Termed Out Nice Again

In 2013, I made a key discovery that disturbed and distressed core members of the non-conformist maverick community on a global basis dot dot dot… In America (or so it appeared) a key lexical marker of non-conformist maverickness was rapidly declining in terms of core usage, thusly:

At the same time, the non-conformist maverick community in Britain had maintained their core commitment to this key lexical marker of etc, thusly:

I expressed my puzzlement at the decline of “in terms of” in America. I couldn’t see a linguistic explanation and should (I now realize) have expressed doubts about the reliability of the data. Yes, in 2020 I’m very happy to report to members of the non-conformist maverick community that they need be disturbed and distressed no longer. The term has turned and it seems Google’s nGram wasn’t working properly at that time-period. Key statistics for core usage of “in terms of” are now in core accordance with key expectations, thusly:

“in terms of” (American English)

(open in new tab for larger image)

“in terms of” (British English)

Sadly, however, non-conformist mavericks in French- and Spanish-speaking countries seem to have stopped being non-conformist:

“en termes de” (French)

“en términos de” (Spanish)

Peri-Performative Post-Scriptum

The title of this incendiary intervention radically referencizes a key catchphrase of core comedian George Formby (1904-61), viz, “turned out nice again”. Formby’s home-county of Lancashire (England) was — and remains — a core hotbed of non-conformist maverickness dot dot dot

Core discussion around “in terms of”…

Kim Pickings

As a keyly committed core component of the anti-racist community, I’ve always been a passionate admirer of Kimberlé Crenshaw, the Black legal genius who conceived the corely committed key concept of intersectionality, the pro-feminist, anti-racist ideo-matrix whereby multiply impactive factors of oppression around race, gender and class are recognized to overlap in terms of toxic impact on corely vulnerable communities of color, gender, and class…

So, imagine my excitement when I saw that the Guardian was engaging core issues around Ms Crenshaw in a keynote article itself passionately penned by a Journalist of Color:

Kimberlé Crenshaw: the woman who revolutionised feminism – and landed at the heart of the culture wars, by Aamna Mohdin

From police brutality to sexual harassment, the lawyer fights to ensure black women’s experiences are not ignored. So why are her ideas being denounced? — The Guardian, 12xi20

“Why indeed?” I interrogated to myself as I began to read. But imagine my horror when I came across this passage in terms of the core article:

Crenshaw’s early academic work, meanwhile, was also an important building block in the development of critical race theory, which revolutionised the understanding of race in the US’s legal system and is taught in law schools across the country. — Kimberlé Crenshaw

What is it coming to when the Guardian uses everyday English to engage issues around the keyly vital work of a Black legal genius? Huh? The Guardian should of course have put it like this:

Crenshaw’s early academic work, meanwhile, was also a core building block in terms of the development of critical race theory, which revolutionised the understanding of race in the US’s legal system and is taught in law schools across the country.

And “core foundational keystone in terms of the gestational development…” would have been even better

Elsewhere other-engageable:

Ex-term-in-nate! — incendiarily interrogating issues around “in terms of” dot dot dot


“In terms of those ideas, there’s been specific policies that are intersecting in terms of racist and sexist policies that have targeted and harmed black women. The same thing with black men, in terms of them being a racial group that have been affected by racist ideas and policies. […] So, in terms of assessing other people, we should allow for people to essentially make racist mistakes.” — Ibram X Kendi, The most extreme racists say, ‘I’m the least racist person anywhere in the world’, The Guardian, 30viii2019

Elsewhere other-accessible:

Ex-term-in-nate! — incendiarily interrogating issues around “in terms of” dot dot dot
All O.o.t.Ü.-F. posts interrogating issues around “in terms of”…

The Psyve Mind Speaks

“H.P. Lovecraft were really underrated in terms of the sixties bands from the West Coast.” — Psychic Hi-Fi: Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s Favourite Albums, The Quietus, 23i2014.

Previously pre-posted:

He Say, He Sigh, He Sow #23 — an earlier engagement by Genesis P. Orridge in terms of issues around “in terms of” (dot dot dot)

Ted Said

I thought I knew how depraved and despicable core serial-slayer Ted Bundy was when I began The Only Living Witness (1983) for the first time earlier this month.

I was wrong.

Keyly, corely wrong.

As I discovered when I reached this putrefactively performative passage:

I wanted to know how Lynda Healy had been taken from her bedroom. “I guess you would have had to dress her?” I ventured.

Ted ignored my use of “you”.

“In that kind of situation,” he replied mechanically, “a person who was alert enough to be able to dress would not be afraid in terms of struggling or crying out. So it would be unlikely that any attempt was made to clothe the girl.” — from chapter 5 of The Only Living Witness, Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth (revised edition 1989)

It’s always possible to go lower and get worse, it seems. Bundy trained as a lawyer. That’s bad. Bundy used “in terms of”. That’s worse. (dot dot dot)

Ted should of course have said: “afraid to struggle…” or “afraid about struggling…”

Elsewhere other-engageable:

All Posts interrogating issues around “in terms of”
Don’t Do Dot… (also interrogates issues around “core” and “spike”)…
Heresy, Homotextuality, Hive-Mind

Tolk of the Devil

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I wish someone would translate Lord of the Rings (1954-5) into English. By that I mean (of course) that I wish someone would translate LOTR into good English. I’ve looked at Tolkien’s bad English in “Noise Annoys” and “Science and Sorcery”. Here’s another example:

Pippin declared that Frodo was looking twice the hobbit that he had been.

