Category — Communication
It’s always fascinating to hear a language evolve right in front of you. It’s usually a generational thing. I notice, for example, that when ordering food and drink in a restaurant, D and I usually say, “Can I please have…” where our thirty-something daughter and son-in-law say “Can I get…”. This is altogether deeper and more permanent a change compared to using fashionable slang words.
Goodness, how the latter die! I well remember my embarrassment when my father told a joke which depended for its punchline on a pre-1940s slang word for a part of the female anatomy. In time, ‘can I get…’ will be succeeded by some other formulation proving once again how resilient English is.
November 19, 2012 No Comments
Planning a speech that persuades people to do something? Watch and listen to the master-class that Bill Clinton gave to the Democratic convention last week, and learn. Forget the content or who wrote it, just see how he unpacks a whole toolkit of useful techniques: the way he varies the pace and ‘temperature’ of what he has to say; the building of climaxes, then killing the applause; the tiny pauses to indicate thought; the preachers’ urgency in phrases such as “Listen to this!”; the faux intimacy hinted by the confiding asides, contrasted with the just-short-of-jeering in his attacks; the use of sorrowful regret; the granularity of his just-enough detail. The list goes on: marvel at it.
September 12, 2012 No Comments
Language evolves all the time. When I order something in a restaurant, I usually say, “I’ll have the…”. I notice that the next generation prefer “Can I get the….”. This looks like yet more evidence of American usage taking over the international language. In the same way, and under the same pressure after 1945, British English and German both replaced “fill in the form” with the American “fill out the form” (ausfüllen rather than einfüllen). There are numerous other examples.
Someone years ago wrote that English is where it is because the world has been ruled by three great English-speaking empires in succession: Great Britain, America and Hollywood. No wonder that Bismarck, when asked in 1898 what was the most significant factor in international relations then, said “The fact that the North Americans speak English.”
June 13, 2012 No Comments