George Orwell gave a powerful warning of the dangers of ceding control of the language, and therefore the range of possible thoughts, to authorities who understood how to shape it so to render the population incapable of independent action. I am a sensitive to the ways in which we allow manipulators of various sorts, from advertisers and PR firms to public officials and executives to enablers in the media, to denature words that once had some impact, and to relabel phenomena to make them either less threatening or more impressive than they ought to be. “Abduction, imprisonment without trial, and torture” becomes the bloodless “extraordinary rendition.” “Adultery” becomes “infidelity.” “Personnel” had over time become “human resources” and at Goldman, “human capital management.” I’m sure readers can come up with many more colorful examples.
There are phenomena that need names to bring them more sharply into focus. There is no name in English for one of our prevalent forms of corruption, which is a financial reward after the fact for support or assistance, which if the same reward were given in advance, it would clearly be seen as a bribe. Even in our current American value system of “anything goes as long as you can make an explanation and not burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of it,” most people are uncomfortable with this practice. Yet the lack of a derogatory term means it attracts far less opprobrium than it deserves.
Reader craazyman called for another new word yesterday:
There should be a word for situations when everyone in a certain place and time loses their minds and goes completely nuts.
This would really help, to have this word, because then it wouldn’t be such a struggle to point out all the insanity.
All you’d have to do is say, “Well, Look at them over there, they’re having a real ______.”
It should be a word that connotes a sense of shameful loss of control. So that people would want to deny it and feel deeply ashamed and embarrassed. Sort of like they’d feel if they were caught in a brothel paying for sex with a 12 year old.
It should probably be a German sounding word, because it would have psychoanalytical overtones and that Germanic capability for social catastrophe and collective psychosis.
I don’t speak German, but it should sound like you’re spitting from the back of your throat, the way German sounds.
So when a bunch of dip-shit nobodies makes a few million a year looting prudent savers and small children’s futures, and tries to justify it by reference to their “talent” and gets the government and academia on their side somehow, you can just use that word. “Crime” is too blunt a word. I’m thinking of something with at least five syllables that hits like a mind missile.
It looks like this, but you need to use your imagination to fill in what happens next:
Ed Harrison suggested Narrenfieber (crazy fever) or Narrenfreude (crazy happiness), but they don’t strike me as being guttural or long enough. It could be a short phrase instead of a single word.