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the product of abnormal situations will limit its permanent contribution to our language. The slang of every-day life is a richer source of new words. Slang is by no means the cultural sin it is sometimes branded. Slang is language in the making. Slang is the sign of life in a language. Slang is imagination at work in words. Our mother tongue would become a stagnant pool if slang did not pour into it fresh streams. Much of slang is mere verbal eccentricity, but many of the most expressive and accredited words in our language were slang in their origin.
Purists wage unceasing war on slang. But our language has less to fear from slang than from the commoner linguistic sin of jargon. A hurried glance at one of the many condensed dictionaries might give the impression that slang and jargon are nearly synonymous. For instance, one may find slang defined as follows: "The cant words or jargon used by thieves, peddlers,. beggars, and the vagabond classes generally; cant." But a closer study of the two words in the more ambitious dictionaries reveals a fundamental distinction.
Probably the best definition of the modern sense of the word "slang" is the following: "Language of a highly colloquial type, considered as below the level of standard educated speech, and consisting either of new words or of current words employed in some special sense.' Likewise one may find jargon defined as "professional slang or cant." But, again, a closer study of the word reveals its distinctive meaning. Probably the best definition of jargon is the following: "Unintelligible or meaningless talk or writing." The word goes back to the French verb jargonner, which means to warble, to chatter, to jabber. The early definition of jargon ran as follows: "The inarticulate utterance of birds, or a vocal sound resembling it." This early sense became obsolete from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, but has been revived in modern literature, and the word "jargon" has come to mean muddled talk and writing.
Jargon is the fog of language; slang the lightning of language. Jargon obscures thought and dampens the gossamer wings of fancy; slang at times
destroys, but it also clears the air, illuminates. Jargon is abstract; slang is concrete. Jargon is a perversion of decent prose. Jargon is used in Congress, in pulpits, in business correspondence, and, alas! in magazines. It is the commonest sin of penmen, even penmen who condemn it. Jargon is circumlocution become a habit. Jargon obscures ideas. Somebody once asked, "What would have become of Christianity if Jeremy Bentham had had the writing of the Parables?" The simple directness of "Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's" might have been "Render unto Cæsar the tributes, perquisites, and privileges that normally and by all the laws of the status quo appertain to that exalted potentate."
Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, in a series of Cambridge lectures on the art of writing, said many illuminating things on jargon. He brought his rarest humor into play when he rewrote Hamlet's soliloquy, turning Shakspere's refreshing plainness into jargon. The jargonized soliloquy ran as follows:
To be, or the contrary? Whether the former or the latter be preferable would seem to admit of some difference of opinion; the answer in the present case being of an affirmative or of a negative character according as to whether one elects on the one hand to mentally suffer the disfavor of fortune, albeit in an extreme degree, or on the other to boldly envisage adverse conditions in the prospect of eventually bringing them to a conclusion. The condition of sleep is similar to, if not indistinguishable from that of death; and with the addition of finality the former might be considered identical with the latter; so that in this connection it might be argued with regard to sleep that, could the addition be effected, a termination would be put to the endurance of a multiplicity of inconveniences, not to mention a number of downright evils incidental to our fallen humanity, and thus a consummation achieved of a most gratifying nature.
How like a campaign speech! How like the ponderous effusions of certain writers who are proud of a limited audience! In short, how Veblenesque! Certain writers, like Thorstein Veblen, so obscure their ideas with jargon that their books are as unintelligible to the
vast army of ordinary readers as Sanskrit to a cab-driver. Of such writers, it may be said, as Hazlitt said of Bentham:
His style is unpopular, not to say unintelligible. He writes a language of his own that darkens knowledge. His works have been translated into French-they ought to be translated into English. People wonder that Mr. Bentham has not been prosecuted for the boldness and severity of some of his invectives. He might wrap up high treason in one of his inextricable periods, and it would never find its way into Westminster Hall. . . . He writes a cypher-hand, which the vulgar have no key to. . . . Mr. Bentham writes as if he was allowed but a single sentence to express his whole view of a subject in, and as if, should he omit a single circumstance or step of the argument, it would be lost to the world forever, like an estate by a flaw in the title-deeds.
