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What a momentous week; one that might have come from Henry VI parts 2-3 – warlords appointing kings, then destroying them. While the ruthlessness and violence, figuratively speaking, grabbed the world’s attention, what has not been analyzed, is the change in language that will now sweep the land.

The previous incumbent spoke in a middle management drone barely more captivating than a PowerPoint presentation on data storage. The returned great helmsman, on the other hand, is a notorious mincer and mangler of words.

His language is a combination of arcane abstraction, glazed with a type of slang derived from an American movie, circa 1962, but which has been censored by someone for whom English is not native. This amalgam of syntax is then delivered in a highly self-conscious style as if on a Spelling B and wishing to outperform the other nine year olds.

Fortunately the revised leader is known for speaking Mandarin and it may be that language for which he is better suited. If the mastery of English remains unchanged, we shall all have to resume our early morning lessons in that Chinese language in order to understand what is being said.

What the week has exposed is that transitions of power instigate an examination of the events. Sometimes that leads to revised histories. When Henry VII assumed the throne after he had defeated Richard III he rewrote the history backdating his own kingship to the day before the battle and thus rendering Richard as the usurper. Killing Richard was therefore legitimate. Parliament wasn’t pleased about the twist of fact but could do nothing. Fast forward a hundred years and Shakespeare had no option but to cast Richard as a villain.

It may take less than a century for all the TV series, plays and PhD theses that last week must have started in writers. When those plays and movies are written the poor writers will have to manufacture a form of speech for the protagonists that are more engaging than the reality. In real life the characters of Henry VI and Richard III were probably not thrilling to hear but we have few records of them by which to compare. The problem now is that the archive is overflowing with detail and with a similar dramatic piece no poetic intervention can alter what real people actually said and how.

Perhaps the best answer is to make it unintelligible. That is, turn it into grand opera, if sung in Italian and with Verdi like music – bombastic and banal as that is – an opera of these events will retain high emotion but no one will be forced to suffer the real words. Yes, that could work, and if the antagonist was a Mandarin speaker in a palace the night before the events unfold, there might be an occasion for a big aria. Let me call a producer and investigate.

Guy Cranswick
29th June 2013