Saturday, March 25, 2006


Country party

Onze Taal links to a Reuters story concerning the use of English terms in Japanese:
A question in Japan's parliament on Wednesday peppered with English financial terms had Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi warning a lawmaker to mind his language.

"Who understands (English) words like 'compliance' and 'governance'?" Koizumi asked the embarrassed opposition questioner.

"Use words that ordinary people can understand," he said to loud cheers and laughter.

"Some members know English, I've studied a bit, but debates shouldn't be limited to those who understand English. Debates are for everyone."

Koizumi-san should be thankful for small mercies: at least those are genuine English terms apparently being used in their proper context. In other countries, politicians go off and make up their own 'English' expressions.

Italy is a case in point.

In Bruno Vespa's La Grande Muraglia, a compilation of interviews with leading Italian politicians, a representative of Alleanza Nazionale speaks of how his party was founded 'con l'ambizione di essere un Country Party ... un'organizzazione politica, di tradizione anglosassone'.

A country party, the interviewee claims, is one that transcends ideological divisions of left and right to unite the nation on issues of general relevance.

Now, even if it were true that such parties are somehow peculiar to English-speaking countries, which seems questionable, the expression itself is certainly not part of the English political vocabulary (not with that meaning anyway).

Presumably it was felt necessary to employ this pseudo-English to lend spurious status to what might not have sounded sufficiently impressive had it been expressed in the vernacular.

You would think that one issue on which a 'country party' might usefully campaign is the desirability of keeping political discourse intelligible to the citizenry.

There may even be some fancy-sounding Japanese word for it.

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