Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The War on Adjectives

Adjectives are vital to American cultural and political discourse. Pamela Geller is not just the owner of a blog, she is a "rabid, shrill, extreme, right-wing conservative, hate-mongering Islamophobic blogger." Barack Obama is not just our President, he is a "Muslim-appeasing, socialist, teleprompter bound, uncaring, empty suited, corporate America lackey, Chicago syndicate President".

I learned in high school that adjectives are words used to describe nouns. They are much more than that to those conveyers of opinions whose words tumble from our television screens and car radios, through our blogs, newspapers and magazines, and across the Internet. Adjectives are the soil used to grow an idea the communicator favors, the paint used to adorn the canvas of a personality he or she finds attractive. These same adjectives are the poison that tear down ideas and the darts that destroy the people this same communicator does not like.

Some people find it important to attach a label to everything, whether it be a person or an idea, like a scientist labelling a specimen in her laboratory. Having attached the label, they then relate to the person or concept in light of the label they have given it. Right or wrong, accurate or misguided, once labelled the target will never be viewed as anything else. Anything they have to say will be interpreted through the label put on them.

The result is that real communication does not take place. Speaker B waits impatiently for Speaker A to stop talking, so he can use his adjectives to tear down everything she has said without even being able to accurately rephrase it.

So my solution is to launch the War on Adjectives. Force talking heads and pundits to express their ideas clearly and succinctly without giving them an unlimited use of adjectives to cover the shallowness of what they are actually saying. It might take a while for them to learn to discuss Sarah Palin's ideas if they are unable to describe her as "polarizing", or to articulate Nancy Palosi's goals if they cannot minimize her as a "progressive liberal", but it would be worth the wait.


Susanne said...

I never thought of adjectives used in such a powerful way as to shape public opinion, but you are so right!

Unknown said...

You are so right.... There is so many ways to describe something...but they don't make the same impact without adjectives... Just if we could get people to step up and take control and responsibility for where we are right now..


sara said...

How is this for an adjective, "paleoconservative", as in "Paleoconservative columnist George Will is on a crusade against nation building..."

sara said...

or "hubristic neo-imperial fool's errand" :)

Quotable Quotes: said...

Ms Sara,

My point exactly....and my argument is that both sides of the fence do it.

Anonymous said...

Love the war against adjectives. I googled "first usage of adjectives' and got nowhere.

The reason for my interest is that I don't find adjectives helpful at all. They are limiting. And, I'm not talking politics.

When with a child, notice that they remain so present with the world around them -- then along comes the adult telling them everything they don't need to know about what we think about things.

I'm with you in the essence of all.