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32 the minnesota review Tom Wayman Defective Parts of Speech: Doing the Word's Laundry "Language is speech. You ought to be able to say language is speech and then get on with the rest of it, but you can't because so few believe it." —Lew Welch Language is the air we take in we breathe out. But air, Uke speech is shaped to use: geese honk past, wings working to push down on air. Tons of jet plane above the runway are also lifted on their wings' differing pressures of air. In the shop, compressed air strikes the blades whirling in the tools we hold to buUd things. Air is never idle. Speech, too, cannot be abstract but means to identify and create what happens —including the mysteries. Thus oxygen, carbon dioxide and other components find and are found for their uses. Only what we don't understand appears or is decreed Wayman 33 gibberish but is not unless someone is blurring the words to a purpose. And it is to some persons' gain the world should seem hazy, dimmed secretive: dirty air or glossolalia—religious, artistic or secular. And those who would lead us say / can interpret for you. But the words like air are historical: planetary accretion outgassing the simplest forms of life all changed the atmosphere's composition, that text altered too by our species— ozone, radioactivity pesticides, exhaust as language a body's, a mind's product is affected by what we do and whose talk is official. Lately, as language entered an industrial age, first a vocabulary was invented then a transformer— a device to step-up voltage that is, power: the word spoken, typed enlarged to appear on posters, enormous on bUlboards, and its sound 34 the minnesota review propelled simultaneously every place on the electrons of the air. This charged language has its intentions: speech must become simpler because when the words are huge there is room for less of them when they are loud there is little point in us talking, are prevalent it is hard to pronounce what is here. These empowered words try to crowd out ordinary speech, to elbow in on what we say, to jam our language: cost benefit your representative human resources Yet the charges such words carry result in surface static. Dust and debris cling to the exteriors dulling them so new words constantly must be transformed and brought to us: job creation terrorist privatize Our language warps under this use. Our attempts to utter these words dirty our mouths. But we do not stop speaking Wayman 35 and when the words are tarnished enough to be safe to handle we can try to strip away their soiled coverings: the clothes a word must have to function in the world but these now stained dark, a different color needing to be scrubbed clean, to be rinsed restored back to actual size letter by letter. The words without their clothes shrink also, unbend until ready to be dressed again. Such cleansing, however does not prevent those men and women busy charging up more of what they want to put in the air want us to voice want to say on our behalf. At best we try to protect ourselves, to make our speech work for us. ...


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pp. 32-35
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