Language Conversation

Stephen and Hugh are in a TV studio, talking animatedly - at least Stephen is animated.


Hugh Well, let's talk about instead about flexibility of language - linguistic   elasticity if you will.

Stephen    I think I said earlier that our language, English

Hugh        As spoken by us -

Stephen    As we speak it, yes, certainly, defines us. We are defined by our language if you will, then please, for goodness' 
sake, do.

Hugh        (To camera) Hullo! We're talking about language.

Stephen    Perhaps I can illustrate my point - let me at least try. Here's my question: is our language capable, English this is, is it capable of sustaining demagoguery?

Hugh        Demagoguery?

Stephen    Demagoguery.

Hugh        And by demagoguery you mean...?

Stephen    I mean demagoguery, I mean highly charged oratory, persuasive whipping up rhetoric. Listen to me, if Hitler had been English would we, under similar circumstances have been moved, charged up, fired by his inflammatory speeches, or should we have laughed? Er, er, er, is English too ironic a language to support Hitlerian styles, would his language simply have, have rung false in our ears?

Hugh        (To camera) We're talking about things ringing false in our ears.

Stephen    Alright, alright, do you mind if I compartmentalise? I hate to, but may I? May I? Is our language a function of our British cynicism, tolerance, resistance to false emotion, humour and so on, or do those qualities come extrinsically - extrinsically from the language itself? It's a chicken and egg problem.

Hugh        (To camera) We're talking about chickens, we're talking about eggs.


Stephen    Let me start a leveret here: there's language, the grammar, the structure - then there's utterance. Listen to me, listen to me, there's chess and there's the game of chess. Mark the difference, mark it for me please.

Hugh        (To camera) We've moved on to chess.

Stephen    Imagine a piano keyboard, eighty-eight keys, only eighty-eight and yet, yet, new tunes, melodies, harmonies are being composed upon hundreds of keyboards everyday in Dorset alone. Our language, Tiger, our language, hundreds of thousands of available words, frillions of possible legitimate new ideas, so that I can say this sentence                  and be confidant it has never been uttered before in the history of human communication: 'Hold the newsreader's nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk will countermand my trousers.' One sentence, common words, but never before placed in that order. And yet, all of us spend our days saying the same things to each other, time after                  weary time, living by clichaich, learned response: 'I love you', 'Don't go in there', 'You have no right to say that', 'shut up', 'I'm hungry', 'that hurt', 'why should I?', 'it's not my fault', 'help', 'Marjorie is dead'. You see? That surely is a thought to take out for a cream tea on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Hugh looks at camera, opens his mouth as if to speak, decides against it. Speaks to Stephen instead.

Hugh        So to you language is more than just a means of communication?

Stephen    Er, of course it is, of course it is, of course it is. Language is a whore, a mistress, a wife, a penfriend, a checkout girl, a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen-up wipette. Language is the breath of God, the dew on a fresh apple, it's the soft rain of dust that falls onto a shaft of morning sun when you pull from an old bookshelf a forgotten volume of erotic diaries; language is the faint scent of urine on a pair of boxer shorts, it's a half-remembered childhood birthday party, a creak on the stair, a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, the warm wet, trusting touch of a leaking nappy, the hulk of a charred Panzer, the underside of a granite boulder, the first downy growth on the upper lip of a Mediterranean girl, cobwebs long since overrun by an old Wellington boot. 

Hugh        Ner-night.