"Rather interesting," somebody may say, "but why drag an essay on slang and jargon into a department dedicated to the discussion of current affairs?" The reason should be evident, in view of the fact that during and since the war the whole nation has been carrying on a spirited and at times bitter debate on the power and peril of words. One group insists that the war was won by Mr. Wilson's superb verbal assaults on enemy morale; another group insists that the President became intoxicated with his own rhetoric and forgot realities.
Certainly we need clear thinking in the realm of leadership, but clear thinking and muddled expression do not go hand in hand. There are, of course, exceptions to this statement. Mr. Veblen has something to say, if you can contrive to de-code his books. Jeremy Bentham had something to say, but to listen to him is work. After stigmatizing Bentham's style, Hazlitt wrote: "And what makes it worse, it is not mere verbiage, but has a great deal of acuteness and meaning in it, which you would be glad to pick out if you could." There are exceptions, but, in nine cases out of ten, the man who talks or writes jargon, thinks jargon. The man who could teach this people to talk and write simple, plain, intelligible English would double the intellectual power of the
nation. A man's style reacts upon his mind. Therefore, a blow at jargon is a blow at muddling in the counsels of the nation.
A DEBAUCH OF THE AMERICAN MIND
HE kaleidoscope is a static thing beside an American Presidential campaign. Under the fitful tyranny of expediency, an issue that is paramount at the beginning of a campaign may be petty by the time the campaign is well under way. The committee on policy alters perspective overnight, as the fortunes of the campaign shift. A veteran journalist, Dr. Talcott Williams, who has been an acute observer of many Presidential contests, recently said that there is nothing more fruitless than to try to guess in midAugust what will be the paramount issue on which the voters will divide in November. This is not so much a commentary upon our lack of political acumen as upon the hollow unreality of campaign propaganda and discussion.
Why hug longer the delusion of a phrase! A Presidential campaign is not, save in the most general hit-or-miss sense, a "solemn referendum" on anything. A Presidential campaign is a catch-as-catch-can fight for votes. Early in the campaign the statesman abdicates in favor of the strategist. Acceptance speeches are not the mind-revealing confessions of political and economic faith they purport to be. They are the cautious pronouncements of men who are playing a game.
Early in the present campaign a certain Presidential candidate stated to a friend of the writer what he purposed to do respecting a certain vital issue in the event of his election. His statement was specific, intelligent, and intelligible; even a runner might have heard and understood what the candidate meant. His statement on the issue in his acceptance speech a few days before had been, on the contrary, colorless and evasive, and was being interpreted the country over as the exact opposite of what he had just said in private. It must be admitted, however, that his public statement did not technically bar him from the belief and purpose he stated privately.
"Why don't you say this in public?" the candidate was asked. "Why don't you stop all this misinterpretation of your real purpose?" The candidate smiled a knowing smile and answered, in effect:
"My dear sir, a political campaign is a matter of strategy. I am just now the Marshal Foch of the-party. I'm waiting until I have drawn the fire of my opponent. I want to know where he stands and his plan of battle. Have patience. In time I will make a statement that will, I think, satisfy all the friends of this idea."
It is this damnation of strategy that turns a Presidential campaign into a debauch of the American mind. A Presidential campaign should be, might be, a vast summer school in which adult America wrestled with the simplicities and complexities of world politics, of government, of education, of economics, of all vital concerns. Instead we make it, at best, an orgy of meaningless platitudes, and, at worst, a high carnival of strategic insincerities.
The blame for this "shadow dance of words" that marks our campaigns rests less upon the politicians than upon the people. As a people we do not have a fundamental and continuous interest in politics. We have sporadic and shortlived interest in issues, but not an abiding interest in the grand adventure of wisely governing our common life. When we express deep interest in politics it is as a special and temporary task. Now and then we organize "good-government" movements, pursue for a time political studies in our clubs, and fling ourselves with hectic fervor into propagandist societies to "put over" this or that dramatic political idea; but sustained political-mindedness we have not achieved.
