Posted by Austin Morris on  UTC 2020-03-19 16:08

Meghan and her helpmeet Harry write on their Instagram account an uplifting message of hope for a distraught world:

Our willingness, as a people, to step up in the face of what we are all experiencing with COVID-19 is awe-inspiring. This moment is as true a testament there is to the human spirit.


[Our ?] [willingness ?], as [a people ?], to [step up ?] [in the face of ?] what [we are all experiencing with COVID-19 == self-isolating in a millionaire's pad in rural Canada] is [awe-inspiring ?].

Shorter forms of this tripe Meghan usually scrawls on bananas …

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… but sometimes rhetorical excellence demands space. Sometimes the message is so important that it is even framed in an image:

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This moment is as true a testament there is to the human spirit.

Kind people will read this as simply:

This moment is a testament to the [greatness of the] human spirit.

Rhetorical excellence is achieved in Meghan's mind by inflating a not very exceptional thought with the addition of a few bombastic words – just as her calligraphy is essentially everyday writing with the addition of some random, disjointed squiggles.

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The pretentious, affected 'calligraphy' mirrors the pretentious, affected mind of the writer. The twirls and fol-de-rols of her hand demand professional psychiatric help in order to understand them, as does the Instagram affectation of placing one's own words in quotation marks on a digital stele.

Such splendid isolation, such self-importance, such look-at-me!

Real calligraphers and typographers stare at the shambles of quotation marks, italics and roman capitals on the digital stele and feel not a little queasy; the psychiatrists look at it and see a couple of people completely out of their depth.

But sufferers of Wittgenstein's disease read every word and suffer:

This moment is as true a testament there is…

Grammatical crash and burn! The fundamental problem is that the reader takes the 'is as' as the start of a comparison of the form: to be as [something] as [something else].

French wines can be just as undrinkable as Italian wines.

There is great potential for rhetorical fiddling with this structure, but what must always be there is the 'as…as'. Leaving out the second 'as' makes the sentence incomprehensible. With an additional 'as' and a minor tweak we can repair it:

This moment is as true a testament as there is [can be] to the human spirit.

This solution gets no prizes for elegance of expression, but at least it is grammatical. It is still nonsense, though. Let's see if we can improve it a bit more for these two illiterates.

Firstly, 'this moment' cannot be a 'testament'. That is a category error. What is meant by 'moment' is 'the willingness of people to step up at this moment'. Yes, it's still nonsense, but we have to work with what we have on our bench:

The willingness of people to step up is a testament to the human spirit.

We now need to take our hammer to the remaining bit of nonsense: 'the human spirit'. Presumably we humans all have spirits, so why a testament to them is needed is a puzzle. Once again, it needs a tweak such as:

The willingness of people to step up is a testament to the greatness of which the human spirit is capable.

Well, at least now it is grammatical, even though it is still nonsense – and bombastic nonsense at that. As such it appears to represent the fatuous contents of the fatuous writer's head – which is, when you think about it, as much the function of writing as it is of algorithmic processing: GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The good thing is that, if they were able to express this nonsense in comprehensible English, they might be even more flatulently tedious than they are now.

Our advice to them is to stick to writing their thoughts on bananas – the three or four words available are the limit of their rhetorical skills.

Harry's lack of command of the English language is quite surprising. His education during his most formative years was at Eton, the non plus ultra of private school aristocracy. However, the considerable quantities of cash invested in that schooling have left no detectable trace on his brain. We have no grounds for expecting Old Etonians to talk sense (Cameron, Johnson et al.) but there are usually some hopes of grammatically correct utterances.

The truly remarkable thing about Harry's rambling phone conversations earlier this year with a fake Greta Thunberg was not so much the addled ideas he attempted to express but the illiteracy of the expression. True, in speaking we can all waffle along at times, particularly during phone conversations, but Harry seemed incapable of constructing whole sentences or completing any sequence of thoughts.

He is descended from dim stock and we can really expect no better than dim and dimmer. We might warm to him, but at the moment he and Meghan are two dim people attached to megaphones. They are condemned to a future of garbled nonsense and we to a future of ignoring it.

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