Monday, July 28, 2014

Double or Nothing

Professor Irwin Corey, the World’s Foremost Authority, who turns 100 on July 29, is still making occasional nonsensical speeches in the well known double-talk that is his stock-in-trade as a comedian. Corey, who famously said, “If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going,” uses a form of double-talk that relies on actual words used in an ambiguous manner to obfuscate sense.  One notable speech of his begins:

“However, we all know that protocol takes precedence over procedures. This Paul Lindsey point of order based on the state of inertia of developing a centrifugal force issued as a catalyst rather than as a catalytic agent, and hastens a change reaction and remains an indigenous brier to its inception. This is a focal point used as a tangent so the bile is excreted through the panaceas.”

There are many kinds of “double-talk,” which can be broadly defined as either (a) seemingly meaningful language that in fact mixes sense with nonsense, usually for comic effect, or (b) deliberately elaborate or ambiguous language used for purposes of deception.

The latter kind, also known as “double speak,” had its modern origin in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, when the government attempts to control thought by introducing ”Newspeak” and the concept of “Doublethink.”  In today’s political world, some examples of “double speak” are pre-emptive strike meaning “unprovoked attack,” enhanced interrogation meaning “torture,” extraordinary rendition meaning “abduction,” and collateral damage meaning “civilians killed in an attack on military targets.”

Among the great exponents of the humorous variety of double-talk was the comedian Sid Caesar, whose technique consisted of speaking rapidly in nonsense syllables that emulated the sounds of various foreign languages.

There’s a web site that generates nonsensical double-talk that peppers the text with false words that sound as though they might be real:

“Is the infrastructure too pervical for the modern day pig farmer, or do they affinate from the government, and when it opens is it moomis or are they frabbis like a local doggie bag?  Moreover, do you think the FBI furboglaft on the public or ovaloffer so much that it isn’t noticed?  Finally, does this place keep staniplad or are they farginomic with underkrep morning hours?

Another site provides a means of creating double-talk by adding the syllable “dag” in the middle of each actual syllable of every word. Thus the sentence “I would like a carbonated beverage becomes “Idagi wodagould lidagike adaga cadagar bodago nadaga tedaged bedage vedager adagage."

One computer-generated form of double-talk uses a data base of actual concepts recombined in a meaningless fashion:

“If one examines Lacanist obscurity, one is faced with a choice: either reject capitalist Marxism or conclude that the significance of the poet is social comment. However, if neodialectic cultural theory holds, we have to choose between subdialectic narrative and capitalist deappropriation. Marx suggests the use of the precultural paradigm of discourse to challenge class divisions.”

The Bard of Buffalo Bayou is an old hand at double-talk.  In fact, sometimes he lapses into triple-talk when he’s really waxing poetic.

            Professor Irwin Corey
            Had a moment of glory
            As the World’s Foremost Authority,
            When he tried to join a sorority.

            George Orwell
            Believed Nineteen Eighty-Four would score well,
            Even if Animal Farm 
            Lost its charm.

            Sid Caesar
            Was a funny old geezer
            Who could evoke a
            Lot of laughs with Imogene Coca.

If these clerihews strike you as being metrically ragged, ponder this observation by an anonymous wag:

            Edmund Clerihew Bentley
            Was evidently
            A man
            Who had a great deal of trouble getting his verses to 

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