Miles Platting is a man whose ambition is driving his love affair with the commercial power of language. However his conscience is desperately clinging to the coat tails of his naming rights agency’s vision of transforming the material fortunes of a town by rebranding its identity from the meaningful and permanent to the lightweight and ephemeral.
Birdseye, rather than Barrow in Furness conjures up images of burnt fish fingers but for our social media generation the apparent trivialisation of where you live simply reinforces the dilution of our physical and intellectual boundaries to the extent that we have become language agnostics. In many ways it’s a parable of our times with the texting generation and their youthful patois seeping into every day communication and people unquestioningly adopting a dumbed down version of the spoken and written word.
William Thacker paints a picture of a somewhat surreal world where Milton Keynes can morph into Stella Artois but clever advertising is able to portray this as progress. On the one hand this seems a fairly comical transition but is it such a great stretch of the imagination when academy schools are already being sponsored by Carpetright.
There is a serious message here which is symbolised by Eden, a Lingua Franca employee who is worn down by the corrosive effect of working in an environment which negatively challenges the way we think and communicate. He makes the ultimate protest statement by taking his own life which kick starts a chain of events that results in the company’s sales ethos shifting from an almost messianic message, advocating the holistic benefits of language change to a realisation that they are probably promoting a nightmare rather than a dream.
The real irony is that the abuse of language for commercial gain is perversely taken to the opposite extreme of the communication spectrum where silence becomes the unspoken voice of protest with the creation of the hashtag Zipit campaign.
Miles’s estranged wife Kendall stands as the voice of reason throughout this account of the battle for the integrity of language but you’re left feeling that this may be the first engagement in a long war.
Lingua Franca by William Thacker (Published by Legend Press, Price £8.99)
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