- Clichés, weasel words, and management-speak are strangling public language.
- Today’s corporations, news media, education departments, and, most dangerously, politicians, speak to us, and each other, in impenetrable babble.
- This is worse than Orwell predicted. The language is now dead, disabled, and bereft of meaning. This is more dangerous than you might at first think.
- Because language is a tool with which to achieve things, we are effectively disabled if we live in a world where it has no meaning any longer.
- There are a series of exercises at the back where modern (non) language is substituted for proper language, such as: What is Macbeth on about here?
“If it were actioned when ‘tis actioned, then ‘twere well it were actioned quickly.”
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT IT
- It really is worth pausing for a moment to analyse the words we use to communicate out loud and on paper.
- He starts with the ‘dark and impenetrable thicket’, drawing numerous examples from public life to highlight the absurdity of so many announcements and speeches.
- Outright lying is arguably less dangerous than statements that appear to mean something, but actually do not. This allows nothing to be done when it should and atrocities to pass by without proper analysis.
- Gems include:
- “I implemented the development and enhancement to the functionality of the existing geographic information and mapping systems by leveraging off opportunities within inter-agency initiatives.”
- “The vaguely quantitative words ‘significant’ and ‘significantly’ are used five times on this slide with de facto meanings ranging from detectable in a largely irrelevant calibration case study, to an amount of damage that everyone dies, to a difference of six-hundred-forty-fold.” (Edward Tufte on the Columbia Space Shuttle Debris Assessment team’s powerpoint presentation)
- “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow our range of thought?” George Orwell, 1984
WHAT YOU HAVE TO WATCH
- Nothing. It is highly thought-provoking.