Monday, October 29, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences. Conclusion.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, a blunt commentary on Americans' use of English.

What is wrong with the following phrases?

right on; up tight; chicken out; totally destroyed; completely destroyed; partially surrounded; completely surrounded; partially damaged; completely abandoned; completely eliminated; rather unique; very unique; totally unique; last-ditch talks; costly walkout; confidence factor; in a punting situation/forced to punt; powerful Ways and Means Committee; all-important Rules Committee; uneasy truce; scenario; agreement hammered out; embattled chief executive; eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation; more importantly ' ongoing dialogue; flipside; growth potential; capabilities; viability; mesh; optimal; innovative; target area; inputs; outputs; components; segments; configurations; environmental impact; time-span; bare bones; market strategies; management teams; high retention characteristics; got good wood on; got a big jump; they came to play; that has to be....

Most are tired, outworn and sometimes redundant phrases.

Thus ends the latest edition of "Significant Sentences," interesting sentences from interesting books. In some cases, the books are out of print and readers would not be able to buy them. In other cases used copies of the books are too expensive to purchase. The few used copies available for Hal Borland's Twelve Moons of the Year cost $95 for a book that once sold new at one-quarter of that amount. The ideas from that book and all of the others featured in this blog deserve to be remembered and read and savored over and over again.

Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking is the last book to be featured in "Significant Sentences," not because I could not find other memorable books with memorable sentences, but because no one cares. I thank all of you who have read my blog, "Significant Sentences." I have thoroughly enjoyed providing this service.

All the best.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 07

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"The British seem so detached and serene to us that their true feelings often go unnoticed." p. 164.

"It might be added also that the British unduly handicap themselves with the names they apply to some foods--bloaters, pilchards, scrag end, bubble-and-squeak, toad-in-the-hole, nosh, fry-up, faggots, roly-poly pudding, stodge, black pudding, spotted dog." p. 173.

"Tourism: ...there is enormous competition for going somewhere nobody you know has been." p. 179.

"Rome tourist leaflet urging travel to the U.S.: '...not true that Americans live on coffee for breakfast, martinis for lunch and frozen foods for dinner.' " p. 183.

Some examples of the decline in use of the English language:

"...nobody takes medicine but rather medication...." p. 2.

William Simon: "One cannot ad hoc tax reform." p. 2.

"There are those who think it is better to say 'impacted on' than 'hit.' " p. 3.

"Can we stop something, preventive medicinewise, from happening?" p. 3.

Redundancy: "...young juveniles." p. 3.

Tired phrases: "You've got to be kiddin'; it's a bad scene; how does that grab you? Just for openers; it's a fun idea; fantastic; it's the in place; is he for real? Back to square one; that's the name of the game; who's counting? bottom line; wild; would you believe? Out of sight; lots of luck; what can I tell you? What have you done for me lately? Is alive and well; it's a whole new ball game." p. 4.

"...parameter vs. boundary or limit; viable...." p. 4.

"...eventuated...." p. 5.

"...good team player...." p. 7.

Inflated language: "...indicated/said; prior to/ before; undertaken/done; subsequent/after...." p. 8.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 06.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

" 'Authored': Why not, 'He playwrighted a play' ?" p. 144.

"I think it may be better to grunt unintelligibly than to use such language [as the Hampshire College 'working paper'], for it is so impersonal and manufactured as to be almost inhuman." p. 145.

"A large part of social scientific practice consists of taking clear ideas and making them opaque." p. 146.

"On the other hand, Abraham Lincoln was on the side of social scientists when he said, 'God must have loved the people of lower and middle socio-economic status, because he made such a multiplicity of them.' " p. 148. [Lincoln actually said, "Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them."]

"The answers [in sports interviews] are purely ritualistic, but nobody minds." p. 152.

" 'Putting it all together' [in sports] was identified as the key to success a few years ago, and it has swept all other explanations before it." p. 153.

"There is no way to measure the destructive effect of sports broadcasting on ordinary American English, but it must be considerable." p. 155. [To which I add Allan Iverson's, "I should have went to practice," a butchered verb tense--("I should have ran....") used by so many sports commentators that I long ago lost count. What did they teach him in those English classes that he attended at Georgetown University? RayS.]

Monday, October 22, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 05.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

How's this for gobbledygook and jargon from educated people who should know better?

