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NEW-SPEAK: Some words are gaining favour as others lose their flavour, all dictated by trends, crises, history and, yes, politics
BAD quotes contain therapeutic qualities. A means to drown your sorrows is to get to know Kevin Keegan. He was a refined, industrious footballer for Scunthorpe, Liverpool, Hamburg, Newcastle, Southampton and England. As a gaffer, he was defined, it seems, by naive tactics and clearly by stupendous gaffes.
"We deserved to win this game after hammering them 0-0 in the first half," he had supposedly said.
Words, deeply emotive or flippant; seasonal or historical; tactical or reckless; gems or dreadful symbolise freedom. You could choose any combination, those seemingly mild yet carrying force to those expletives -- mangkuk hayun, pokka (tree lizard); it is liberating.
It is as a listener, victim or a consumer that we are exposed to words and phrases deployed as instruments of spins and agenda-setting. An angle for another round of discourse perhaps. For now, "political detainees", "insurgency" and "Kamunting" have lost their appeal, shine or notoriety -- depending on your level of objectivity -- as the Communist-era Internal Security Act has been repealed.
Kamunting, as a destination, should have never been de-coupled from Taiping, that enclave of dazzling food to be enjoyed amid calming ambience and weather.
Now that it has lost the political twist, Kamunting should "return" to Taiping and those missing out on the Gila-Gila magazine -- due to age or preference -- might want to comb the archives for the cartoon series of From Taiping With Love by the late Rasyid Asmawi.
The Gila-Gila era (late 1970s and 1980s) coincided with a period of a nation finding its feet. This was post-Muhibbah.
Gila-Gila cartoonists were commentators taking digs at and motivating a people perhaps lacking self-esteem. "Privatisation" gave us a national highway, among others. It spawned a Highway Economy, a lifestyle even.
"Privatisation" is hardly invoked these days. Still the essence of political literature generated by its critics has not really gone away.
The notion that a breed of poster-boys was given preference morphed into assaults against the New Economic Policy with meritocracy (has the term gone into hiding?) promoted as if this was such an alien concept.
What followed was, with the blink of an eye, new words and literature invaded our consciousness. "Nepotism" and "Cronyism" were in a pack of three. Fifteen years on, only "Corruption" has survived.
Just who coined that catchphrase that reverberated in Indonesia at the same time? Has nepotism -- political parties dominated by family members -- become completely irrelevant?
A reason for the near-death of cronyism was this: along the way some people embellished the idea, suggesting that a well-connected businessman should be known as a "savvy networker". There you are. The Halliburtons of the world, all successful businessmen throughout the ages, must be pleasant and network endlessly.
As much as you wish to chuckle your way through life, be able to laugh at yourself and look at conceits with a sense of disappointment, not anger, you do turn green every now and then at the impunity with which agenda setters seek to hoodwink (another word that has fallen out of the radar).
Words and phrases must carry a competitive edge since some of the frivolous (also seasonal) ones are associated with sports -- game on, game-changer, punching above one's weight.
Geopolitics is a serial contributor of baffling terms, having produced "collateral damage", "weapons of mass-destruction" and a torture technique called "waterboarding".
Words are additionally contagious. Listen to someone say it so eloquently -- "trajectory" uttered a young academician by the name of Khaldun in the presence of a towering scholar in 2004 that had this reporter invoke the word repeatedly for at least five more years.
A crisis is a reliable source of new-speak. The Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998 gave us the "tomyam effect", "moral hazard" and "seismic effect" the last of which hopefully would not bring despair and destruction which could be the case if it accompanies a "tsunami".
The Wednesday scare inspired waves of new literature transmitted via Twitter, Blackberry Messenger, SMS and crass, scare-mongering rumours. That the tsunami-speak will be with us for a while yet ironically soothes the exertions incited by those spin-words.
It is a mighty blessing that we could be at our workstations, ride the elevator for our meals and live on to pick up newer words and savour the Keegan-speak.