I was thirsty. Thirsty for some sweet, fresh orange juice. Scanning the cartons I soon found what I was looking for – ‘Fresh Orange Juice Drink’. Perfect. What I wanted was a drink of fresh orange juice and this was a fresh orange juice drink. Perfect.
Or so you might think.
Upon returning I discovered to my shame and chagrine that there is an ocean of difference between a drink of fresh orange juice and fresh orange juice drink. A drink of fresh orange juice is a drink of fresh orange juice. Fresh orange juice drink is a drink with fresh orange in, and water and sugar. It is thinned out juice, stretched out to make a drink.
Language has a curious way of shifting and sliding under our feet. The unassuming ‘drink’ attached to the carton description is extra seemingly innocuous information. It is a drink but by saying it is a drink we can say the juice is a drink and not solely juice. Additional unnecessary information can say more about what something is not than what it is.
It’s a bit like the ‘Creative Arts’ – What arts aren’t creative? Artistry is a process of making, creating, whatever that is… a chair, a candle, a painting, some trip-hop. Art is creative there is no need to tell us that art is creative. Perhaps the artist in question has a certain pretence, a petard if you will, that their art is more ‘creative’ or ‘worthy’ or you know ‘deep n meaningful n that’ than other forms of art. Creative arts seems a bit daft really, work in creativity or work in art but ‘creative arts’ is a bit like the ‘sitting chair’ or ‘opening door’.
George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language which I read for the first time this summer is a great tool to start breaking down and analysing the language we use. On the subject of essays Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘An Apollogy For Idlers’ is a delightful example of good writing. Precision is important to writing. Writing is a sequence of choices, a string of code, no character or space is arbitrary.
I kinda like Orange Juice Drink. Don’t get me wrong – the first sip was absolutely howfing and it’s not getting me to my 5 A Day anytime soon but I grew to like it, like I would a shallow, needy, wise cracking sidekick. It was refreshing in a tired, pedestrian kind of way, like the cheesy, dated, once on the knuckle barbs of a poorly drawn, questionably culuturally portrayed sidekick from yesteryear.
And I’ve described myself as someone in creative arts before. Yes it’s pretentious but sometimes it’s easier – performance arts can sound just a bit too out there and if one can’t be a bit pretentious about art then when can one?
George Orwell might have a point and language might be shifting all the time like so much sand under our feet, but beaches are fun – even the tacky little seaside shops that spring up.
It wouldn’t be a trip without shaking a few grains out your shoes at the end of the day. So pour me some orange juice drink and I’ll tell you a thing or two about creative arts.