Nash had it right – Where has English gone?


Laments for a Dying Language

by

Ogden Nash

What’s the monster of this week?
“Mystique”—

A noun that in its current arcane use leaves me frigid,
Since it is not to be found in either the O.E.D. or Webster’s Unabridgèd.
It is primarily the invention of the mystagogues of esoteric criticism, so it means whatever they choose,
But I will give you an example of what I think they think it means, only from the domain of a different muse.
I recently heard on the air a song in which the lover states that the loved one is his idea
Of a band of angels singing “Ave Maria.”
This is not only a metaphor unique,
It is also an example of the songwriter’s mystique at its peak.

II
Someone comes up with a linguistic gimmick,
And thousands flock to mimic.
This noisy age when big loud bangs give way to bangs louder and bigger still,
And admirals, congressmen, and minor government officials pop off at will,
Gives us two gimmicks that reflect our minds’ corrosion:
“Crash program” and “explosion.”
See here the population explosion, the freedom explosion,
The Broadway and off-Broadway incest-theme explosion, the explosion of British secretaries in offices of grandiose pretensions,
And there the crash program for defense, for space exploration, for a third major league,
For nominating the candidates previous to the conventions.
With each successive bang my hopes grow limper
That the world’s end will be a simple whimper.

III
In the nice-minded Department of Prunes and Prisms,
It’s I for you
And euphemisms.
Hence the phrase I would eagerly jettison:
“Senior citizen.”
Shall we retranslate
Joel 2, 28?
To the sociologist squeamish
The words “Your old men shall dream dreams” are less than beamish,
So “Your senior citizens shall dream dreams” it shall henceforth be,
Along with Hemingway’s “The Senior Citizen and the Sea.”
I, though no Joel, prophesy that someday while the senior citizens are projecting the image of an age-adjusted social group,
The old men will rise up and knock them for a loop.

IV
Those authors I can never love
Who write, “It fit him like a glove.”
Though baseballs may be hit, not “hitted,”
The past of “fit” is always “fitted.”
The sole exception worth a haricot
Is “Joshua fit de battle ob Jericho.”

V
Coin brassy words at will, debase the coinage;
We’re in an if-you-cannot-lick-them-join age,
A slovenliness-provides-its-own-excuse age,
Where usage overnight condones misusage.
Farewell, farewell to my beloved language,
Once English, now a vile orangutanguage.

 

*taken from http://poetry.rapgenius.com/Ogden-nash-laments-for-a-dying-language-lyrics

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