Pete’s excellent pizza-making blog made me think about two things:
1. Like him, I have strong associations between ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ and pizza.
Who had the audacity to pitch the idea of mutant, talking turtles being raised by a ninja-teaching sewer rat? Why was it so popular? I am forced to concede it must have had something going for it if I can remember details about the show twenty years later. For example: it creeps me out that I know this, but Donatello’s first word was ‘pizza’.
Also, one of the weirdest things about it was the cartoon broadcast in the UK substituted the word ‘ninja’ for ‘hero’. The early 90s were more innocent times.
2. The banality of a subject is irrelevant to its value. A good writer could write about burning toast and make it hilarious and thought-provoking. I still remember a Jon Ronson article from two years ago about walking along a canal path discussing estate agents with his wife which made me laugh so hard I got dizzy. (If you click on one link, click on that one.)
Johann Hari wrote a great piece about the twisting of the English language by those with an agenda. He quotes George Orwell decrying words ‘designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.’
Remember ‘shock and awe’, to describe a sustained and comprehensive bombing campaign? ‘Enhanced interrogation’ instead of torture? I can think of a few more subtle examples. British politicians tend to talk about ‘redaction’ rather than censorship. They say it would be ‘inappropriate to comment’ on subjects for which they hold direct responsibility.
A more general case of language abuse is the merciless pounding alcohol has been getting in the press recently. A couple of doctors suggesting the banning of alcohol advertisement generated dozens of anti-intellectual columns (check out Frank Skinner’s masterpiece in the Times), all of which seem to cite the number of ‘alcohol related’ crimes, deaths and visits to casualty.
Why not call them ‘douche-bag related incidents’ instead of ‘alcohol related’, since being a douche-bag is the more fundamental of the factors in question?
What happened to Swine Flu? The experts [sic] say it’s gone away, but it’s going to come back stronger. But where has it gone? Is it in the Bahamas, drinking a pina colada and smoking a Cuban cigar, plotting its vengeance on mankind? Or is it running up the side of a snow-capped mountain, doing push-ups and generally evoking the training montage in Rocky V? I’d like to know.