“You taught me language and my profit on it
Is, I know how to curse.”
In Current Language:
The quote is clear without a translation. Still, here is one for consistency. You schooled me and the only thing that remained in me of your language training is that I know how to curse.
What Happens in the Actual Play:
Saying these words is Caliban, in the play portrayed as a monster of mind and soul, being the son of the evil witch Sycorax . Prospero, Caliban’s master, had attempted to reform Caliban by various healing measures, including the teaching of English.
Suggestions For Use:
The quote says it all and can be applied as a sad commentary on the evolutions and revolutions in the current educational system, as well as in the language at large – particularly and often notable on television and social media. The consequences are visible, besides being audible, including, often, the dissolution of common and uncommon sense. Leading often to a situation where the words that the utterer of today’s Shakespearean quote says to his teacher are literally true.
I am referring here next to the words of a well-known Italian philosopher on the important issue (at least I think so) of the misuse of language – or rather the issue of using language not as it was intended.
“Because men – and I quote – have in language their vital dwelling place and if they think and act badly, it is often because corrupt and spoiled is, first and foremost, the relationship with their language.
Many people walk blind and deaf today on the abyss of their language. And it is possible that language, being betrayed, in some way avenges itself. Its revenge is all the more merciless in proportion to how they have spoiled and neglected it – (the language I mean.)
We all, more or less, realize that our language has been reduced to a small number of sentences, that the vocabulary has become worn and narrowed, that the phrasebook of the media universally imposes its miserable norms in all walks of life, including universities. How can we expect in such conditions that someone may formulate a correct thought and act accordingly with rectitude and prudence?
It is not therefore surprising that those who handle this updated new-speak have lost all awareness of the relationship between language and truth, and therefore believe that they can use words that no longer correspond to any reality to the point of no longer realizing that they are lying.”
The truth here referred to, is not only the correspondence between speech and facts, but, actually the memory of that primordial address that language gives to the child who speaks movingly his first words. Men who have lost every memory of this subdued, demanding, loving call are literally capable of any wickedness.
The examples reflecting this culture and mode of thought would fill a hefty-sized dictionary, and for brevity I choose but two and at random.
Take for example the ‘woke’ culture, also referred to as ‘wokism’. In fact – wokism – is giving recognition to a meaningless term (‘woke’ as standing for “I am awake” or “I have been awaken”) to which a meaning has been artificially applied. Indeed, ‘wokism’ implies giving some kind of lexical respect to meaninglessness. Or, worse, to express contempt for the very language to which the terms ‘woke’ and ‘wokism’ are assumed to belong.
In fact, the underlying, unconscious message behind ‘woke’ and ‘wokism’ could be read as follows: “Why should I respect your language? I speak it because I have no other to use, but I hate it as I hate you and your culture, because your culture is not mine. Therefore, one practical way to show my contempt for you is to distort your language – besides possibly destroying your statues, as concrete evidence of my hatred.”
And there is actual evidence that the powers that be have actually heavily promoted this phenomenon – as shown, for example in the lyrics of so-called rap music.
Here is another example of actually promoted contempt of language, with which to end the comment.
Local newspapers – I am referring to where I live in America – often interview, as it is natural, people in various parts of the city to report their opinions on local events – quite often crimes committed in their neighborhood.
But in the actual written rendering of these interviews, the newspapers add, every two or three words, what I call the filler and meaningless adverb ‘like,’ so as to make the interviewed folks appear more ‘folksy’. Example, “This was like a nice neighborhood, but like in the last year it is like much worse.”
However, in a few cases when I have also heard the actual interview, later transcribed by the newspaper, the people interviewed did NOT add the meaningless adverb ‘like’ every two or three words. It was the newspaper that added them – I assume to make the interviewed appear more ‘authentic’.
Which, I think, is yet another small but meaningful example of a world turned upside-down. Or, to end with another Shakespearean quote, “All is uneven and everything is left at six and seven.”