12 October 2014

War-talk in the 21st century

The Life & Arts section of the FT's weekend magazine contained an article that I found remarkable relevant to my narrow niche as a translator specialising in naval defence.

War-talk in the 21st century, by Sam Leith, is dated 10 October 2014. Sam is an FT columnist and the author of You Talkin’ to Me? Rhetoric from Aristotle to Obama. And boy does he know his rhetoric and his war-talk!

I was about to quote multiple passages when I realised that I had marked up nearly half of my copy as seriously quotable. If you're interested in the topic, I can only suggest that you read it and mark it up for yourself.

So here are just a few quotes to pique the curiosity of translators, terminologists, rhetoricians and the like:

  • the conventional public vocabulary of war
  • The passive voice and the absent subject give us casualties that “occur”; “tragedies” that “take place”; women and children who “have been killed”. These incidents are “regrettable”.
  • The rationale for avoiding “Islamic State” – “it’s not Islamic and it’s not a state” – has passed swiftly from witticism to cliché.
  • “martyrdom operations”
  • “Blue on blue” – US military slang for friendly fire 
  • Today the implied audience for any given speech can be assumed to be multiple
  • The wars we fight now are interventions, proxy engagements, counterinsurgencies, peacekeeping missions, police actions, asymmetric engagements and hybrid wars. You may sprinkle your sceptical inverted commas through that list according to taste.

I repeat: a fascinating read.

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