CIAlanguague


“There’s a lot of ways you can write the English language to make it sound like we’re moving ahead.” ---Richard Helms, CIA, 1962

The solecism “write the English language” (rather than, say, “write in English”) is fascinating, and not unlike how the Agency thought it could use its “agents” to rewrite history, to give agency to inventions. Here, they plot not just to write in a language to fulfill their design; their design is to rewrite English itself, to remake it until the substitute version is indistinguishable from what existed before the agents did their mission. And “we” all agree that’s what we must do. Who “we” are and what is so bad that we have to destroy it to move ahead---all this goes without saying. The invisible ink of spywriting is constantly on the move.

[1994]
On “Pure” Literary Languages

Item One:

demotiki (Greek), the popular language
katharevousa, the ‘purified’ literary language

“the crusade for katharevousa grew out of a distinctly 19th-century Greek nationalism, stimulated by the wish to blot out the influence of the Turkish centuries and fabricate a closer kinship with the glorious classical past.”

---Richard Jenkyns, from a review of Bernard Knox’s The Oldest Dead White European Males, NYTimes Book Review 4-25-93, p. 3.

Item Two:

Below is a stanza from the first great poem written in the U.S., even better than Bradstreet and Taylor and Wheatley (as good as they are). It contains an anomaly at the end, however, that is disputed by the authorities:

Or-

well

,

any

one

?

Yankee doodle came to town
riding on a pony
stuck a feather in his cap
and called it
macaronic

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