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I never got used to the way the house Trots fell into the jargon back in Grimsby — I mean, on any other subject, like the death of the novel, or the sex life of the editor's secretary, they spoke ordinary English, but as soon as they started trying to get me to join the strike it was as if their brains had been taken out and replaced by one of those little golf-ball things you get in electric typewriters... "Betrayal"… "Confrontation"… "Management"… My God, you'd need a more supple language than that to describe an argument between two amoebas.
The paucity of its vocabulary and syntax is for the Beats essentially expressive of withdrawal from the standard civilization and its learning. On the other hand this paucity gives, instead of opportunities for thought and problem solving, considerable satisfaction in the act and energy of speaking itself, as is true of any simple adopted language, such as pig Latin. But this can have disadvantages. One learns to one's frustration that they regard talk as an end in itself, as a means of self-expression, without subject matter. In a Beat group it is bad form to assert or deny a proposition as true or false, probable or improbable, or to want to explore its meaning.
Correct me if I'm wrong here, but truth is something that arises out of the relationship between language and the world. If I look at a picture alone, it tells me nothing. In the previous incarnation of this lecture, I was going to put a picture of the Titanic and the Lusitania up on the screen. They look very, very similar - four smokestacks. They look almost identical. You look at either picture, true or false? Neither. Put a caption at the bottom of one of them, that changes everything. If you put in the caption, "This is the Lusitania," and the picture is a picture of the Lusitania, then the caption is true. However, the picture itself is neither true nor false. It's just a picture.
Among the agonies of these after days is that chief of torments — inarticulateness. What I learned and saw in those hours of impious exploration can never be told — for want of symbols or suggestions in any language. I say this because from first to last our discoveries partook only of the nature of sensations; sensations correlated with no impression which the nervous system of normal humanity is capable of receiving. They were sensations, yet within them lay unbelievable elements of time and space — things which at bottom possess no distinct and definite existence. Human utterance can best convey the general character of our experiences by calling them plungings or soarings...
The question Why do we use language? seems hardly to require an answer. But, as is often the way with linguistic questions, our everyday familiarity with speech and writing can make it difficult to appreciate the complexity of the skills, we have learned. This is particularly so when we try to define the range of functions to which language can be put.
Which natural gift would you most like to possess? The ability to master other languages (which would have hugely enhanced the scope of these answers). How would you like to die? Fully conscious, and either fighting or reciting (or fooling around). What do you most dislike about your appearance? The way in which it makes former admirers search for neutral words.
You can't write about people out of textbooks, and you can't use jargon. You have to speak clearly and simply and purely in a language that a six-year-old child can understand; and yet have the meanings and the overtones of language, and the implications, that appeal to the highest intelligence.