Category Archives: demotic speech

No wonder Dr Johnson is not in fashion

Engraving from James Barry’s portrait (1778-80)

An incomparably greater psychologist than Freud, having no axe to grind and no sect to found

Samuel Johnson, writes Dalrymple,

  • contrived to be a moralist without moralising
  • was humane and charitable without sentimentality

This is a contrast to today, Dalrymple points out, for

we prefer mental contortions, self-justifications, evasions, rationalisations, and all the other methods of avoiding the truth about ourselves, to Dr Johnson’s discomfiting clarity of mind.

Johnson had a gift, Dalrymple notes, for saying things that were

both startling and obvious. As he himself put it, we have more often to be reminded than informed.

Johnson’s prose style

would no doubt strike many people (if they read it) as formal—we prefer expletives and the demotic now.

Cameron’s repellent utterances

Complacency and ruthlessness masked by sentimentality

Utter complacency and ruthlessness, the reverse side of the coin of sentimentality

Dalrymple points out that the language used by David Cameron, the British prime minister, is

deeply repellent.

It is

a mixture of undignified and condescending demotic and mid-Atlantic psychobabble. Just as Mr Blair was never Anthony, so for Mr Cameron dads are there for you (the kids), so that there comes a time when you (the kids) turn to them (the dads) and a light bulb suddenly flicks on inside your head. Psychobabble, the language of Rousseau’s Confessions without the confessions, does not come much shallower than this.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 08.28.35The choice of language is

a transparent attempt by Mr Cameron to persuade the public that he is just a normal chap – or as he would no doubt put it, guy – who happens to have found his way into 10 Downing Street, in more or less the same way I sometimes go down to the Castle Tea Rooms for my lunch.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 08.55.25Worse still is the sentimentality of what Cameron has to say, closely allied as it is, to

utter complacency and ruthlessness, both express and implied.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 08.27.28