Active verbs: Occupy and Don't Swear

Today's the day the Occupy Wellington people have been removed by police from their camping site in Civic Square.

I'm not about to pontificate on the wrongs and rights, the origins and developments of the Occupy movement—although I have an unfortunate fondness for pontificating, and I believe, a certain talent.

I've been musing on activeness and passiveness, both of verbs and protests. The name of this movement—Occupy!—is a wondrously clear and active verb. Indeed, it's almost startling in its activeness.

Yet by definition, the word occupy goes nowhere. More expressive than sit or squat, it's milder than colonize. So a sneaky thought scuttles in its wake: OK, occupy ... and then what?

In extreme contrast to the activeness of the verb occupy is the language in the Wellington protesters' code of conduct as published in the Dominion Post of 14-15 January. This code was, I'm sure, drawn up in good faith by a small band of protesters and shows a general wish to encourage courteous behaviour. No PR firm assisted, that's clear, so let's not judge it too harshly.

But the last two items in this code of conduct reveal the hideous linguistic tangle you can create when you strain too hard to be simultaneously polite, respectful and authoritative. Passive verbs swoop in and occupy your sentences, and tie your thoughts in knots. Which is more respectful: to say to others, 'Don't swear,' or to confuse them with impenetrable utterings from the clouds?

Ihi wehi te mana
No consumption or trading of alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs on Maui's Garden (including the area).
People who are adversely intoxicated will be asked to retire to a tent or to leave the site.
Civility is expected with awareness to restrict anti-social behaviour and foul language.
Interaction with the public is encouraged to be friendly and informative.

Photo: Rachel's desk, complete with a Never never never give up card from a friend, and favourite orange wildflowers from Mt Vic this morning. Just because.

 


Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

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4 Comments

Kristina
Kristina

February 05, 2012

Spraxia. A friend spotted some today and said that’s what they were. She went on to call them weeds because they spread into everything.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

February 06, 2012

I can see why I was confused. Thanks Kristina! Two species of the same plant? Spraxia and monbretia.

Alistair McAlpine
Alistair McAlpine

February 04, 2012

Ihi wehi te mana
Please be friendly and informative when interacting with the public
No swearing or other anti-social behaviour
No alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs
Intoxicated people will be asked to leave

I like the mouse pad, what a great idea.

Rachel McAlpine
Rachel McAlpine

February 04, 2012

A great improvement and I bet it didn’t take you 5 hours to write this. The mousepad is great, isn’t it? My big sister Jill brought it back from Turkey.

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