Sunday, September 18, 2005

On academics and manner of speech

I'm watching a show called Big Ideas on TVO.

There is a scholar named Liam Kennedy, from Queen's University in Belfast who is speaking about the Irish famine of the 1840s and comparing it to The Holocaust. On February 3, 2005 he spoke here in Toronto on his book, Cry Holocaust.

The speaker seems knowledgeable (but I wouldn't know) but he has some speaking traits that form barriers to listeners.

In discussing a historian's work, he stated something along the lines of, "Bleep makes a great point here, albeitly implicitly." Why add the needless, complicating comment at the end?

He says things like, "Bleep puts this eloquently," and then launches into a quote. If it's eloquent, we'll hear it. Why state it thus when you aren't actually trying to make a specific point?

There are many amongst us, and I might be one, who have an urge to be precise and complete and specific in our speech, our communications. In some, it is an overwhelming urge. What is rarely considered is that our audience neither needs nor wants our qualifying statements. We don't really make them for others, we make them for ourselves.

As we speak, we consider the words that we use then the correctness of them. Not everyone of course, but….


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