I read a piece by Richard Glover in the SMH a week or two ago deriding the language pedant. Glover opened with:
One day, during my show on ABC radio, I shall summon up my courage and say it: "The Nazi Party were right for killing all those communists, homosexuals and Jews." I know I will get complaints. People will be very, very upset. Some will be almost apoplectic with rage.
"I expected better of the ABC," they will say. "You fail to understand that the 'Nazi Party' is a collective noun and should thus be followed by the word 'was'. I await your apology by return post."
Glover's point being, of course, that the language police are more concerned with grammatical errors than content.
Good point well made, as my hero of late '90s sketch shows Shaun Micallef used to say.
Anyhoo, Glover's piece wound through some common errors the language police often seize upon, like 'PIN number,' 'ATM machine' and 'potato's', and I confess I've spent many a gleeful hour chortling over misspelt, mis-punctuated and mis-written menus ("Try our samosa's! You will love it!"), but I do think form is there to assist meaning, not to shine a torch up its own, uh-hm, colon.
But I've found this week that there are sentences that, although they appear to have form and content, are completely devoid of meaning, like this little gem below. Could I trouble you to read it with me?
In his conclusion to [Blah Blah Blah], Mr Blah Blah describes the "decentering" of modern consciousness as the standpoint of the ironic, antimetaphorical mode. Against this "lack of central plenitude," melodrama "represents a refusal of this vertiginous but possibly liberating decentering, a search for a new plenitude, an ethical recentering".
Does anyone know what that means? My best guess is: "I ate my sandwich too fast and sometimes I like to wear yellow undies". I think the bit about ethical recentering at the end might be about the RSPCA but I can't be sure.
So my question is, what do you do with sentences where meaning and good sense are wholly absent? Is it best to just open the gate and let them wander onto the road?