Guido Vitiello

Terrore della concretezza. Le pagine indispensabili/3

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«L’idea che si cambi una situazione trovandole un nome nuovo e più gradevole deriva dalla vecchia abitudine americana all’eufemismo, alla circonlocuzione e al disperato annaspare in fatto di galateo, abitudine generata dal timore che la concretezza possa offendere. Ed è un’abitudine tipicamente americana. L’appello al linguaggio politicamente corretto, se trova qualche risposta in Inghilterra, nel resto d’Europa non desta praticamente alcuna eco. In Francia nessuno ha pensato di ribattezzare Pipino il Breve Pépin le Verticalement Défié, né in Spagna i nani di Velázquez danno segno di diventare las gentes pequeñas. E non oso immaginare il caos che nascerebbe se nelle lingue romanze, dove ogni sostantivo è maschile o femminile – e dove per giunta l’organo genitale maschile ha spesso un nome femminile e viceversa (la polla / el coño) -, accademici e burocrati decidessero di buttare a mare i vocaboli di genere definito».

Robert Hughes (1993), La cultura del piagnisteo, Adelphi


La constatazione di Hughes sull’estraneità dell’Europa romanza al politically correct si sarebbe presto rivelata inesatta. Un poco di quel linguaggio esanime è approdato pure dalle nostre parti, dove poteva contare sulla tradizione autoctona di una lunga consuetudine con le astruserie della burocrazia. L’eufemismo burocratico dove il povero diventa impossidente, il sordo non udente e il malato cronico lungo degente è il diretto antenato del politicamente corretto. Poi, quando abbiamo preso a scimmiottare la moda americana, si è visto come si sono divisi i fronti: da un lato il terrorismo linguistico di quelle che Harold Bloom chiama scuole del risentimento – femminismo arrabbiato in testa -, dall’altro il controterrorismo di quanti hanno colto al balzo il pretesto del politically correct per dare sfogo alla loro beceraggine, recuperando il piacere proibito di urlare negri, froci e terroni (ma anche, tra certa brutta gente qualunquista che siede abusivamente a sinistra, nani bavosi, ciccioni e troie). Il tutto è piuttosto desolante.

Italo Calvino diceva che il frigido linguaggio burocratico rivela “la mancanza di un vero rapporto con la vita, ossia in fondo l’odio per sé stessi”. D’altro canto, il linguaggio salace dell’insulto non è che manifesti chissà quale amore, né per sé né per gli altri. Per questo, a fornirci la bussola è lo straordinario monologo di George Carlin (da Doin’ It Again, 1990) che potete vedere e ascoltare qui, e di cui offro una trascrizione in coda per chi ne avesse bisogno. Una lectio magistralis su tutto l’amore e l’odio, l’ipocrisia e l’onestà che possono annidarsi nelle parole.


Update – lo trovate qui: George Carlin: Soft Language

«You can’t be afraid of words that speak the truth. I don’t like words that hide 
the truth. I don’t like words that conceal reality. I don’t like euphemisms or 
euphemistic language. And American English is loaded with euphemisms. Because
 Americans have a lot of trouble dealing with reality. Americans have trouble 
facing the truth, so they invent a kind of a soft language to protect themselves
 from it. And it gets worse with every generation. For some reason it just keeps
 getting worse.

I’ll give you an example of that. There’s a condition in combat. Most people know
 about it. It’s when a fighting person’s nervous system has been stressed to its 
absolute peak and maximum, can’t take any more input. The nervous system has 
either snapped or is about to snap. In the First World War that condition was
 called shell shock. Simple, honest, direct language. Two syllables. Shell shock.
 Almost sounds like the guns themselves. That was 70 years ago. Then a whole
 generation went by. And the Second World War came along and the very same combat
 condition was called battle fatigue. Four syllables now. Takes a little longer to
 say. Doesn’t seem to hurt as much. Fatigue is a nicer word than shock. Shell
 shock… Battle fatigue.

Then we had the war in Korea in 1950. Madison Avenue was riding high by that time.
 And the very same combat condition was called Operational Exhaustion. Hey we’re up 
to 8 syllables now! And the humanity has been squeezed completely out of the
 phrase. It’s totally sterile now. Operational Exhaustion: sounds like
 something that might happen to your car. Then of course came the war in Vietnam,
 which has only been over for about 16 or 17 years. And thanks to the lies and 
deceit surrounding that war, I guess it’s no surprise that the very same condition 
was called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Still 8 syllables, but we’ve added a
 hyphen. And the pain is completely buried under jargon. Post-Traumatic Stress 
Disorder. I bet you, if we’d still been calling it shell shock, some of those Vietnam veterans might have gotten the attention they needed at the time. I bet you that. But it didn’t happen. And one of the reasons is because we were using that soft
 language, that language that takes the life out of life. And it is a function 
of time, it does keep getting worse.