"In June, 1974, Hampshire College in South Amherst, Massachusetts graduated its first class. Plans for the college were set out in December 1966, as a 'working paper,' and these were some of the positions taken:

"...that social structure should optimally be the consonant patterned expression of culture; that higher education is enmeshed in a congeries of social and political change; that the field of the humanities suffers from a surfeit of leeching, its blood drawn out by verbalism, explication of text, Alexandrian scholiasticism and the exquisite preciosities and pretentiousness of contemporary literary criticism; that a formal curriculum of academic substance and sequence should not be expected to contain mirabilia which will bring all the educative ends of the college to pass, and that any formal curriculum should contain a high frangibility factor, that the College hopes that the Hampshire student will have kept within him news of Hampshire's belief that individual man's honorable choice is not between immolation in a senseless society or withdrawal into the autarchic self but instead trusts that his studies and experience in the College will confirm for him the choice that only education allows; detachment and skill enough to know, engagement enough to feel, and concern enough to act, with self and society in productive interplay, separate and together, that an overzealous independence reduces linguistics to a kind of cryptographic taxonomy of linguistic forms, and that the conjoining of other disciplines and traditional linguistics becomes most crucial as problems of meaning are faced in natural language; and that the College expects its students to wrestle most with questions of the human condition, which are, What does it mean to be human? How can men become more human? What are human beings for?"

Incredible! Try summarizing that in a single sentence.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 04.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"Polls...put...the emphasis in an election in the wrong place, on who is thought to be ahead, rather than on what the candidates propose and what their election might mean." p. 73.

"Politicians should be encouraged to stand for what they believe in, not try to smell out the exact mosaic of attitudes and positions that will appeal t the greatest number." p. 73.

" helped to sell foreign products if they were called 'imported' rather than 'foreign.' " p. 76.

"I am...uncomfortable when I hear the breakdown of voting results according to religion and race and national origins...because it helps to perpetuate divisions that we might be better off without, because it leads people to go on thinking of themselves in a particular way, as members of a particular group...." p. 79.

"Spontaneity is all right provided they can rehearse it first." p. 81.

"Another approach to nominating is the alliterative: 'Richard who had demonstrated courage in crisis from Caracas to the Kremlin.' " p. 92.

Jargon: "The capacity to generate language viability destruction." p. 128.

"The ability to use jargon is learned at an increasingly early age." p. 141.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 03.

Significant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

" 'Massive' doesn't even mean large any more...goes by without registering...means nothing." p. 29.

"You may convince that; you may convince of; you may not convince to." p. 32.

"What makes the incorrect more attractive than the correct?" p. 33.

"Gresham's Law tells us that the less valuable currency will force the more valuable out of circulation." p. 33.

"Why do American politicians invariably say 'I would hope' "? p. 34.

"A 'serious crisis' is the only one to 'true facts.' "p. 35.

"When does a sheet of paper metamorphose into a document?" p. 45.

"No practice in Washington is more beloved than that of attributing statements to sources who cannot be named." p. 49.

"One reason that language is debased in Washington is that it rests so often on assumptions that are unexamined." p. 51. [RayS: For example, today, in the Iraq War, newspapers and reporters on TV constantly refer to the "insurgents." What is an "insurgent"?]

"Politics has a way of bringing on meaningless language." p. 65.

"People who say 'judgmental' think they are important." p. 70.

"...anything that depersonalizes is an enemy of language." p. 71. [RayS: For example, "Wop," "Polak," etc.]

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Strictly Speaking. Edwin Newman. Significant Sentences 02.

Signficant sentences from Edwin Newman's Strictly Speaking, blunt criticism of Americans' use of the English language.

"...stiffness and bloat are almost everywhere." p. 9.

"Television...exalted the picture and depreciated the word." p. 11.

"The prevalence of 'Y'know' is one of the most far-reaching and depressing developments of our time, disfiguring conversations wherever you go.... Attend meetings at NBC and elsewhere in which people of high rank and station, with salaries to match, say almost nothing else." p. 14.

"Some people collapse into 'y'know' after giving up trying to say what they mean." p. 14.

"Language, then, sets the tone of our society." p. 17.

"Most of us will never speak...succinctly or concretely; we may, however, aspire to; for direct and precise language, if people could be persuaded to try it, would make conversation more interesting, which is no small thing; it would help to substitute facts for bluster, also no small thing; and it would promote the practice of organized thought and even of occasional silence, which would be an immeasurable blessing." p. 18.

"Still, it remains true that since nothing is more important to a society than the language it uses--there would be no society without it--we would be better off if we spoke and wrote with exactness and grace, and if we preserved, rather than destroyed, the value of our language. p. 18.

"The desire for weightiness even creeps into the language of television weather forecasts: Why [is] 'major thunderstorm activity' preferred to 'major thunderstorms?' " p. 23.

"We love to pump air into the language." p. 24.

"American journalism has a way of fastening on words and sucking them dry." p. 28.

" 'Meanwhile' now serves about as much purpose as clearing of the throat." p. 28.