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Formal vs. informal speech

Posted by Anders on October 20, 2003

In Reply to: Formal vs. informal speech posted by ESC on October 20, 2003

: : Here is an interesting review of a book that touches on some of the issues that come up here from time to time. I'm thinking about the practice of adding the word 'like' to sentences in particular.

: : The book is called " 'Doing Our Own Thing: The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should, Like, Care' by John McWhorter.

: Great article. Thanks for posting. The part about "two amusingly instructive speeches given in the halls of Congress" reminded me of an excerpt from an article I posted last year. Not to worry, as long as we have Senator Robert Byrd (from my home state of West Virginia) we WILL have oratory:

: "A Lonely But Eloquent Voice," an October 2002 column by Marianne Means about U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd's "opposition to new legislative powers authorizing President Bush to wage war against Iraq if diplomacy fails to eliminate that nation's most fearful weapons."

: Sen. Byrd ".waved a copy of the Constitution as he thundered his outrage to a nearly empty chamber. It was a dazzling performance seldom seen these days in an institution dominated by men and women who speak an unstructured lingo whose origins owe more to a television show than to a high school English teacher.

: Byrd quoted the 12th Century Persian poet Omar Khayyam, German Gestapo field marshal Hermann Goering, the Apostle Paul, President James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, the ancient Greek orator Demosthenes and King Charles I of England."

Thanks for giving us that article! The conclusion "Physician, heal thyself" is very true (and hard to overlook): who can have respect for people who don't practise what they preach? I have trouble understanding a couple of phrases - they're even the so-called "howlers." "In today's America, it would be quizzical." Does he mean to say "critical" rather than "quizzical"? "She felt more linguistically corsetted than him." This seems to me to be a telling, if unorthodox, metaphor. Why is it such a blunder? Does it have to do with the fact that men don't wear corsets? (Except for Jack, who "is in his corset, and Jane is in her vest.") (Lou Reed's Sweet Jane.) I'm sure this is not the only metaphor not particularly consistent... Beats me.

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