“Very odd,” said Frodo, tightening his belt, “considering that there is actually a good deal less of me. I hope the thinning process will not go on indefinitely, or I shall become a wraith.”

“Do not speak of such things!” said Strider quickly, and with surprising earnestness. – The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), Chapter 11, “A Knife in the Dark”

Strider should have added: “Or in such a way!” In the second paragraph, Frodo suddenly talks like a Guardian-reader. Why on earth did Tolkien use “thinning process”, “indefinitely” and “actually” amid otherwise good, simple English? Thinning is obviously a “process”, so there’s no need to say it is, and “indefinitely” and “actually” are badly out of a place in a fantasy novel, let alone in dialogue there. “Considering” is less bad, but it should go too. I would improve the paragraph like this:

“Very odd,” said Frodo, tightening his belt, “seeing that there is now a good deal less of me. I hope the thinning will not go on much longer, or I shall become a wraith.”

Now there’s nothing incongruous: the only un-English word is “very”, but that doesn’t seem un-English on the tongue or to the eye. The Guardianese is gone, but it should never have been there in the first place. Tolkien should not have written like that in Lord of the Rings. And not just as a professional scholar of language: simply as a literate Englishman. H.W. Fowler’s Modern English Usage (1926) had been in print for twenty-eight years when The Fellowship of the Ring was first published. It’s hard to believe that Tolkien wasn’t familiar with it.

If he wasn’t, that’s a great pity. If he was, the bad prose in LOTR becomes even more inexplicable and unforgiveable. Alas for what might have been! Imagine if, per impossibile, Tolkien’s masterwork had been edited by the second-greatest Catholic writer of the twentieth-century, namely, Evelyn Waugh.

When bad prose appears in something by Waugh, it’s deliberate:

I had a fine haul – eleven paintings and fifty odd drawings – and when eventually I exhibited them in London, the art critics, many of whom hitherto had been patronizing in tone as my success invited, acclaimed a new and richer note in my work.

Mr. Ryder [the most respected of them wrote] rises like a fresh young trout to the hypodermic injection of a new culture and discloses a powerful facet in the vista of his potentialities … By focusing the frankly traditional battery of his elegance and erudition on the maelstrom of barbarism, Mr. Ryder has at last found himself.Brideshead Revisited (1945), Book II, “A Twitch Upon the Thread”, ch. 1

Waugh was deliberately mocking the mixed-metaphor-strewn prose and pretensions of modern critics. Waugh paid great attention to language and compared writing to carpentry. It was a craft and good craftsmen do not work carelessly or use bad materials. Nothing in Brideshead is careless or casual, as we can see when the narrator, Charles Ryder, first meets the “devilish” æsthete Anthony Blanche, who has “studied Black Art at Cefalù” with Aleister Crowley and is “a byword of iniquity from Cherwell Edge to Somerville”. Blanche has a stutter and Waugh uses the stutter to underline his iniquity. Or so I would claim. Here is Blanche engaging in some papyrocentric performativity:

After luncheon he stood on the balcony with a megaphone which had appeared surprisingly among the bric-à-brac of Sebastian’s room, and in languishing, sobbing tones recited passages from The Waste Land to the sweatered and muffled throng that was on its way to the river.

“’I, Tiresias, have foresuffered all,’” he sobbed to them from the Venetian arches –
“Enacted on this same d-divan or b-bed,
I who have sat by Thebes below the wall
And walked among the l-l-lowest of the dead….”

And then, stepping lightly into the room, “How I have surprised them! All b-boatmen are Grace Darlings to me.” Brideshead Revisited, Book I, “Et in Arcadia Ego”, ch. 1

Talking about the Greek sage Tiresias, who experienced life as both a man and a woman, Anthony Blanche, a man whose surname is the feminine form of the French adjective blanc, meaning “white”, stumbles over the initial consonants of three words: “divan”, “bed” and “lowest”. Is it a coincidence that the same consonants, in the same order, appear in the Greek diabolos, meaning “devil”?

I don’t think so. If Blanche had stuttered on “surprised” too, I would be even more certain. But the –s isn’t essential. After all, it was lost as diabolos journeyed from Greek to Latin, from Latin to French, and from French to English, where it appears as “Devil”. And what does Charles Ryder later call Anthony Blanche after Blanche has spent an evening tête-à-tête trying to turn Ryder against Ryder’s great friend Sebastian Flyte? You can find out here, as Ryder discusses the evening with Sebastian:

“I just wanted to find out how much truth there was in what Anthony said last night.”

“I shouldn’t think a word. That’s his great charm.”

“You may think it charming. I think it’s devilish. Do you know he spent the whole of yesterday evening trying to turn me against you, and almost succeeded?”

