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TV review: Jonathan Meades on Jargon, The Big Crash Diet Experient, and Springwatch

08 June 2018


Jonathan Meades on Jargon (BBC 4, Sunday): a look at slang and officialspeak

Jonathan Meades on Jargon (BBC 4, Sunday): a look at slang and officialspeak

“NOT three incomprehensibles but one incomprehensible.” BBC4 demonstrated a fine if oblique reference to the Quicunque vult as it broadcast Jonathan Meades on Jargon on Trinity Sunday. This was an entirely idiosyncratic tirade against the debasement of our language — in particular, by contrasting officialspeak with slang.

Jargon, Meades insists, is employed to keep others out, to retain meaning within a closed coterie. It is dead and deadening. Slang (including extreme vulgarity and obscenity) is joyfully creative and alive, the riposte of the despised masses.

Meades delighted in naming those he considers our primary culpable obfuscators: Blair, Cameron, Osborne, May — and, above all, Trump. In a passage to cherish from a cultural historian and commentator, he tore to shreds the pretentious curators of the contemporary art scene, and excori­ated the banalities of conceptual art. We are, he insists, being lied to all the time, and we ought not to put up with it.

He seemed to think the Church of so little contemporary importance as hardly worth wasting his time on: I wonder whether he considered that one ally he might claim in the cam­paign for dismantling the power-based evasions of the superior and championing the everyday would be Jesus himself?

Fr Paul is half the priest he used to be — 20 per cent less, at least. He was one of four guinea pigs in The Big Crash Diet Experiment (BBC1, Wednesday of last week), a revision of standard medical opinion that severe weight-loss programmes are generally dangerous for your health and unsustainable.

Each volunteer was challenged to lose two stone in nine weeks, sub­sisting on 800 calories a day, under rigorous medical supervision and counselling. They all succeeded — Fr Paul above all, shedding 3½ stone.

The most significant aspect, how­ever, was the effect on general health. Scans and tests showed us how obesity cripples vital organs, raising every chance of early mortality. The diet did not just make them thinner: it reversed most of this damage: in Fr Paul’s case, it reversed his Type 2 diabetes. What we need now is a programme to document the next stage: how do they maintain their new, healthy selves while eating a diet that makes all that extra life they have earned worthwhile?

Sound recordists, like cameramen, are the hardbitten support troops of documentary TV. You cannot shock them: they have seen and heard everything. All the more telling, then, when, on Springwatch (BBC2, Monday to Thursday of last week), the soundman, to illustrate how critical the loss of once common wild­life is, explained how he had, for the first time, taken his young son to the local wood where every year he hears fewer and fewer nightingales. This year, there was not a single one. “Perhaps he’ll never hear a nightingale,” he said — and broke down and wept.

It was more powerful than any amount of earnest hand-wringing — and admirable that they kept the camera running and broadcast it.

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