Verbal Iocane – What The Princess Bride Can Teach Us Besides Turning Archetypes Upside Down

Everyone should see the Princess Bride at some time in their lives.

There’s that kid from the Wonder Years, Andre the Giant, the minister, Jenny from Forrest Gump, and the guy who tries to take Tom Cruise’s sponsorship in Days of Thunder.

“Inconceivable!”

In it there is the encounter that Westley (as the Dread Pirate Roberts) and Vizzini ( a cerebral guy) have that is eventually settled with a “battle of wits.”

Man in Black: “What you do not smell is called iocane powder. It is odorless, tasteless, dissolves instantly in liquid, and is among the more deadlier poisons known to man. All right. Where is the poison? The battle of wits has begun. It ends when you decide and we both drink, and find out who is right… and who is dead.”

princess-bride-1

Westley wins and Princess Buttercup inquires as to how he won.

Man in Black: “They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

Words. Just like Hamlet says in Act II when he begins his descent into feigned and/or real madness,

“Words, words, words.”

But these words come with ominous imagery.

Words used to paint an unrealistic landscape in such a way that you see it without any single cue.

Like ill-fated, cacophonous, dystopian words that can be poison, except in this case they are still tasteless, dissolve instantly in the ears, but maintain a certain stench if you keep your senses together.

But you don’t ever want to build an immunity to them.

You want to hear them and listen to what they say.

And make a decision whether to believe them or not.

Donald Trump’s inaugural speech cast a shadow over an America that I don’t entirely agree exists exclusively from so many positives that we have. He does identify some elements that are truthful, but in the speech he used some words that if repeated enough will become so common to our lexicon of how we describe our country that we will become almost immune from the shock of hearing them.

The text of his inauguration speech is at the end of this post for reference and I will highlight some words that Trump uses to help maybe “poison” our minds to how we view our country.

Philip Bump wrote a very interesting post in “The Fix” blog run by The Washington Post on January 20th entitled “Trump’s inaugural address was demonstrably bleak” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/01/20/trumps-inaugural-address-was-demonstrably-bleak/?utm_term=.7ea9dd03391c).

This is the kind of article that begs to be talked about, especially in the scope of a lens that is called DIDLS – diction, imagery, details, language, and syntax.

I will quote from Bump,

“Earlier this week, we cataloged each of those prior addresses, building a tool allowing you to search them and see how the expressions the presidents used were in and out of vogue over time.

It also allows us to see which terms were used by Trump but not by any president prior. The words below constitute that list.

sprawl, ignored, windswept, overseas, tombstones, rusted-out, trapped, neighborhoods, landscape, flush, carnage, unrealized, robbed, stolen, likes, listening, hardships, transferring, politicians, reaped, stops, subsidized, disagreements, bedrock, Islamic, reinforce, solidarity, unstoppable, brown, mysteries, arrives, politicians, hire, infrastructure, trillions, depletion, allowing, disrepair, redistributed, tunnels, stealing, ravages, issuing, bleed

There have been variants on those words used in the past: politician (William Henry Harrison, 1841), ravage (Richard Nixon, 1969) or hardship (used in both of Barack Obama’s). Others, though, are totally unique to Trump.

“This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

“…rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation”

“Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities…”

“…the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”

“whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots…”

“America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay…”

And the speech was a constant dosage of this negativity without much to neutralize its power to people who simply believe what they hear without listening.

The fear I have is that more of us will become desensitized to the words so that they become so common place that any change in the dialogue in the future will automatically constitute growth and rejuvenation. And that’s something I personally believe Trump wants us to associate with him.

Simply paint a negative picture, dim the lights, and play ominous music to set the mood. We the people become desensitized and make it the wallpaper of our lives.

Then new brighter colors are used, the lights are turned up, and the music becomes happier and more upbeat. And who did that for us?

Possibly the person who painted the original picture.

If words can be like iocane powder, I hope that I never build an immunity to them. I hope the ear that hears them, the brain that interprets them, and the mind that listens to them will allow them to have as much power the thousandth time it is used as they have the first time.

Some already do.

“I love you.”

“Daddy.”

When I hear strong words used to describe something I want to be able to identify them.

“Iocane. I’d bet my life on it.”

Prince Humperdinck knows it when he senses it. And while he is a bit of an ass and an antagonist to the Princess Buttercup and Westley, he is keen enough to know what has happened.

princess-bride-2

If you become desensitized to the rhetoric then you might become “mostly dead” to what is good in this country. Don’t let something “inconceivable” block you from your “true wuv.”

And watch the other movies that have that six-fingered man in them. Waiting For Guffman and Best in Show are two of the greatest movies ever made.

Speech:

“Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans and people of the world, thank you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people. Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done. Every four years we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you.

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning because, today, we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have born the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered, but the jobs left and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs and, while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

That all changes starting right here and right now because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day. This is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.

Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists.

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military.

We’ve defended other nations’ borders, while refusing to defend our own, and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas, while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world.

But, that is the past and now we are looking only to the future. We assembled here today, are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.

We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. I will fight for you with every breath in my body and I will never, ever let you down.

America will start winning again. Winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads and highways and bridges and airports and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth. At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and, through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.

The bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when god’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and most importantly, we will be protected by God.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action constantly complaining, but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.

We stand at the birth of a new millennium ready to unlock the histories of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries, and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will lift our sights and heal our divisions. It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky. They fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. So, to all Americans in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way.

Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and god bless America. Thank you. God bless America.”

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