Politics is cursed with the jargon discussed earlier in these columns. Politicians will deal in evasive abstractions as long as popular thought on things political lacks informed background and concreteness of inquiry.
"It is plain, Glaucon," said Socrates, "that if you wish to be honored, you must benefit the state."
"Certainly," replied Glaucon.
"Then, inform us," said Socrates,
"with what proceeding you will begin to benefit the state."
Here is the formula for genuine political campaign discussion. But our political Glaucons will never be brought to condescend to details until there is something of a Socratic quality in the public mind.
CROSS-SECTION of the mind of leadership in village, state, or nation is always interesting and instructive. Despite the present prevalence of a mass philosophy, despite the latter-day flings at the "great-man" theory of progress, the fact remains that a headless civilization is a drifting civilization. Every attempt to dispense with worthily imperious leadership has gone
the rocks. The Bolshevisms of history have invariably become bureaucracies. H. G. Wells is right in saying that the determining and controlling persons of a nation constitute in its intenser form the national intelligence and the national will.
One fatal weakness in our consideration of the problem of leadership is that we think of it in terms of large affairs and sweeping jurisdictions only. We seem to go on the assumption that great leadership must have at least a nation, and preferably a world, for its playground. But the fact is that national statesmanship is largely conditioned by village statesmanship. What happens at the top in our national life can be nullified by what happens at the bottom. We cannot achieve an integrated nation out of slipshod and ill-organized villages and towns. Before we can boast national pride, national sense, national conscience, and national will, we must arrive at community pride, community sense, community conscience, and community will. And the men of the small towns of America have not yet answered the challenge to leadership, to village statesmanship.
All this is prompted by the results of a questionnaire sent to the mayors of towns of three hundred to three thousand inhabitants in the Northwestern States of Washington, Oregon, and
Idaho. The Bureau of Municipal Research of Whitman College, in the State of Washington, sent the questionnaire in an effort to arrive at some of the facts of existence in such towns. At the moment of writing, one hundred and thirty-five mayors have responded. The Foreign Press Service, in one of its weekly news bulletins, presents the results of the inquiry. From the report these suggestive items are gleaned as answers to the question, "What do you think your town needs most?"
There are sixty-four demands for public improvements. The background of these sixty-four demands makes them all the more suggestive. Only eight mayors suggested the need of better public buildings. Although eighty-one of these towns have no facilities for sewage disposal, only fifteen mayors suggested sewer systems. Although sixty of these towns have no pavements, only fifteen mayors suggested pavements. Although ten of these towns have no water system, only six mayors expressed a desire for water systems. Despite the nationwide propaganda for "good roads," this item figures in the replies of only ten of the one hundred and thirty-five mayors. Nine mayors thought the greatest need of their towns was hotels, while five mayors thought the thing most needed was to have a railroad pass through their towns. A few mayors suggested better walks, schools, parks, lights, fire prevention, hospitals, and the like.
There are one hundred and fifty-seven demands of a material nature. Business needs figured largest in the mayors' replies. In all, ninety-three objects of a commercial nature were mentioned. Sixteen mayors wanted factories and the vitalizing effect of their pay-rolls upon the business life of their towns. Thirtythree mayors mentioned specific kinds of business houses as needed. Five mayors pleaded for capital, public or private, for irrigation purposes.
There are thirty-four demands for intellectual, moral, or social advantages. Nine mayors suggested the need of wholesome amusement for the youth of their towns. Six mayors asked for libraries, four for churches, and two for ministers. One lonely mayor saw the need of "moral influences,' and one
dared suggest greater "intellectual development." velopment." Twelve mayors suggested the desirability of community centers or commercial clubs. Several expressed the general need of "enthusiasm," of "community push," of "broader vision," of "public spirit," or "progressiveness."
