Tony Judt offers a passionate defense of words. He also expresses his contempt for both the privatizing of language (via the commodification of the internet) and “garbled language” (which, of course, represents garbled thoughts).
When words lose their integrity so do the ideas they express. If we privilege personal expression over formal convention, then we are privatizing language no less than we have privatized so much else. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
Our task today is to find and utilize the appropriate words—words that allow us to think clearly and critically, words that open up new political possibilities. . .