Tim Blair


New Criterion



Sunday, March 09, 2003
WHEN IT'S EXCITING Auntie's Communard sleepers come out of hiding to mount the barricades.

Somewhere about the bottom of the barrel of column ideas for desperate editors is: let's have another essay on language!

Auntie's version is Lingua Franca. It's a mostly harmless digression into the by-ways of language and usage and lexicography, managed by the talent-scout who helped us reward that great literary scammer, Helen Demidenko, with a gumnut literary award, Jill Kitson.

Jill's taste in phoneys has not been exhausted. In fact, now the tocsin to the barricades has been sounded, she's firing on all two cylinders.

Her contribution to this week's Jihad on the Great Satan comes from a strange source: lexicographer Bruce Moore, editor of The Australian Oxford Dictionary.

Bruce has been given a shiny new Kalashnikov, made of plastic and tinsel, in the form of a new book by two Americans called Collateral Language.

I bet you 've already guessed that it's about the abuse of language in the cause of US imperialism.

You all know what "collateral damage" means. What they should be saying is "innocent victims of US Imperialism".

The editors of this compilation have worked themselves up into essays on thirteen euphemisms of this kind.

Good on them, Uncle says.

Wait a mo. Where are the essays on terms like "international community", "time for negotiations", the "multilateralism" of the Saddamites on the Security Council versus the "unilateralism" of those who oppose them, and so on.

I guess Bruce forgot to mention them in his review.

He was very upset that this book had received so little attention from the Australian reading public. Jill will help. Good old Jill.

Uncle observed some years ago that Oxford University Press had given up on the idea of a dictionary based on literary warrant. That is, giving due weight in defining words to those whose profession it is to use them deliberately, and in writing. Instead, Oxford is following the latest eruptions of disc-jockeys and celebs, in the interests of inclusiveness, of course.

I didn't know know there was a political test as well.