In “The Great Dictator”, Hynkel, the character played by Charles Chaplin, speaks Grammelot, a language composed of sounds, words and rumors prive of meaning that, however, others seem to understand.
In the novel “1984”, George Orwell referred to a “neo-language” used by the system of control in which all those words considered “dangerous” to the regime have been eliminated. The motto of the Party is: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.”
Actually, that meaningless language, that talking without saying anything, has spread among us at a dizzying speed, like a real epidemic. The italian philologist Igor Sibaldi called it “rumorese” (from rumore, italian for noise) and it means circumlocution or persiflage. And it is important to be able to detect it because – without realizing it and in a surreptitious way – it can end up restricting our thinking and, therefore, limiting our life decisions.
What is circumlocution?
Circumlocution is talking without saying anything, the “ability” to put one word after another, quickly, without worrying that the message be consistent, has meaning or value. A persiflage speech is composed of empty words or overly ambiguous terms that are often contradictory to each other.
Circumlocution is, therefore, the language of all those who want to excel, but have nothing important to contribute to the world. It is also the language of those who want to exercise control without resorting to reason or understanding. It is a language where sounds prevail and meaning is lost.
Living in the loquacity society
In times when it counts more quantity than quality, it should not surprise us that talking without saying anything has become the norm. As Thoreau said, “it seems that the important thing is to speak quickly and not with common sense.”
Who does not learn this language, but speaks in a sensible way, can be viewed with distrust by the others. His speech will be classified as too complicated and rare because it demands a capacity for attention and reflection that has been lost.
Thus, reasonable, logical and coherent discourses become incomprehensible to the majority, a majority that has been conveniently lobotomized thanks to a systematic education to loquacity.
In fact, in order to feel comfortable in certain social contexts and have “success,” many people are forced to learn to speak more and say less. Who doesn’t do it he feels lost, like a fish out of the water, as if he were the only sane in a mental institution, witnessing an absurd scene that unfolds with extraordinary normalcy. Who does not speak this language ends, therefore, feeling marginalized, excluded and rare.
Persiflage creates the absurdity that lobotomizes us
“We are ready to make the necessary modifications, from a justice by the side of the citizens, implementing reforms that do not modify the ongoing process …”
These words, taken from a national newspaper, may sound familiar to us since they are part of the political circumlocution, although it is true that there are many other variants of that “talking without saying anything” that extend to different areas of our lives.
In that example, although the reader may feel happy because the “necessary reforms” will be applied, in reality these “will not modify the ongoing process”, which means that everything will change so that nothing changes. To this is added that the fact that justice is by the side of the citizens is a contradiction since justice should not be by the side of anyone, but be impartial.
Persiflage, therefore, only serves to generate confusion and expectations that will never be satisfied, so it ends up creating frustration. The flagrant contradictions and the absurdity they generate causes a part of our brain to shut down, tired of searching for a non-existent logic. And it is precisely that kind of self-inflicted lobotomization that suits all those who use circumlocution to achieve their goals.
To this is added that, since circumlocution does not have a meaning in itself, it is usually more credible who has greater authority. If we do not understand two antagonistic discourses, we will have the tendency to give reason and believe to the institutionalized and canonized discourse. The power of the referent works its magic where there is no habit of free thinking.
And that means that reason and dialogue do not prevail, but power. As Thoreau warned, “man accepts not what is truly respectable but what is respected.”
Reflection as a weapon against empty words
Circumlocution is composed of a series of ideas designed to be believed, regardless of their truthfulness or rationality. Generally it is about speculations or misrepresentations that spread because they make a dent in our most atavistic emotions.
In fact, circumlocution spreads extremely effectively and is a perfect manipulation tool because we tend to adjust our worldview to the perception the others have. We think that so many minds cannot be wrong, ergo who’s wrong it’s me.
The best antidote to contain that empty talk is reason. We need to pass everything through the sieve of our thinking. No matter where the words come from or who said them, we have to dubt, question and, if necessary, refute them. It is in this act of deconstruction of what has been said that we find our truth and become free.