2004 10:11 AM
Comments

I love English, too, but there are concepts in other languages that we have no subtle, or even unsubtle, words for.

'Schrecklichkeit,' for example.

We can be thankful for that.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 2:13 PM

Carthaginian peace

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2004 2:19 PM

Not nearly the same.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 6:30 PM

Yeah, I know. You don't like Germans so it's different when they do it.

Posted by: oj at June 18, 2004 7:11 PM

When we start burning university libraries after the fighting stops, I'll agree with you.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 18, 2004 8:42 PM

Well. I wasn't familiar with "Schrecklichkeit" until Harry brought it up. Just when you think Nazis can't get any worse. . . .

Posted by: Twn at June 18, 2004 8:48 PM

Oh, no., not just Nazis. Schrecklichkeit dates to World War I and before.

Germans were Germans even before HItler.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at June 21, 2004 8:07 PM

I'm researching the use of the word Schrecklichkeit in documents relating to WWI but I haven't been able to find a single instance of its use in *German* records. That seems very strange, because there's no doubt at all that Schrecklichkeit was precisely what the German occupying forces adopted as their policy in Belgium in 1914.

Can anyone supply me with really accurate chapter-and-verse references to the overt, specific use by the Germans themselves of the word Schrecklichkeit in reference to their avowed means of waging war?

All the best J L A Hartley

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Posted by: J L A Hartley at September 23, 2004 6:06 AM

I'm researching the use of the word Schrecklichkeit in documents relating to WWI but I haven't been able to find a single instance of its use in *German* records. That seems very strange, because there's no doubt at all that Schrecklichkeit was precisely what the German occupying forces adopted as their policy in Belgium in 1914.

Can anyone supply me with really accurate chapter-and-verse references to the overt, specific use by the Germans themselves of the word Schrecklichkeit in reference to their avowed means of waging war?

All the best J L A Hartley

__________________________________________________

Posted by: J L A Hartley at September 23, 2004 6:06 AM

There have been no responses to my plea for help about actual corroborated instances of the Germans' use of the word "Schrecklichkeit" during WW1.

Can that silence be taken as an indication that the Germans, though unquestionably employing Schrecklichkeit, used euphemisms when referring to it officially ---as they must have done hundreds of times during the fraught days following August 1914?

Regards J L A Hartley

Posted by: J L A Hartley at October 8, 2004 7:11 AM


Who would have thought that the favored author of academe would have been Lewis Carroll: "But answer came there none"?

J L A Hartley

Posted by: J L A Hartley at October 13, 2004 7:02 AM
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