Give you another example. Sometime during my life toilet paper became bathroom
 tissue. I wasn’t notified of this. No one asked me if I agreed with it. It just
 happened. Toilet paper became bathroom tissue. Sneakers became running shoes.
 False teeth became dental appliances. Medicine became medication. Information
 became directory assistance. The dump became the land fill. Car crashes became
 automobile accidents. Partly cloudy became partly sunny. Motels became motor 
lodges. House trailers became mobile homes. Used cars became previously owned 
transportation. Room service became guest room dining. And constipation became 
occasional irregularity.

When I was a little kid if I got sick they wanted me to go to the hospital and see
 the doctor. Now they want me to go to a health maintenance organization. Or a
 wellness center to consult a health care delivery professional. Poor people used 
to live in slums. Now the economically disadvantaged occupy sub-standard housing 
in the inner cities. And they’re broke! They’re broke. They don’t have a negative 
cash flow position. They’re fuckin’ broke! Because a lot of them were fired. You
 know, fired. Management wanted to curtail redundancies in the human resources 
area. So many people are no longer viable members of the work force.

Smug, greedy, well-fed white people have invented a language to conceal their sins. It’s as simple as that. The CIA doesn’t kill anybody anymore, they neutralize people, or they depopulate the area. The government doesn’t lie, it engages in
 disinformation. The Pentagon actually measures nuclear radiation in something they call
 sunshine units. Israeli murderers are called commandos. Arab commandos are called
 terrorists. Contra killers are called freedom fighters. Well if crime fighters 
fight crime and fire fighters fight fire what do freedom fighters fight? They
 never mention that part of it to us, do they? And some of this stuff is just silly. We know that.

Like when the airlines they sey they want a pre-board. What the hell is pre-board? What does that mean? To get on before 
you get on? They say they’re going to pre-board those passengers in need of special assistance
… cripples! Simple, honest, direct language. There’s no shame attached to the word
 cripple that I can find in any dictionary. In fact it’s a word used in Bible
 translations. “Jesus healed the cripples”. Doesn’t take seven words to describe 
that condition. But we don’t have cripples in this country anymore. We have the
 physically challenged. Is that a grotesque enough evasion for you? How about
 differently-abled? I’ve heard them called that. Differently-abled! You can’t even
 call these people handicapped anymore. They say: “We’re not handicapped, we’re
 handy capable!”. These poor people have been bullshitted by the system into 
believing that if you change the name of the condition somehow you’ll change the
 condition. Well, it doesn’t happen!

We have no more deaf people in this country. Hearing impaired. No one’s blind 
anymore. Partially sighted or visually impaired. No more stupid people, everybody 
has a learning disorder. Or he’s minimally exceptional. How would you like to be told
 that about your child? “He’s minimally exceptional”. “Oh, thank God for that”. Psychologists have actually
 started calling ugly people those with severe appearance deficits. It’s getting so 
bad that any day now I expect to hear a rape victim referred to as an unwilling 
sperm recipient!

And we have no more old people in this country. No more old people. We shipped 
them all away and we brought in these senior citizens. Isn’t that a typically
 American twentieth century phrase? Bloodless. Lifeless. No pulse in one of them. A
 senior citizen. But I’ve accepted that one. I’ve come to terms with it. I know 
it’s here to stay. We’ll never get rid of it. That’s what they’re gonna be called. So I relax on that, but the one I do resist, the one I
 keep resisting, is when they look at an old guy and say “Look at him Dan, he’s 
ninety years young”. Imagine the fear of aging that reveals. To not even be able
 to use the word old to describe someone. To have to use an antonym.

And fear of aging is natural. It’s universal, isn’t it? We all have that. No one 
wants to get old. No one wants to die. But we do. So we bullshit ourselves. I started
 bulshitting myself when I got in my forties. I’d look in the mirror and say, “Well… I
 guess I’m getting… older”. Older sounds a little better than old, doesn’t it?
 Sounds like it might even last a little longer. Bullshit, I’m getting old. And it’s okay.
 Because thanks to our fear of death in this country I won’t have to die. I’ll pass 
away. Or I’ll expire, like a magazine subscription. If it happens in the hospital
 they’ll call it a terminal episode. The insurance company will refer to it as 
negative patient care outcome. And if it’s the result of malpractice they’ll say 
it was a therapeutic misadventure.

I’m telling ya, some of this language makes me want to vomit. Well, maybe not vomit… makes me want to engage in an involuntary personal protein spill!».

Written by Guido

aprile 4, 2011 a 9:59 am

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  1. […] Terrore della concretezza. Le pagine indispensabili/3 Guido Vitiello, «UnPopperUno» «La constatazione di Hughes sull’estraneità dell’Europa romanza al politically correct si sarebbe presto rivelata inesatta. Un poco di quel linguaggio esanime è approdato pure dalle nostre parti, dove poteva contare sulla tradizione autoctona di una lunga consuetudine con le astruserie della burocrazia». […]


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