After se7en weeks of starting my blog on the Ides of March 2005, a newspaper in East Malaysia started using my articles I wrote for Sunday headed Desiderata.English. May 1st marked my debut at the Borneo Post, hence my affection for that date on top of another sentimental reason for a poet-aspirant. (Wordsmithry has Desi spelling in my profile as poet-aSspirant, can excuse me for some funD?)As a journalist, writing for newspapers is unlike my penning (pening kepala ke?) my blog posts; for the latter as a hobby for somehow I did/do/will be doing it "Desi-way". Translating the preceding, it's equivalent to singing ala Frank Sinatra's "My Way".
Yes, when you write for the masses -- readers of a newspaper, whether print or on;line -- you have to stick to answering the Five Ws + 1H-- Who, When, Where, Why, and .... and How. (Can't recall the fifth W, keep for late, can? Maybe a smart reader can help Desi out here?) NOTE: a regular reader who appreciates my "unique" scribing sms-ed me at nght that "The 5th W is What". Half-drunk on tehtarik and overlysugared cookies, Desi cheekily replied: I cunt r'ber; he had to call me later (+35sen or more, aMore...) to emphasis that the W I couldn't remember was WHAT! TerimaKASIH, matey...More on this in the next post, OK!:)
So blogging was indeed profitable in my first year as I wrote that Sunday column catering mainly to secondary students, read mainly by Sarawakians and Sabahans. I earned a princely sum of RM800 to RM1,000 p.m. just spending a full weekday, including lots of reading and research in the two dys preceding the deadline of a Friday noon.
So it's with great apprciation I sighted the following article in the Malaysian Insider written by a fellow newsdog which reminds us to keep news copies "Simple"!
Whatever happened to plain English? — Yow Hong Chieh
JAN 23 — I read an essay yesterday on someone’s recommendation which made no sense. The syntax was correct but there was little meaning to what had been written.
The sentences were convoluted and the language verbose; the intention unclear. I’m not the sharpest of tacks but if I can’t summarise a story in one sentence — as was the case with this article — then that usually means the writer has failed to communicate his or her thoughts clearly.
It reminded me of the project summaries produced by a graduate programme at a renowned architecture school in London which, when stripped of jargon, said very little, if anything.
If imitation is the best form of flattery, the students enrolled in this programme were world-class brown-nosers, slavishly reproducing the linguistic contortionism of Deleuze, Derrida and Foucault without entirely comprehending what they were doing.
One word was never enough. If what was to be said could be padded with pseudo-intellectual gobbledygook, then puffed up it would be with stolen lexicon from French philosophers.
Example: “Our research interest lies in the employing of non-linear systems to actively delineate the interface between hardspace and softspace. Hardspace is the implementation of an architectural materiality, providing infrastructure for the softspace, which is the realm of human interface.
“The nature of this interstitial condition was explored through the study of the interactions exhibited by multi-agent systems, their resulting organisational patterns and the implementation of agency through material actuation. In projecting a mixture of human behaviour within an agent-based system of interactions, our prototypical system aims to provide an architectural rethinking of the temporary and distributed event network.
“The contemporary megaevent scenario necessitates the employment of an adaptable system that negotiates between typological needs, temporary material deposition and the temporal but radically different ways that crowds occupy event spaces. Due to its systemic and prototypical nature, our agent-based system provides for design adaptability within large data sets, mapping infrastructure and interface for an event-based architecture.”
In other words: People can change the physical aspects of our building through interaction. Structures will be defined by use, not predetermined functions; this is well-suited for large-scale events like the Olympics.
I am reminded of George Orwell’s essay, “Politics in the English Language”, in which he lamented the spread of “ugly and inaccurate” writing, which he said was a means to disguise fuzzy thinking.
He was, of course, referring to how the political language of the time was geared towards hiding unpalatable truths from the public, but the point remains: Keep it simple, stupid.
Language is about illuminating meaning. It is about conveying force and clarity of ideas, not just the mere appearance of thought. Good ideas can be described plainly - and, in fact, are made better by such treatment - while weak ones need gussying up.
There’s enough nonsense and rhetoric out there clogging up our bandwidth. So let’s all of us please try to put our ideas across effectively and not give in to this disease of embellishment.
* Yow Hong Chieh is a journalist with The Malaysian Insider
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication. The Malaysian Insider does not endorse the view unless specified.
DESIDERATA: Thou art invited to catch Desi at the Buttelfry Varrey K ra la OK next to Temiang Corner, Furong and you find it worthwhile paying RM6 for one drink to appreciate this amateur poer-aSspirant sing the poetic Bee Gees' evergreen: