Poetics and the Curse of Irony

Hayden White, Metahistory (1973)
Douglas Robinson, The Translator's Turn (1992)

(in http://vunex.blogspot.com/2006/12/poetics-and-curse-of-irony.html)
by Conrad H. Roth

The similarity between these two books is not immediately evident—the one a critique of nineteenth-century historiography, the other a translator's manifesto. Both, however, have their roots in the tradition of American literary criticism represented by Kenneth Burke and Northrop Frye—brilliant outsiders who have remained hugely influential without becoming part of the mainstream, a position analogous to that of, say, de Chirico in modern art. White and Robinson, like Burke and Frye, aspire to philosophical system: they create grand structures into which they fit their analyses. And like Burke and Frye, White and Robinson see language—tropes, plots, speech-acts—as the basis of their systems. They are therefore sceptical about language, interrogating it, suspicious of its tactics and subtleties. They are, in another word, ironists, which is to say they are members of that vast crowd of postmoderns avant la lettre.

In The Rhetoric of Religion (1961), Burke describes religion as the arbitrary canonization of a single principle, a rhetoric confused for a metaphysics. For Burke, religion is ultimately poetic, and so just as a poem can have a guiding metaphor, so can a faith; he calls this guiding metaphor a 'master-trope' or 'god-term'. Frye, in his late and lesser-known The Critical Path (1968), compares Marxism and Christianity as examples of 'myths of concerns', patterns of rhetorical language designed only to convince:

The real enemies of such movements are not those who oppose but those who are indifferent: the opposite of faith is not doubt, but the inability to see what all the fuss is about.

Both Burke and Frye deny to religion what they deny to literature—that which structuralists call 'positive truth', the notion that a claim has any validity beyond the confines of its own contextual system. There is only a circular 'relative truth', created by sophisticated structures of linguistic tropes. These tropes go back to Aristotle—metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, irony. They are, in essence, ideals of the relations possibly existing between two objects: metaphor is the relation by similarity, metonymy the relation by contiguity, synecdoche the relation of part to whole, and irony the relation by inversion. (Individuals will quibble about the exact definitions.) And by this extreme analysis, complex ideologies and patterns of thought are reduced to their conceptual atoms. Without objective validity (as real atoms have), these units form not a science but what both Burke and Frye, following Aristotle again, call a poetics, a structure of contingent associations, a vocabulary of parts and aesthetic networks.


Burke and Frye, then, turned religion and literary criticism into poetics; in the same manner, White turns historiography into a poetics—'I have attempted to establish the ineluctably poetic nature of the historical work'—and Robinson does the same for translation studies. White will use the four poetic tropes to classify modes of writing history, and Robinson will use them to classify methods of translating.

The debts are explicit—White makes copious reference to Frye, and Robinson to Burke. In his masterpiece, Anatomy of Criticism (1957), Frye recycled and developed Aristotle's fourfold classification of drama as epic (romance), tragedy, comedy and satire, and found these archetypes in the entire run of Western literature, from Homer to Joyce. White, likewise, recycles Frye's expanded categories to classify historiographical writing of the 19th century—Michelet writes romance, Ranke writes comedy, Tocqueville tragedy, and Burckhardt satire. These words have become loosed from their conventional meanings, but not completely—satire, for instance, is revealed not as the moralistic surrision of Pope and Swift, but as the monstrous absurdity of Jarry and Beckett, and is shown to deny all comprehension of man's struggle among his own and with the natural world. Burckhardt, with his aestheticism and his distrust of objective historical accuracy, becomes a sort of gloomy fantasist, painting the Quattrocento as he would have dreamt it, as a moment of perfect light and liberty, between the ecclesiastical repression of the Middle Ages and the political conformism of modern times. Satire, in its turn, corresponds to the trope of Irony, which subverts the connection between a word and its referent.

There's a lot more to White's system—he adds more fourfolds, such as (radical, anarchist, liberal, conservative) and (mechanist, organicist, contextualist, formist)—and much of it is convincing. At times, however, the patterning wears a little thin. Frankly, it is difficult for me to keep in mind the image of Burckhardt as a nihilist jester, abandoning the narrative plots of Michelet and Ranke for an impressionist pointillisme of his subject. The abstract here comes too forcefully before the particular.

But irony is what interests White the most. It would not be too great an exaggeration to say that he perceives irony to be his bugbear, his nemesis. Such a perception is the hallmark of the postmodern condition. White diagnoses twentieth-century historiography as a largely unsuccessful attempt to escape the grip of irony—a mood which distrusts the grand narratives of historicism, preferring the simple and mythical, the direct and fragmentary—and which leads to a stifling scepticism towards intellectual endeavour. Yet White fully admits the irony of his own work:

It may not go unnoticed that this book is itself cast in an Ironic mode. But the Irony which informs it is a conscious one, and it therefore represents a turning of the Ironic consciousness against Irony itself.

Unfortunately, Irony is a stronger foe than White credits, and indeed a stronger combatant than White himself. Umberto Eco, in a rare moment of lucidity, put the postmodern condition, the condition of irony, like this:

A man who loves a very sophisticated woman knows that he cannot say to her, "I love you madly," because he knows that she knows (and that she knows that he knows) that these words have already been written by Barbara Cartland. Still, there is a solution. He can say this, "As Barbara Cartland would put it, 'I love you madly'." At this point, having avoided false innocence, having said clearly that it is no longer possible to speak innocently, he will nevertheless have said what he wanted to say to the woman: that he loves her, but he loves her in an age of lost innocence.

I find something unpalatably, uproariously true in these words. And so they come irrefragably to mind when I discover White caught—unintentionally—in the same state, writing about two key metaphors in the work of Benedetto Croce:

I shall forgo the temptation to interpret them in a Freudian manner as phallus and womb, not because Croce condemned every effort at psychoanalytical historiography, calling it "valet's history" and deriding its practitioners as pseudo scholars seeking a cheap interpretation without the work required by true historical comprehension; but because, in accordance with this prejudice, Croce refused to reveal enough about his private life to permit muster of the kind of detailed evidence that alone can render a psychoanalytical interpretation convincing.

In 'forgoing' this temptation, of course, White has succumbed to it—he has no need of spelling out the Freudian interpretation, only of suggesting it. The ironic condition manifests itself as insecurity, the need to defend oneself against all possible charges of omission. This process reached its nadir in Sorrentino's fascinatingly awful novel Mulligan Stew (1979), which opens with a series of arch replies to editorial rejection letters, in this case richly deserved. In academic terms, the condition was strongly developed by writers like Frye and Burke, who removed the objective foundations of criticism, and who wrote in a polemic and defensive mode to compensate. I try to conquer this insecurity in my own writing, but not with complete success, as this very sentence attests. And so the great and terrible monster Irony consumes me, just as it consumes White—Irony cannot be turned against Irony, as the only thing that can defeat Irony is ignorance, which is impossible to achieve except by senility, lobotomy, or a nasty fall. Once you eat from the tree of knowledge, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And you shall know that you are naked, and hide yourself. There will be no going back.


Hayden White's Metahistory is designed to prove that what we consider good historiography is only one possibility of several, all equally valid. Douglas Robinson's The Translator's Turn is designed to prove that what we consider a good methodology of translation is only one possibility of several, all equally valid. His particular aim is to debunk the hegemony of 'sense-for-sense' translation, something for which I've always felt some distaste. As a reader who likes surfaces, I find sense-for-sense translation over-conservative and stifling. Robinson clearly feels some kinship not only with Burke and Frye (both of whom critique the valuation of content over style) but also with Barthes and Derrida, whose pompous projects are really no more than attempts to recover the value of the signifier over the signified, style over content, or in Derrida's terms, writing over speech. It is the latter allegiance which causes Robinson to reproduce in a later book some terrible Sokalian piffle, Derrida on 'iterability':

Because the possibility of reuse (and thus what may in some new use need to be defined as a misuse) is present in every "original" or "ordinary" context, a wedding in which the minister says "I now pronounce you husband and wife" is never simply "one" context which, subtracted in a philosophical discussion, would yield the "null context." It is always a fraction between one and zero, a fractal between binary poles, a fractured context or contextuality.

This is Robinson, lacking (like Derrida) any real command of language, at his worst. But there is fruit to be salvaged from his project. In the earlier book, he posits a series of methodologies under the rubrics of rhetorical tropes (just as White had done for historiography), which Robinson calls (following Burke) 'master tropes'. Since irony has been a theme of this post, let's look at what Robinson thinks an ironic translation is:

The ironic translator wants to succeed this way too [ie. to overcome the impossibility of translating perfectly], but not by seeking equivalence—rather, by denying its possibility.

There are a number of ironic translation stances. One says, "The SL [source language] text is too brilliant, I can't translate this, I'm not a good enough translator, maybe nobody is." A second says, "This isn't the original, this is just a translation, don't start thinking you're reading the real thing, here." A third says, "Look how bad the SL text was, I'm just rendering it faithfully, don't kill the messenger."

Here we see the same anxiety, and the same attempt to forestall criticism, as we encountered above with White, Sorrentino, and myself. Robinson mounts a stirring polemic defence of the translator's art: he is desperate to show that the translator is not inferior to the original writer, and that he should not show obeisance or humility towards the text with which he is working. In other words, Robinson advocates an ironic attitude for the translator—and his various other tropes amount to the same consciousness via a different route. It explains Robinson's more outlandish propositions, for instance, that the translator should make shit up, especially when rendering functional reports:

The meteorological translator [ie. of weather reports] who feels bored can begin to vary his or her translations, experiment with variety, staying at first within the bounds of acceptability—referring to groundhogs or bunions, livening up his or her discourse with sportswriter-type verbal creativity—then carefully pushing past those bounds, testing the water. This means risking his or her job, of course; but then, surrendering to the boredom means risking his or her sanity, and one has to set one's priorities in this sort of thing. . . it is arguably better to quit after six months of subversive delight than after six months of mind- and body-numbing boredom.

Who can fail to admire this sort of brio? Naturally, Robinson's anti-authoritarian (though irritatingly PC, as evidenced by the relentless 'or hers') aesthetic leads him to delight in Zukofsky's Catullus, an example of the 'homophonic translation' covered at Languagehat here. There's an amusing passage where he gives a literal paraphrase of 'Minister wet to lee, pour the Falernian', etc. The result is total nonsense, of course. Robinson attempts an innovative translation of Jorge Guillén's poem 'Desnudo', admitting, with a modesty false but nonetheless warranted, that 'I am no poet'. The irony is that someone full of ideas, and with a keen insight into the wretched clichés and prejudices of translation studies, should turn out to be completely incompetent at translating. Robinson is gorged on the theories of others—Burke, Derrida, Thomas Kuhn, later Grice and Austin, even the cutting-edge neuroscience that would beget Damasio's Descartes' Error in 1995—and yet he dismisses theory, or rather advocates theory as a way of transcending theory, in favour of practice. But in practice, Robinson has no feel for the English language. With Robinson, as with White, we see the triumph of the abstract over the particular, theory over practice. Their formal systems are full of valuable observations, and yet amount, for all their sophistication, to symptoms of the same ironic condition that afflicts us all.

(From: http://vunex.blogspot.com/2006/12/poetics-and-curse-of-irony.html)

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Politics and the English Language

Mais do que nunca este texto de Orwell se revela atualíssimo, principalmente no tocante ao português do Brasil. Durante a leitura, troquem a língua inglesa pela portuguesa para ver como quase tudo corresponde ao português atualmente aqui falado e escrito. Dura e dolorosa constatação.

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad -- I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen -- but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that i can refer back to them when necessary:

    1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.

      Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

    2. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder .

      Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa)

    3. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. But on the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

      Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)

    4. All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.

      Communist pamphlet

    5. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!

      Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning withouth those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the -ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.

Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus ex machina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers.* The jargon peculiar to

*An interesting illustration of this is the way in which English flower names were in use till very recently are being ousted by Greek ones, Snapdragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning away from the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific.

Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.† Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in

† Example: Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . .Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull's-eyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly)

the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations -- race, battle, bread -- dissolve into the vague phrases "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing -- no one capable of using phrases like "objective considerations of contemporary phenomena" -- would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry -- when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech -- it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash -- as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot -- it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip -- alien for akin -- making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning -- they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another -- but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. The will construct your sentences for you -- even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism., question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: "[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe." You see, he "feels impelled" to write -- feels, presumably, that he has something new to say -- and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un- formation out of existence*, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases

*One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.

and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.

To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a "standard English" which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a "good prose style." On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When yo think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose -- not simply accept -- the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to mak on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.

(in http://www.george-orwell.org/)

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A Anomia

Há anos percebo e comento essa coisa (é melhor dizer que baixo o sarrafo nela), mas nunca tinha "ligado o nome à pessoa", isto é, ainda não tinha pensado em dar nome ao fenômeno que acontece no mundo inteiro e invadiu a lingüística, mas, obviamente, está bem mais perceptível no Brasil para nós, brasileiros. É claro que tudo o que acontece no mundo passa antes pela linguagem, mas os estudiosos da lingüística são sempre os últimos a perceber - se é que chegam a perceber - o que se passa. Talvez caiba aqui aplicar aos lingüistas o neologismo onfalolatria. Língua e política são assuntos interligadíssimos, mas os lingüistas brasileiros, por exemplo, preferem enterrar a cabeça de avestruz no próprio umbigo e partir para a briga com quem quer que cometa o pecado mortal de tocar em política dentro do templo sagradíssimo da lingüística e de sua deusa, a Accademia.

Ivone Benedetti (uma das mais importantes tradutoras do Brasil), brilhante como sempre, fez o diagnóstico certeiro:

A Anomia
Ivone Bededetti

Primeiro uma definição.

Segundo os sociólogos: A anomia é uma situação social na qual faltam coesão e ordem, especialmente no tocante a normas e valores. As suas características são: formulação ambígua ou aplicação arbitrária ou casual de normas; falta de definição das normas vigentes por motivo de guerra ou calamidade social; isolamento e autonomia do indivíduo a tal ponto que as pessoas se identificam muito mais com seus próprios interesses do que com os do grupo ou da comunidade como um todo.

Há algum tempo os sociólogos vêm dizendo que a partir da década de 70 a sociedade ocidental entrou numa fase que tem visíveis características anômicas. E olha que quem está dizendo isso é um povo que nunca esteve no Brasil!

Enfim, estou escrevendo essas coisas a fim de chamar a atenção para o fato de que a anomia atinge todos os aspectos da vida social, inclusive o lingüístico. Mas é pena que os lingüistas se limitem a constatar aquilo que a minha avó já sabia (antes da anomia) e não dêem a mínima para as possíveis interpretações dos fenômenos óbvios que descrevem muitas vezes em estilo acaciano. Também interessante é notar que os anômicos (os que já nasceram na sociedade anômica) tendem a tomar a anomia por norma, donde surge outra norma (que é cruzamento da norma antiga com a anomia, mais alguma coisa), mas esse é um processo longo, e é preciso usar certas lentes para enxergá-lo.

Mais informações sobre anomia:

Verbete do Dicionário Político de Maurício Assumpção Moya:


O vocábulo grego que dá origem ao termo anomia significa "sem normas", o que permite entendê-la como uma situação de desregramento social, onde a ação dos indivíduos não mais é pautada por normas claras e compartilhadas. O conceito de anomia é usado por diversos autores da Sociologia, nem sempre com as mesmas aplicações. Esta variação se deve ao fato de que ela não se trata de um fenômeno regular nem organizado, caracterizado por algo que ele não tem (regras), o que dificulta o estabelecimento de elementos coerentes para análise. Durkheim foi o primeiro a tentar precisar este conceito, que apresentou como a ruptura de laços de solidariedade entre os indivíduos, podendo ser causado por inúmeros fatores. O principal deles é a individualização: o indivíduo não mais orienta seus atos através de valores comuns, mas segundo as próprias intenções. A definição durkheimiana aproxima-se em sua aplicação à idéia de alienação marxista: guardando algumas diferenças contextuais, ambas descrevem um quadro de desregulamentação da conduta individual, de caos social provocado na grande maioria dos casos por defeitos no processo de socialização. De acordo com estas proposições, quanto maior a anomia menor a integração entre os indivíduos. Um exemplo de anomia é o uso de drogas ilegais por membros da sociedade. Por algum motivo pessoal, eles aceitam sustentar uma atividade criminosa para satisfazer ao seu interesse exclusivo, muitas vezes pondo em risco a sua vida e o bem-estar de pessoas próximas. É uma situação onde o indivíduo perde o quadro de referências e de valores comuns. Outro exemplo de situação anômica é a utilização consciente de meios ilícitos para se conseguir um resultado almejado. Neste caso trata-se de uma opção por formas de agir condenadas pela sociedade, possivelmente causada pela impossibilidade de sucesso por outros meios. Cabem aqui os grupos terroristas, as organizações mafiosas, que se aproveitam de espaços sem autoridade para agirem segundo seus princípios distorcidos. De acordo com esta definição, há anomia onde as instituições sociais não conseguem fazer valer sua força, seja por encontrar outras práticas mais fortes ou por incompatibilidade com o meio. A idéia de anomia pode portanto, em alguns casos, encerrar um conteúdo preciso. Mas esta possibilidade diminui conforme tentamos aplicá-la a sistemas sociais mais complexos. Quando referida a uma organização menor, a anomia pode ser definida de maneira clara, uma vez que toda organização é sempre definida em relação a objetivos. O grau de anomia dessa organização será determinado conforme a capacidade de seus membros em atingir os objetivos propostos: quanto menor essa capacidade, maior a anomia. Mas o mesmo não acontece quando passamos do nível das organizações para o nível das sociedades. As sociedades não são definidas em relação a objetivos. Por isso é muito mais difícil neste caso estabelecer uma conceituação de anomia mais exata que a simples "ausência de regras"

Outros sítios interessantes:

Anomia - una parola che spiega il presente?http://www.girodivite.it/Anomia-una-parola-che-spiega-il.html

Crime and Deviance:

Extracts from Emile Durkhein: http://www.mdx.ac.uk/WWW/STUDY/xdur.htm

A Sociologia de Émile Durkheim: http://www.culturabrasil.org/durkheim.htm

A sociologia de Durkheim (
artigo interessante, porém acrescento uma ressalva: a redação da autora é um genuíno exemplo de anomia lingüística - ela atropela o vernáculo sem dó nem piedade): http://www.duplipensar.net/lit/francesa/2004-02-durkheim.html

A anomia também denomina um dos tipos de afasia. É um fenômeno digno de nota porque, somando-se a anomia social à anomia lingüística, temos um mal muito semelhante à anomia médica.

Voltarei a este assunto.

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Octavio Paz
Tradução de Haroldo de Campos

Girar em torno delas,
virá-las pela cauda (guinchem, putas),
dar-lhes açucar na boca, às renitentes,
inflá-las, globos, furá-las,
chupar-lhes sangue e medula,
cobri-las, galo, galante,
torcer-lhes o gasnete, cozinheiro,
depená-las, touro,
bois, arrastá-las,
fazer, poeta,
fazer com que engulam todas as suas palavras.

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Anglicismo Semântico du Jour - 8-4-2007 - Incorporate

O verbo incorporate tem um monte de significados em inglês:

in•cor•po•rate ( ĭn-kôr'pə-rāt') pronunciation
v., -rat•ed, -rat•ing, -rates . v.tr.

  1. To unite (one thing) with something else already in existence: incorporated the letter into her diary.
  2. To admit as a member to a corporation or similar organization.
  3. To cause to merge or combine together into a united whole.
  4. To cause to form into a legal corporation: incorporate a business.
  5. To give substance or material form to; embody.
  6. Linguistics. To cause (a word, for example) to undergo noun incorporation.


  1. To become united or combined into an organized body.
  2. To become or form a legal corporation: San Antonio incorporated as a city in 1837.
  3. Linguistics. To be formed by or allow formation by noun incorporation.

adj. ( -pər-ĭt)

  1. Combined into one united body; merged.
  2. Formed into a legal corporation.

[Middle English incorporaten, from Late Latin incorporāre, incorporāt-, to form into a body : Latin in-, causative pref.; see in–2 + Latin corpus, corpor-, body; see corpus.]

incorporable in•cor'po•ra•ble ( -pər-ə-bəl) adj.
incorporation in•cor'po•ra'tion n.
incorporative in•cor'po•ra 'tive adj.
incorporator in•cor'po•ra'tor n

No dicionário ing>port da Porto Editora:

v. tr. e intr.
incorporar, reunir num só corpo;
admitir em corporação;
erigir em sociedade comercial;

constituir ou constituir-se em pessoa jurídica;

the bank incorporated with another:
o banco fundiu-se com outro.

Nos dicionários inglês> francês, espanhol, italiano e também nessa pobreza de ing>port do Answers.com:

Français (French)
v. tr. - incorporer, comporter, (Comm, Jur) constituer en société commerciale
v. intr. - (Comm, Jur) se constituer en société commerciale
adj. - constitué en société commerciale

Italiano (Italian)
comprendere, incorporare

Português (Portuguese)
v. - incorporar
adj. - incorporado

Español (Spanish)
v. tr. - incorporar, incluir, comprender, agregar, anexar, dar cuerpo o forma material, combinar
v. intr. - incorporarse, unirse, mezclarse
adj. - incorporado, unido íntimamente, incorpóreo

E isso para não falar que "incorporar" tem um sentido a mais em português:

"6. Espir. Receber (uma entidade [6]) no seu corpo, mediante transe mediúnico."

Agora vai a pergunta: por que até os melhores tradutores têm essa preguiça louca de só usar "incorporar" como tradução de "incorporate"? Abrem esses dicionários paupérrimos de inglês>português, vêem uma só palavra (incorporar) e, mesmo tendo à mão um recurso riquíssimo como o Answers.com, que conta com dicionários de inglês>um montão de línguas, todos preparados com muito mais esmero do que o ing>port, não consultam nem um dic. da língua inglesa para conhecer todas as acepções, não consultam um dic. de português, não lhes passa pela cabeça que, em muitas situações, vai parecer que tem alguém baixando santo no texto que traduziram.

Quando vejo uma frase como "Fulano incorporou ambos os personagens", fico pensando em farofa, charuto e baiana rodando ao som de atabaques.


Os Trapalhões - O Patrão Mandou.

Música antiga que continua atualíssima. O Brasil continua sem vergonha, se curvando às vontades e aos caprichos do Tio Sam.

Clip do programa Os Trapalhões. O patrão mandou - 1986

Legendas Canhestras

Algumas legendas ridículas da minissérie 10.5 Apocalypse.

Caso não entenda onde está o erro ou a impropriedade, pergunte à vontade.
Prometo que respondo.

Língua Portuguesa

Língua Portuguesa

Olavo Bilac

Última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela,
És, a um tempo, esplendor e sepultura:
Ouro nativo, que na ganga impura
A bruta mina entre os cascalhos vela...

Amo-te assim, desconhecida e obscura,
Tuba de alto clangor, lira singela,
Que tens o trom e o silvo da procela
E o arrolo da saudade e da ternura!

Amo o teu viço agreste e o teu aroma
De virgens selvas e de oceano largo!
Amo-te, ó rude e doloroso idioma,

Em que da voz materna ouvi: "meu filho!"
E em que Camões chorou, no exílio amargo,
O gênio sem ventura e o amor sem brilho!


Caetano Veloso

Gosto de sentir a minha língua roçar
A língua de Luís de Camões
Gosto de ser e de estar
E quero me dedicar
A criar confusões de prosódia
E uma profusão de paródias
Que encurtem dores
E furtem cores como camaleões
Gosto do Pessoa na pessoa
Da rosa no Rosa
E sei que a poesia está para a prosa
Assim como o amor está para a amizade
E quem há de negar que esta lhe é superior
E quem há de negar que esta lhe é superior
E deixa os portugais morrerem à míngua
Minha pátria é minha língua
Fala Mangueira
Flor do Lácio Sambódromo
Lusamérica latim em pó
que quer

O que pode
Esta língua
Vamos atentar para a sintaxe paulista
E o falso inglês relax dos surfistas
Sejamos imperialistas
Sejamos imperialistas
Vamos na velô da dicção choo de Carmem Miranda
E que o Chico Buarque de Hollanda resgate
E Xeque-mate, explique-nos Luanda
Ouçamos com atenção os deles e os delas da TV Globo
Sejamos o lobo do lobo do homem
Sejamos o lobo do lobo do homem
Adoro nomes
Nomes em Ã
De coisa como rã e ímã...
Nomes de nomes como Scarlet Moon Chevalier
Glauco Mattoso e Arrigo Barnabé,
Maria da Fé
Arrigo Barnabé
É melhor fazer uma canção
Está provado que só é possível filosofar em alemão
você tem uma idéia incrível

É melhor fazer uma canção
Está provado que só é possível
Filosofar em alemão
quer dizer corisco

Hollywood quer dizer Azevedo
E o recôncavo, e o recôncavo, e o recôncavo
Meu medo!
A língua é minha Pátria
E eu não tenho Pátria: tenho mátria
Eu quero frátria
Poesia concreta e prosa caótica
Ótica futura
Samba-rap, chic-left com banana
Será que ele está no Pão de Açúcar
Tá craude brô, você e tu lhe amo
Qué que'u faço, nego?
Bote ligeiro
Nós canto falamos como quem inveja negros
Que sofrem horrores no Gueto do Harlem
Livros, discos, vídeos à mancheia
E deixa que digam, que pensem, que falem.

Minha pátria é a língua portuguesa

Não tenho sentimento nenhum político ou social. Tenho, porém, num sentido, um alto sentimento patriótico. Minha pátria é a língua portuguesa. Nada me pesaria que invadissem ou tomassem Portugal, desde que não me incomodassem pessoalmente. Mas odeio, com ódio verdadeiro, com o único ódio que sinto, não quem escreve mal português, não quem não sabe sintaxe, não quem escreve em ortografia simplificada, mas a página mal escrita, como pessoa própria, a sintaxe errada, como gente em que se bata, a ortografia sem ípsilon, como o escarro directo que me enoja independentemente de quem o cuspisse.

Sim, porque a ortografia também é gente. A palavra é completa vista e ouvida. E a gala da transliteração greco-romana vestema do seu vero manto régio, pelo qual é senhora e rainha.»

Fernando Pessoa,
in Livro do Desassossego de Bernardo Soares,

vol 1, pag.141, Europa América

Esta era uma das páginas do meu falecido sítio Translation Point. Esteve no ar até 2004, quando o servidor que a hospedava resolveu cobrar caro e eu também resolvi que não queria pagar tanto. Se não me der preguiça, trarei para cá, aos poucos, algumas coisas que tinha publicado lá.

Se alguém quiser conhecer a segunda versão do Translation Point (a primeira foi pro brejo e eu não guardei cópias), ela está guardadinha no arquivo da Internet: http://web.archive.org/web/19991004144455/http://translationpoint.com/


E os putos dos pronomes átonos?

Mais um texto publicado em 98 no antigo Translationpoint.

E os putos dos pronomes átonos?

A cada dia que passa fico mais arrepiada ao ler os jornais, as revistas e, principalmente, as mensagens das listas de tradutores que há na Internet. É uma triste constatação: praticamente ninguém conhece as regras de colocações de pronomes átonos. Onde usá-los? Antes ou depois do verbo? Há quem jamais tenha ouvido falar em próclise e ênclise. Sim, são palavrões, mas quem nunca ouviu falar nessas duas donzelas com certeza não sabe usá-las. Será que vale a pena ver de novo (ou ver pela primeira vez, para aqueles que nunca viram e acham que não existem regras para escrever)?

