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Social fightback

When society attacks

In the wake of the great English smartphone riots, gelatine-fizzog’d brayer David Cameron concocted a splendidly vivid mixed metaphor:

Social problems that have been festering for decades have exploded in our face

Or is that a mixed metaphor? Perhaps the explosion was one of pus, the pus having built up in the festering wound, rather than an orange petroleum-fuelled explosion of the sort that everything makes in movies when you blow it up, including tanks of water and trees? Meanwhile, the idea that “our face” is singular, that the whole of society shares one face, is rather horrific. (Especially if that face is David Cameron’s.)

Most interesting, perhaps, was Cameron’s glib incitement of a social fightback, invoking the chaotic vigilante justice by underdogs-who-just-can’t-take-it-any-more of fightback, while simultaneously clawing back that plainly irresponsible suggestion with the rhetorically softening epithet social. (That Cameron wants to start a massive fightback against “ideas”, rather than, say, a reasoned argument, is depressingly revealing.) “Fightback” is also a helpful close cousin to the populist and antilegal concept of payback, as in community payback and Nick Clegg’s hilarious proposal for riot payback. Perhaps if everyone who joined up to the social fightback that Cameron incited did so while wearing a full-faced David Cameron mask and a gimp outfit, that would “send” the right “message”.

Meanwhile, in other Unspeak-related developments: there is a new website called newswordy, which picks a topical word, giving current citations from news or Twitter, and gives a short definition of it. It sometimes confuses parts of speech (“vindication” is said to mean “to clear”), and makes no attempt at analysis whatsoever, prompting one to wonder what exactly the point is. It’s beautifully designed, though, isn’t it?

In vocabulary news, the new COED includes the words sexting and cyberbullying, while Collins has decided that words including aerodrome and supererogate are defunct. I call on the Unspeak™ Community™ to use them daily from now on.

Lastly, from the LRB, one learns that philosophising was “Mary Wollstonecraft’s euphemism for sex with William Godwin”. Have you done any philosophising lately, readers?

8 comments
  1. 1  Stan  August 30, 2011, 12:05 pm 

    the idea that “our face” is singular, that the whole of society shares one face

    Let us call it The Big Face. It could become a buzzword just in time for Hallowe’en.

  2. 2  Shadowfirebird  August 30, 2011, 12:40 pm 

    Have I had sex with William Goodwin? Err, no.

    I often philosophise. Just not in italics like that.

  3. 3  Dan A  August 30, 2011, 2:35 pm 

    I am definitely using “aerodrome” instead of “airport” at any opportunity I get from now on.

    I wonder though how long it is before “Easyjet” becomes one of those brand names that become synonymous with the thing they do, like biro or google (what’s the word for that, I know there is one) “Yeah i’m just easyjetting to Paris for the weekend, gonna be chill”

    I mean if you go by Bristol Airport, pretty soon they’re gonna be painting the terminal bright orange and calling themselves Bristol Easy International Airport, the way that stupid airline has taken over.

  4. 4  Dan A  August 30, 2011, 2:46 pm 

    The Guardian article about Cameron actually seems pretty reasonable, but of course you can’t trust a single word that comes out of his mouth. Also what the fuck is happening to his face, I didn’t even click the video, but in the still frame he looks like Odo from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

  5. 5  Dan A  August 30, 2011, 2:49 pm 

    Oh wow, I take back my ‘reasonable’ comment. The stuff he comes out with in the video is ridiculous.

    Ok I will stop inflating this post’s comment number now. Edit feature hint hint? :)

  6. 6  redpesto  September 2, 2011, 5:32 pm 

    Re. ‘our face’ – royal ‘we’?

    PS: When are you going to give ‘baccalaureate’ a kicking?

  7. 7  john c. halasz  September 5, 2011, 4:08 am 

    Sir! You are imposing a supererogatory duty upon our face!

  8. 8  Steven  September 6, 2011, 4:50 pm 

    Excellent work.



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