[ by Charles Cameron — sacred tongues, the split tongues of serpents, gestural languages, the languages of conflict — language itself fascinates, ne? ]
Here’s the language of Psalm 139 in the King James Version:
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
And here, as recorded in The Atlantic‘s Mike Pence’s Outer-Space Gospel, is the VP’s language at the inaugural meeting of the National Space Council:
As President Trump has said, in his words, “It is America’s destiny to be the leader amongst nations on our adventure into the great unknown.” And today we begin the latest chapter of that adventure. But as we embark, let us have faith. Faith that, as the Old Book teaches us that if we rise to the heavens, He will be there.
and again more recently:
And as we renew our commitment to lead, let’s go with confidence and let’s go with faith — the faith that we do not go alone. For as millions of Americans have believed throughout the long and storied history of this nation of pioneers, I believe, as well, there is nowhere we can go from His spirit; that if we rise on the wings of the dawn, settle on the far side of the sea, even if we go up to the heavens, even there His hand will guide us, and His right hand will hold us fast.
So that’s our destiny — our clear and manifest destiny you might say, although it’s not clear whether drilling for oil, fracking, strip mining, or mountain top removal qualify for our destiny also, making our bed in hell..
And our President?
His language is seldom Biblical; he prefers mob talk. Let’s begin here, with the actual and admitted prosecutor / mob analogy:
Last November, a person close to the Trump administration speaking to the Washington Post invoked a chilling metaphor. “This investigation is a classic Gambino-style roll-up,” the source said. “You have to anticipate this roll-up will reach everyone in this administration.” This turns out to be a perfectly apt and quite literal description not only of the investigation, but of Trump’s own ethos and organizing principles.
So many people have been dissecting Trump’s mafia-like language recently that I’ll confine myself to one headline:
One TV header:
and the cuttingest insult of all:
Trump may imagine that he’s Michael Corleone, the tough and canny rightful heir—or even Sonny Corleone, the terrifyingly violent but at least powerful heir apparent—but after today he is Fredo forever.
Language games, Witty Wittgenstein would have called them, and they’re played semi-consciously at best..
Here’s another language, that of the gentlemanly art of boxing as photographed by Muybridge, Eadweard Muybridge:
and as verbally captured by the Marquess of Queensbury Rules:
1. To be a fair stand-up boxing match in a twenty-four foot ring or as near that size as practicable.
2. No wrestling or hugging allowed.
3. The rounds to be of three minutes duration and one minute time between rounds.
4. If either man fall through weakness or otherwise, he must get up unassisted, ten seconds be allowed to do so, the other man meanwhile to return to his corner; and when the fallen man is on his legs the round is to be resumed and continued until the three minutes have expired. If one man fails to come to the scratch in the ten seconds allowed, it shall be in the power of the referee to give his award in favour of the other man.
5. A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered down.
and so on and forth.
Gentlemanly, I said — and with the approval of the Marquess, maybe Noble even.