Sunday, 1 January 2017

The sum of the matter

A message about the corruption of language from twenty five centuries ago. Not a new problem, but unlike Confucius we have largely forgotten to resolve it before we make decisions. To my mind this is the time of year when we should remember how much damage politically correct celebrities do to our language. It isn't confined to the political classes and the media.  

Tsz-lu said to the Master, "As the prince of Wei, sir, has been waiting for you to act for him in his government, what is it your intention to take in hand first?"

"One thing of necessity," he answered—"the rectification of terms."

"That!" exclaimed Tsz-lu. "How far away you are, sir! Why such rectification?"

"What a rustic you are, Tsz-lu!" rejoined the Master. "A gentleman would be a little reserved and reticent in matters which he does not understand. If terms be incorrect, language will be incongruous; and if language be incongruous, deeds will be imperfect. So, again, when deeds are imperfect, propriety and harmony cannot prevail, and when this is the case laws relating to crime will fail in their aim; and if these last so fail, the people will not know where to set hand or foot. Hence, a man of superior mind, certain first of his terms, is fitted to speak; and being certain of what he says can proceed upon it. In the language of such a person there is nothing heedlessly irregular—and that is the sum of the matter."


Demetrius said...

A man before his time. Imagine him running HSBC.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - or a political party.