Al Gore + Thinking for himself = ? (Linguistics)

Yes, well. I may be one of the more ignorant people as far as climate change is concerned, and I am not happy about it. I tend to agree with the Pascalian wager as it is extended to environmental concerns nowadays, though. However, I firmly dislike Al Gore. Apart from several other reasons, I dislike him because he takes a topic that he and lots of others around the world, especially here in Europe, consider serious and presents it in a way that clearly presupposes that all who listen to him tell it are idiots. Very stupid idiots, too. Virtually no argument in that odious movie of his survives logical scrutiny. He’s bullshitting his audience to a degree that comes close to lying, except that I am not judging facts, and lying is, mostly, about facts, so technically…but that’s neither here nor there.
I found a nice post on language log last week, wherein Al Gore is disapprovingly quoted as saying

In the Kanji characters used in both Chinese and Japanese, “crisis” is written with two symbols, the first meaning “danger,” the second “opportunity.” By facing and removing the danger of the climate crisis, we have the opportunity to gain the moral authority and vision to vastly increase our own capacity to solve other crises that have been too long ignored.

Apparently he said that on many occasions. He might have said that in that crap movie as well, I don’t know, I tried to get it out of my head as quickly as possible. The point, and the reason for the log’s disapproval is that this, too, is wrong, as is explained at length at pinyin.info. I’ll quote the salient bit here:

Thus, a wēijī is indeed a genuine crisis, a dangerous moment, a time when things start to go awry. A wēijī indicates a perilous situation when one should be especially wary. It is not a juncture when one goes looking for advantages and benefits. In a crisis, one wants above all to save one’s skin and neck! Any would-be guru who advocates opportunism in the face of crisis should be run out of town on a rail, for his / her advice will only compound the danger of the crisis.

For those who have staked their hopes and careers on the CRISIS = DANGER + OPPORTUNITY formula and are loath to abandon their fervent belief in jī as signifying “opportunity,” it is essential to list some of the primary meanings of the graph in question. Aside from the notion of “incipient moment” or “crucial point” discussed above, the graph for jī by itself indicates “quick-witted(ness); resourceful(ness)” and “machine; device.” In combination with other graphs, however, jī can acquire hundreds of secondary meanings. It is absolutely crucial to observe that jī possesses these secondary meanings only in the multisyllabic terms into which it enters. To be specific in the matter under investigation, jī added to huì (“occasion”) creates the Mandarin word for “opportunity” (jīhuì), but by itself jī does not mean “opportunity.”

A wēijī in Chinese is every bit as fearsome as a crisis in English. A jīhuì in Chinese is just as welcome as an opportunity to most folks in America. To confuse a wēijī with a jīhuì is as foolish as to insist that a crisis is the best time to go looking for benefits.

There you go. And even though I can’t verify this, being no speaker or reader of mandarin (sad as this is), after hearing him talk and watching that movie, I am convinced they are right, because I believe that Al Gore doesn’t take too much time to think. He appears to be on some sort of autopilot since the 70s or 80s. Since those decades he’s just refining his rhetorical strategies, which did result in one really great TV moment (at that moment, for some minutes, I liked the man) at a MTV award show. He came onstage and said (and yes I wish I could provide a link for that clip but I could not find one): “I actually was not planning on being here tonight but then MTV explained to me that Justin Timberlake is bringing sexy back, so here I am.”

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