Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Writing and "Low-Rise Indigenous Vegetative Material"

Writing in City Journal, John Leo takes on the problem of convoluted language:

But the institution that wins the coveted convoluted-language award is the government—any government, in any country. A U.S. document speaks of “ground-mounted confirmatory route markers.” Translation: road signs. In Oxford, England, city officials decided to “examine the feasibility of creating a structure in Hinksey Park from indigenous vegetation.” They were talking about planting a tree to get some shade. Joyce Kilmer’s famously awful non-poem reads: “Poems are made by fools like me/But only God can make a tree.” Today, Kilmer might have to write: “Versified and rhythmic non-prose verbal arrangements are fashioned by people of alternative intelligence such as myself, but only the divine entity, should he or she actually exist, can create a solar-shielding park structure from low-rise indigenous vegetative material.”

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