Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Language Crimes and Murder by Boredom.

I loved watching the Prime Minister's questions when Tony Blair was in office, sheerly for the fun of watching the lively verbal thrashings British statesmen give each other. It was so interesting to see them have actual conversations that required wit, as well as familiarity with what (appeared to one not intimately familiar with British politics) to be halfway decent evidence for their arguments.

Flash over to the United States. Turn on C-span. Watch live coverage of the US House of Representatives. You'll be asleep in ten minutes after you hear the same speeches and buzzwords hypnotically repeated over and over and over and over and over...

And then there is the issue of public speaking skills.

From presidents who smoked but didn't inhale and was uncertain as to what the definition of "is" is, to the current president who, in spite of his better qualities, cannot seem to get the hang of "nuclear", we seem to have a plague of poor speaking. As if to put a the proverbial cherry on top, a certain Mr. Kucinich suggested that he had once seen a UFO.

Our two front running presidential candidates do not appear to have any intention of improving this problem.

One cannot seem to hide when he is reading from a teleprompter, thereby making an otherwise well-structured speech sound robotic. And then he accidentally said he would ban beer.

The other, however brilliant he may sound with a written speech, cannot seem to put two sentences of sense together without a script. Senator Obama did, on the occasion of his Memorial Day address say that he saw our country's "fallen heroes" in the audience. Who knew our messianic candidate was also connected to the "other side"? Then there was this instance in which he lamented the inability of children with asthma to access their "breathalyzers" (oops, make that "inhalators") .To make matters worse, his speechwriter often produces work that, while grammatical, sounds more like something my students would write than something crafted by a highly educated person with vast political experience.

Oh, yes, and if I continue to hear the words "hope" and "change" recycled more often than post-consumer paper products, I cannot be held responsible for what I may do to my television.

Yes, yes policy is more important than posturing. Substance is more important than speechmaking.

Instead of a candidate who says something badly and another who says nothing very well, I would prefer someone with both substance and wit. Perhaps a person with the common sense of G.K. Chesterton, the gentle charisma of Pope John Paul II and the wit of Tony Blair.

Or the wit of Jane Austen even. :)


Michelle said...

Sadly, they who possess common sense, substance, and wit prefer to stay out of politics and do something useful with their lives.

Christina said...

They probably look at recent history and know they'd never get elected.

Soutenus said...

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