Já falei diversas vezes a respeito do nosso maior problema: as certezas. Não são as dúvidas que nos induzem ao erro, mas as certezas. Quantas certezas equivocadas carregamos conosco! Sim, claro, errar é humano, mas, como diz a sabedoria popular, insistir no erro é burrice! Sei que os milhões de pessoas que estão usando os pronomes átonos em locais errados estão agindo assim por pura ignorância. E a pior das ignorâncias é aquela que se julga sábia.

Se eu erro? Ora bolas! Isso é pergunta que se faça? É claro que erro! Atire a primeira pedra quem nunca errou! Mas tenho a sorte de ter amigos que apontam meus erros. Já que sou abençoada por ter amigos tão excelentes, resolvi compartilhar com todas as outras pessoas que vierem a ler esta página um pouquinho do que aprendi com meus próprios erros. Não consigo acreditar que, depois de saber como é que se usa o pronome átono, vocês todos, meus leitores, tenham coragem de continuar a cometer os mesmos erros.

Voltarei em breve ao assunto das certezas.

Vejamos o que diz o Rocha Lima:

É obrigatória a próclise:

a) nas orações negativas (não, nem, nunca, ninguém, nenhum, nada, jamais, etc.), desde que não haja pausa entre o verbo e as palavras de negação:
Não me recuses este favor.
Ninguém nos convencerá da tua culpa.
Nunca se viu tal arrogância...
Nada o demoveu do seu propósito.
Não faz a felicidade dos outros, nem se sente feliz ele mesmo.

b) nas orações exclamativas, começadas por palavras exclamativas, bem como nas orações optativas:
Quanto sangue se derramou inutilmente!
Deus o abençoe, meu filho!

c) nas orações interrogativas, começadas por palavras interrogativas:
Por que te afliges tanto?
Quem o obrigou a sair?

d) nas orações subordinadas:
[Quando o recebo em minha casa,] fico feliz.
É clara e arejada a casa [para onde nos mudamos.]
Espero [(que] me atendas sem demora.]

e) com advérbios e pronomes indefinidos, sem pausa:
Aqui se aprende / a defender / a Pátria.
Bem me avisaram / que ele era / um impulsivo.
Tudo se fez / como você / recomendou.

Havendo pausa, impõe-se a ênclise:
Aqui, / não há preconceitos filosóficos; aqui / não há distinções religiosas; aqui, não há desigualdades raciais; aqui, / estuda-se / e trabalha-se com amor.
Bem, / luta-se ou não se luta?

[in Gramática Normativa da Língua Portuguesa, Rocha Lima, 29ª edição. Rio de Janeiro, Livraria José Olympio Editora S.A, 1988]

Vejam trechinhos de textos que tenho encontrado cotidianamente com o emprego errado dos pronomes átonos:

o que me faz pensar que deve-se... (lista trad-prt)
saber que pode-se contar com amigos... (lista tra-prt)
A afirmativa de que pode-se curar as doenças (extraída da romipeige de um médico)
esclarece que deve-se prescrever somente um medicamento homeopático de cada vez (do mesmo médico)
Eu acho que deve-se acabar com o desmatamento (extraída da romipeige -- pasmem! -- de uma ESCOLA!
lsto significa que deve-se continuar trabalhando (extraída da romipeige do ex-presidente Collor de Mello)
Corresponde à proa+MR, sendo que deve-se deduzir 360 graus caso a soma ultrapasse esse valor (extraída de um GLOSSÁRIO!)
mas todos concordaram que deve-se regulamentar a profissão (palavras da diretoria do ENECOMP)

Os exemplos acima são apenas uma fração minúscula dos resultados de uma pesquisa só com a partícula que. Vou poupá-los dos resultados das pesquisas realizadas com as partículas negativas etc.

Toda vez que leio ou ouço uma colocação desajeitada como as dos exemplos acima, meus ouvidos fazem tuimmmmmmmmmmm!
Será que não há mais ninguém neste país que sinta dor de ouvido ao ouvir essas aberrações?

(Jussara Simões – 11-8-1998)