John F. Allen's Blog at

1st September 2014

Use of words in misuse of power

Filed under: — John Allen @ 1:24 pm

No-one who sincerely believes he has something important to say will willingly run the risk of being misunderstood.

Peter Medawar, Pluto’s republic.

I’ve recently spent much time attempting to unravel ambiguity that appears to be wilful camouflage for falsehood. For example, I and others are assured that there is no distinction between a request and an instruction. “Any difference is just a matter of semantics”.

In a radio presentation yesterday, Will Self outlined his view that George Orwell exemplified boring mediocrity. Self seemed to reserve special scorn for Orwell’s Politics and the English Language.

Why Orwell Is the Supreme Mediocrity

I think I recall a remark, near the end:-

Clarity… in the act of revealing one truth, it necessarily obscures many others.

What complete nonsense. As if human interaction is based on arbitrary (mis)communication, and understanding can only ever be shared illusion.

In 2012, my good friend and colleague, Fanis Missirlis, and I were alleged to have sought to bring individuals into disrepute. Though we knew the allegation to be false, advocates of the proposition claimed it remained true, since there is no distinction between sought to bring and brought.

Some, deeply unhappy with a disciplinary investigation’s failure to uphold the allegation, asked, rhetorically, how just one word could make a difference.

In a prior conversation with Fanis on the importance of the meaning of words, I think I said something like:-

Who says “Words don’t matter”..? …Words are all we have as a means by which to communicate with each other in an otherwise lonely universe.

Fanis kindly recalls this:-

In relation to the title of Orwell’s essay, to Self’s disdain for clarity, and to the mangling of language by those who misuse power, I recommend a tweet by Hugh Laurie.


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