“Did he? How silly. Aloysius wouldn’t approve of that at all, would you, you pompous old bear?” – Brideshead Revisited, Book I, “Et in Arcadia Ego”, ch. 2

Blanche is “devilish” and his reputation for “iniquity” is well-deserved. That’s why I think the three words over which Blanche stutters were carefully chosen by Waugh from The Waste Land. Waugh was a logophile and that is exactly the kind of linguistic game that logophiles like to play.

Prose Shows

I don’t know about you, but this is exactly what I like to see in the opening paragraph of an essay engaging issues around William S. Burroughs and the cult of rock’n’roll dot dot dot…

Naked Lunch is inseparable from its author William S. Burroughs, which tends to happen with certain major works. The book may be the only Burroughs title many literature buffs can name. In terms of name recognition, Naked Lunch is a bit like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which also arrived in 1959. Radical for its time, Kind of Blue now sounds quaint, though it is undeniably a masterwork. — William S. Burroughs and the Cult of Rock ’n’ Roll, Casey Rae

Did you spot it? Didja?

Previously pre-posted:

The Hum of Heresy
The Conqueror Term
Bill Self

Oh My Guardian #8

“When it comes to Harry Potter, JK Rowling just can’t leave it alone. This is not necessarily a bad thing – fans have got to see Harry and friends all grown-up in the Cursed Child plays – but she’s also managed to muddy the waters by her constant rejigging of the original narrative furniture.” — Fantastic Beasts isn’t racist, but JK Rowling should stop tweaking the source material, Hannah Flint, The Guardian, 28ix2018.

Oh My Guardian #7 — the previous entry in this award-winning series
Reds under the Thread more on mixed metaphors… in terms of The Guardian
All posts interrogating issues around the Guardian-reading community and its affiliates

The Hum of Heresy

I don’t know any exceptions to the rule that someone who likes William Burroughs will also be a member in terms of core issues around the hive-mind. From Kurt Cobain to Will Self: if you get a buzz outa Burroughs, that won’t be the only buzzing you’re corely acquaintanced with… And I predict that you’ll frequently use, hear and read core items from the hive-mind term-set such as “in terms of”, “prior to”, “issues around”, “engagement with”, “spike”, “skill-set”, “core”, “key”, “toxic” and “edgy”… You’ll also like italics and trailing dots

“There was a certain edgy excitement to turning on the computer every morning and immediately checking to see what Mark had thrown down in terms of an ideas-gauntlet.” – Simon Reynolds in the foreword to K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004–2016), edited by Darren Ambrose, Repeater Books 2018.

Elsewhere other-engageable:

Don’t Do Dot…
Prior Analytics

Prior Analytics

In terms of ugly, pretentious phrases used by members of the Guardian-reading community, the “signature” phrase is undoubtedly “in terms of”. But there’s another phrase habitually deployerized by Guardianistas that is perhaps even worse in terms of its core Guardianisticity. To get to it, let’s first engage issues around the title of this post: “Prior Analytics”. I took it from the title of a book on logic by Aristotle, Prior Analytics, known in Latin as Analytica Priora.

Are you surprised to learn that Prior Analytics has a companion called Posterior Analytics, or Analytica Posteriora? No, of course you aren’t. “Prior” and “posterior” are high-falutin’ words that go together: when the first appears, the second naturally follows. And you might think that this obvious pairing would alert Guardianistas to the ugliness and pretension of another of their signature phrases, “prior to”:

• Foreign press warn over dangers of new UK media laws prior to Leveson report — headline in The Observer, 24xi2012
• “Prior to its emergence the trend was not to talk truth to power but to slur the powerless.” — The Great Gary Younge in The Observer, 6xi2011
• “Prior to a prang outside Tesco which, for insurance purposes, wasn’t actually my fault”… — The Great Zoë Williams in The Guardian, 8ii2005

Why do I think “prior to” may be even worse than “in terms of”? There are times when “in terms of” isn’t particularly bad English. I don’t like to admit it, but there are even times when it’s the best phrase to use. But “prior to”? It’s almost always just an ugly and pretentious way of saying “before”. I say “almost always” because you can make an exception for a technical usage like “Existence is logically prior to essence.” But that’s a rare exception, so I repeat: “prior to” is almost always just an ugly and pretentious way of saying “before”.

And guess what? You’ll find this in the Guardian and Observer style guide under “P”:

prior to, previous to

   the word you want is “before” (see Guardian and Observer style guide: P)

Guardianistas should be able to realize that for themselves, because “prior to” naturally suggests “posterior to”. However, even Guardianistas don’t habitually say “posterior to” instead of “after”. Even a Guardianista’s ugliness-and-pretension-o-meter is tripped by “posterior to”. But only in the flesh, as it were. Guardianistas are apparently incapable of two-step logic: first, noticing that “prior to” rather than “before” naturally suggests “posterior to” rather than “after”; second, deciding that because “posterior to” is ugly and pretentious, they shouldn’t use “prior to” either.

Elsewhere other-engageable:

All posts interrogating issues around “in terms of”
All posts interrogating issues around the Guardian-reading community and its affiliates