Clive James: ‘The English language is under siege from tone-deaf activists’

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In Australia there is some outfit going by the name of the Productivity Commission that calls books “cultural externalities”. Speaking as someone who, when well, writes cultural externalities for a living, I think it might be more efficient, from the productivity angle, if we could go on calling them books. But I admit that this is merely my opinion, not settled science. If I were advancing this opinion in the form of a tweet or comment, I could insert the acronym IMO, so proving that the standard dead white male language of Jane Austen is now being assailed not only by expansive phrases from institutions that wish to sound more important, but also by piddling abbreviations from individuals who wish to sound pressed for time.

Admittedly, some of those individuals wish to sound humble, too, and might even be so; but saying IMO is a counterproductive way of conveying that impression, because we already assume that your opinion is only your opinion. And saying IMHO is an even more counterproductive way of conveying it, because nobody who says “in my humble opinion” is any more humble than Saddam Hussein and Imelda Marcos dancing the tango.

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