Sunday, 16 August 2009

"Viva la revolution"

The headline “Viva la revolution” is not mine, heaven forbid, but The Sunday Age chose this title (without an exclamation mark) for a letter to the editor. It is possible that The Sunday Age just wanted to show their wide range of tolerance, when they printed a letter sent in by “Joseph Toscano, spokesperson, Anarchist Media Institute”. And although anarchist Jo swaggered about the “revolutionary impact” of the World Wide Web and “the throes of a revolution that will lead to the democratisation of every aspect of our lives”, I cannot find "Viva la revolution" in his letter, and I doubt he had chosen the headline.

I am afraid I must blame the editor of The Sunday Age for the mistaken headline. It is wrong for various reasons, but first of all, because it is a mix of several languages. “Viva” is Spanish, but “la revolution” is French. Or you could say “la” is Spanish and French, but “revolution" could be English. A clever combination of three world languages? Oh no, you overestimate the subtlety of The Sunday Age.

It is more likely that it is pure ignorance that led to this headline. Like in the republic question the media don’t know, where they want us to got to. They could have chosen “Vive la revolution!” (with an exclamation mark), which would have been the French grammatical form of the Subjonctif, which is used, when a wish should be expressed, like: ”We wish that the revolution lives!”. The Sunday Age may very well think that, I can’t possibly comment.

The French Subjonctif has an equivalent in Spanish, the subjuntivo, which also expresses wishful thinking, but the English/French word “revolution” has a different spelling in Spanish: "revolución".

The Sunday Age did not bother about these minor language problems. Which poses the question, why The Sunday Age wishes to have a revolution/revolución? Certainly, the anarchist spokesperson would not mind having one, neither a French nor a Spanish/Cuban/Venezuelan etc., but the owners of a weekly publication that is interested in generating money (among other things by charging for access to online content) would be appalled should the profit decline. Republican or revolutionary rhetoric aside, journalists, editors and shareholders want cash first, a republic second.

We could put the language tawdriness aside and just say: God save the Queen! That is easy and simple and cannot be confused with other languages. And it is in a language that even journalists of The Sunday Age should master.

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