Fallacies Of Language Essay, Research Paper
Language is an unavoidable element of everyday life. It is arguably the most important medium by which humans communicate with one another. Without language, society would be a disorderly mess of miscommunication and ambiguity. Recognizing language as such an important aspect of existence causes a person to wonder why it is so often misused and fraught with errors. One need only glance at the front page of a daily newspaper, or read but a single magazine article to observe the rampant use of clich s, over-generalizations, and articles that are nothing more than the opinionated view of the author. Indeed, our modern use of the English language has deteriorated to the point where it loses much of its meaning and both speech and writing convey nothing more than opinions, and vague, general statements accompanying unclear ideas.
There are many sources of bad language usage to be found, and one of the more obvious of these can be found in the language of those individuals that shape our country s laws: politicians. Politics therefore, is an excellent source of language misuse. For example, in a recent press release from the Reform Party of Canada (Appendix A), Preston Manning heedlessly reveals his susceptibility to the fallacies of writing. He attempts to sway the readers view by appealing to popular passions. In this particular case, he preys on the fact that the general population isn t all that cheerful about paying taxes in the first place, and, using words like betrayed and suffering , attempts to further the feeling of resentment (towards the current government) within the Canadian tax payer. Less than a paragraph later, he employs the same tactics once again, using the exact same words, and shamelessly hoping for the same result. As well as these attempts at using the readers emotions to reinforce his platform, one notes that Manning, like many other politicians, frequently employs the use of colloquial, well-used clich s within his political arguments. The phrase used here is across the board tax relief (Appendix A), referring to the current alleviation of taxes by the federal government. Such an expression is as meaningless as it is useless, and only contributes to the current problems associated with poor use of the English language. Although it can be said that politicians are well-learned people, the insufficient detail, concealed meanings and the constant use of vague expressions within their political language categorize them as one of chief contributors to the degradation of the English language.
Another prominent source of linguistic antics is the daily and nightly run television news programs. These broadcasts are full of euphemisms and bad language usage, as the writers and newspersons habitually try to conceal or downplay the realities and harsh truths of the world. This subterfuge is accomplished by using fancy language and small talk to take the viewers focus away from the facts and instead to the conversations between newscasters, as seen during a news report from CTV. After reporting on the unfortunate military situation (Appendix B) in Russia, the news personnel converse about windshield wiper blades with the final newscaster responding with That s good advice, John. Thanks. (Appendix B). Not only do television stations distort the truth, they also continually make use of tired metaphors, rarely taking the time or effort to invent their own phrases. This is noticeable in a sports report for the night of Feb. 17, where the sports personality uses the phrases down to the wire (Appendix B), and scraping the bottom of the barrel (Appendix B). The continual recurrence of these tired metaphors is largely due to the general population s passive acceptance of them. As the most widespread and visibly noticeable problem, this inherent laziness is perhaps the greatest threat to proper language usage today.
In many instances in modern writing, the author wishes nothing more than for his or her opinion to be accepted, and hopes that it will sway the reader to their side of the given argument. Yet often enough, the reader is not given a choice as to which side they are to accept. Instead, they are bombarded by either solely negative or positive images of the given side of the argument. A good example of this can be found in an article in Sojourners magazine titled, It s a Playboy World After All . The very first sentence of the article contains both a negative opinion and a clich .
The author writes, Get out the garlic! (Appendix C) in reference to the reappearance of Hugh Hefner in the world. This sentence expresses the author s obvious distaste for Hefner, and implies that the reader must use garlic to ward off this evil presence, as one would a vampire. It could however, be taken as just a catchy first sentence, but throughout the whole article, the writer refers to the negative aspects of vampires when referring to Hefner and his view of the world. It may take wooden stakes and silver bullets to stop [Hefner] (Appendix C) is one example. [Hefner s] drive to accumulate speculative wealth is at least as strong as a vampire s thirst for blood. (Appendix C) is another example. The language used in this article clearly shows how personal opinions and beliefs can overrun the actual purpose of the article (which was, in this case, to report the entry of Playboy into the realm of internet business), resulting in further damage to the use of English language.
A substantial amount of today s English language usage is incorrect, unrefined and full of vagueness and opinions. The vast majority of the population continually and frequently errs in their language use. A great deal of the modern use of the English language consists of euphemisms, opinions, and a general lack of clarity. Although these are viable problems on their own, they are combined with the fact that most people simply don t care that they write or speak incorrectly. Knowing this, one recognizes some of the problems that exist with society s use of language, and also that something must be done about it. Sitcoms will get even less intelligent, newscasts will turn into talk shows, and people will become even more tolerant, and eventually believe anything they hear. Indeed it is imperative that the public be taught to identify and correct their own mistakes, else the degradation of language will not only continue, but worsen.
Manning, Preston. Baldwin and LaFontaine, Updated. http://www.reform.ca
Margotte, Bertrand. Cinar Stock Takes a Drubbing. The Globe and Mail. 23 Feb.
Collum, Danny. It s a Playboy World After All. Sojourners. Jan./Feb. 2000: 52.
Manning, Preston. Taxpayers Betrayed by Liberal Budget. http://www.reform.ca
Newscasters, various. Untitled Sports Report. NBC Nightly News. 17 Feb. 2000.
Newscasters, various. Untitled News Report. CTV News. 15 Feb. 2000.
Gilpin, Kenneth. Sorting Through Disparities in Europe. The New York Times. 20
Feb. 2000: BU 7.