Language Conversation

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 like.

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 a question: is our language
		capable, English this is, is it capable of sustaining

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

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 a 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, and yet, new tunes,
		melodies, harmonies are being composed upon
		hundreds of keyboards every day 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 confident 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, oh
		and yet, all of us spend our days saying the same
		things to each other, time after weary time, living
		by clichaic, 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 mouth as if to speak,
	decides against it. Speaks to Stephen instead.

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

Stephen		Er, of course it is, of course it is, of course it is.
		Language is a whore, a mistress, a wife, a pen-
		friend, a check-out 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 into 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.

Hugh		Then Betty took a bit of better
		butter and put it in her bitter
		batter and made her bitter
		batter better. Something like
		that. It was before the next war
		of course.
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