Recently I was confronted with the term ‘biographical leverage‘ and thought to myself ‘…whatever could possibly be meant by that?‘
Turns out that biographical leverage is the sanitised form of the irregular verb – to blackmail.
This is a neat example of the doublespeak that is creeping into our every day language whether through political correctness, a desire to disguise moral repugnancy or to sanitise the otherwise unsanitary and indigestible for consumption by the average and right thinking man or woman in the street.
The verb ‘to blackmail‘ conjugates something like this –
Present Infinitive:- blackmail
Example: That’s blackmail!
First Person Singular:- biographical leverage
Example: I am exerting biographical leverage.
Second Person Singular:- keeping other’s secrets
Example: You are keeping his secrets.
Third Person Singular:- blackmail
Example: She is blackmailing me!
This is the sort of double-speak of which Sir Humphrey Appleby would be rightly proud.
“Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Douglas Adams – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Douglas Adams and his marvelous trilogy (in five parts) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy remain one of the enduring memories of my childhood and greatest influences on me as I grew up. Wonderfully entertaining and thought provoking, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduced my young, impressionable mind to the routine questioning of accepted or received wisdom and let me believe that there was something different out there than what we had all been told to us by our parents, our teachers and our churches. More than anything else, however, it made the idea of knowledge, cleverness and learning about things fun.
Along with another great influence on my formative years, Carl Sagan, Douglas Adams is and remains one of my favourite thinkers and authors because of his unorthodox approach to the explanation of the every day and his preparedness to give established viewpoints a good hard shove in order to see what happens when they are tipped on their side, their head or onto someone else’s head.
Do yourself a favour and try to source the original BBC Television Series of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It still stands up well even after 30 years. Also, avoid the American movie version like so many biblical plagues.