Does all this suggest that our small towns are breeding leaders with vision, comprehensive purpose, technic, and application? The answer lies fairly clear in the matrix of facts. If we could realize the dignity and importance of village statesmanship, if small town councils would look upon themselves as committees of efficiency engineers in a large social sense, whose duty is the administration of the common town life as an effective social unit, many perplexities we are now placing on the shoulders of national leadership would be handled at their source.
THE LIPS OF THE SPHINX MOVE ARLIER in the year, in these columns, comment was made upon the tangled issues confronting the Milner commission which the British Government sent to Egypt in December last to inquire into the whole question of Egyptian unrest and to draft, in collaboration with Egyptian leadership, ways and means for working out the British Government's declared purpose "to preserve the autonomy of Egypt under British protection, and to develop a system of self-government under Egyptian rule." That commission has now been at work for months, carrying out an exacting and sweeping schedule of conference, inquiry, and research. By the time this comment reaches the reader we may know with greater definiteness its authentic results, but at the moment the air is filled with stimulating rumor of which it is worth while to take notice.
The report was current during the month of August that a secret agreement had been arrived at between Viscount Milner and Zaghlul Pasha, the Egyptian Nationalist leader, respecting a constitution that provided something in the nature of dominion selfgovernment for Egypt. This report was
categorically denied. The rumor arose at the time of a temporary suspension of negotiations between Viscount Milner and the Egyptian Nationalists. The negotiations, it was said, were to be resumed later, and that no public statement would be made until these negotiations had reached nearer completion. It was said in the "authoritative quarters" from which the denial came that "conversations have revealed a very considerable measure of agreement on fundamental points, and will, it is hoped, accordingly facilitate an ultimate settlement of the Egyptian problem." By the time this reaches the reader, the informal "conversation" stage of the negotiations, doubtless, will have been resumed; later we may expect more formal negotiations between the representatives accredited by the British and Egyptian governments. Meanwhile, let us analyze the current rumor and attempt to relate it to the larger play of policy of which it may be a part.
The newspaper reports are conflicting in certain details. But, roughly stated, the report may be said to look toward some such arrangement as was effected between the United States and Cuba at the termination of the Spanish-American War. Here are certain points on which virtually all forms of the rumor are in agreement.
(1) Great Britain will recognize the independence of Egypt.
(2) Great Britain will undertake to guarantee the integrity of Egypt.
(3) Egypt will, in return, recognize Great Britain's privileged position in the Nile valley.
matic representation will probably be confined to those countries with which she has commercial interests, Great Britain acting for Egyptian interests in other countries.
(8) The "capitulations" will be abolished, and hereafter foreigners will be judged by Egyptian courts. Behind the word "capitulations" is a fascinating story of the evolution of the hybrid judicial system of Egypt, with its innumerable admixtures of foreign factors. This story will be well worth the telling in some later issue if the rumored reform of the Egyptian judiciary is undertaken; but in this instance it is enough to define "capitulations" roughly as the special privileges accorded subjects of certain foreign nations by which they escape the jurisdiction of purely Egyptian courts.
(9) There is to be a marked reduction in the number of British officials in Egypt, although many will remain in transitional capacities, and such as remain permanently will be directly responsible to the Egyptian chiefs of the departments in which they serve.
(10) The final and formal agreement will be negotiated between accredited representatives of both governments, and will be submitted to the British Parliament and the Egyptian National Assembly, and, if approved by these bodies, will be made the basis of a treaty of alliance between Great Britain and Egypt as an independent nation.
As stated in the beginning, all this is rumor and may be little more than the agenda of the conference between the members of the Milner commission and the Egyptian Nationalists. Extended comment is, therefore, out of place at this time. Certain things, however, may be ventured. Viscount Milner is no visionary. His mental processes and diplomatic policies have never been tainted by any Messianic delusion. He is essentially a realist in politics. If he supports such a plan, marking such a definite turn in Anglo-Egyptian relations, it is probably because he thinks a continuation of the present British protectorate an impossibility, short of a military dictatorship. It may be doubted that Milner regards the Egyptians as really ready for self-government. He has probably come to regard Great