In our tone-deaf culture, eloquent language has been lost
By John H Mc Whorter
We are a nation of sound bites. "I will not fail you," said Arnold Schwarzenegger upon winning the California governor's race last week. " ... Bring 'em on," said the president, in his most-quoted line in recent months about the war in Iraq. "I know the people of this state are angry. I've gotten the message," Gray Davis intoned from the stump.
Our leaders are certainly talking, but here's what we don't hear, ever, from either the administration or its critics: eloquent speeches laying out nuanced positions with rhetorical finesse. We get quick hits on talk shows, lines tossed off for the peanut gallery. Whatever happened to careful, burnished language carefully crafted to sway those of other minds? Surely our leaders could do better.
The more blog reading I do the more trendy language and writing styles I see. Does it amuse me? You bet it does. Is there a current trend toward a writer asking a question and then answering it himself? Absolutely. Is this form taking a role in structuring argument and debate for the writer or speaker's benefit? I think it is. Does it get tiresome quickly? You better believe it. Will the trend fade and another quickly take its place? I surely hope so. Like, whatever.
I am pleased to proactively present thisinterface for my forward thinking and esteemed colleagues concerned with targeted marketing, and results-driven achievement. The bottom line here is really a no brainer. Know what I'm saying?
A few years ago I produced several videos about farmland protection which included interviews with university-based 'experts' and cooperative extension agents. One fellow kept using buzz words like proactiveand interface
I would stop the on-camera interview and ask him to do it again, hoping he would rephrase his comments and not use the buzzwords I found annoying. What's the real difference between being active and proactive? Why not say 'meet with farmers' or call them? Why interface?
After several takes in which he used these words over and over, I asked why he used these words, rather than just say 'active" or 'meet', etc. His reply amused me. It seems his boss, knowing he was to appear in the video, told him to be sure to use interface.
I'm glad to learn I am not alone in my curmudgeonly attitude about cliche-ridden organization-speak. Word Pirates
Those interested in language as a cultural phenomenon may be interested in reading Vocabula Review. where the current issue has an article about these cliches. No problem. • Whatever floats your boat.
• It's not on my radar screen.
• Thinking outside the box.
• Hot and hottie
• "And then he goes, '
• It's time to step up to the plate
• Yadda, yadda, yadda. Give it up. Seinfeld is toast.
• Let's give it up for
• Where the rubber meets the road.