Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Leon Trotsky? Oy, Vay.

It was 74 years ago today that Leon Trotsky, in exile in Mexico, was killed by an agent of Joe Stalin.


It is now quicker and easier than ever before to send ‘information’ from one place to another. Never mind the quality, feel the bandwidth. In the case of written information, most people consider the characters of one alphabet or another all they need. In an increasingly philistine western culture the ability to punctuate, either according to the old school rules or even (like Shakespeare and myself) by one’s own made-up rules has been lost; a text by a present-day young person often gives the impression that, after she wrote it, he thought ‘Oh I’d better put in some of that punctuation stuff’ and bombarded it randomly with apostrophes and commas.

As for tone of voice, it is of course lost in the written word, though a good writer can describe it, or even indicate it within quoted speech by subtle word-choice and punctuation.

In illustration of the foregoing, consider the following little story, which I may have put on the blog before:

Stalin gets a telegram from Trotsky (who was a Jew.) Stalin is pleased, as the telegram reads ‘Dear Comrade, I was wrong; you were right: I should apologise.’ Stalin shows the telegram to his secretary (who happens to be a Jew.) The secretary — a brave man, as befits someone working with Stalin — says ‘I’m sorry, comrade, but you have misunderstood. Actually the telegram reads ‘Dear Comrade, I was wrong? You were right? I should apologise?’

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