Last week’s flurry of smirking delight over Rex Tillerson’s refusal to disown ‘fucking moron’ set me musing once again on the alchemy of the soundbite.
Those two words will hang around Trump’s neck for the remainder of his presidency. Supporters, detractors, players and commentators, no-one will ever forget them, or see the President without them muttering in the background. It reminded me of the dawn of the Trump candidacy. At first, in those long ago halcyon days, the whole idea was an absurdity. Trump was blowing off wind, as was his wont, but as to his becoming President – what, The President? Of America? Seriously?
And then I heard the words ‘Make America Great Again’, and I thought ‘uh oh’.
So, four words made him Mr President; now two hobble him forever as President dumbo.
Never underestimate the power of words.
Government communications have improved immeasurably in my lifetime.
When I was young, pretty much everything originating from an official body had to be translated from a near-impenetrable Pathé News polysyllabic porridge. Somewhere along the line, someone grasped the novel notion that communications should actually, well, communicate, and with the help of the likes of the Plain English campaign, great progress has been made in making things accessible to people who don’t read a great deal. Which, let’s face it, is a lot of people.
So I was a bit surprised recently to come across (http://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1126.aspx?categoryid=51):
Two paras down you come to an explanation of Kcals and KJs which, with a bit of unpicking, lets you cross-refer back to the opening para and get to the answer you actually wanted when you arrived. In common parlance:
- For a man – 2,500 a day
- For a woman – 2,000 a day
Why couldn’t they simply state that at the top, then move on to the caveats?
Discussing the astonishing Power of Google with friends t’other day, and I suddenly remembered – then managed to track down – this, written for Andersen Consulting (as Accenture were then named) back in 1990.
Pretty prescient, I thought.
Ok, I’ll post some words soon. But indulge me – the last of the summer, from a bike ride from Bristol to Lands End (in the teeth of a hurricane-related gale, I might add).
…and you thought I only did words.
A sign from my brother in law’s restored Edwardian railway carriage, in which I spent a few nights recently:
Ever get the feeling the copywriter was given an open brief…and perhaps some product to sample…?
Reading about the proposed Body Shop takeover, I came across not one but two words with which I am not altogether familiar:
‘Complimentarity’? I mean, you can see what they’re driving at, but is that actually a word? Well yes, apparently. Commonly used in physics: “a theoretical and an experimental result of quantum mechanics, [which] holds that objects have complementary properties which cannot all be observed or measured simultaneously.” Less commonly in everyday life, where it is used to describe “a relationship or situation in which two or more different things improve or emphasize each other’s qualities.”
Ok, now, ‘naturality’? Surely not. Well, again, it’s not as brand spanking new as I’d been thinking. Quite the opposite: generally described as ‘obsolete’ – a shred of late medieval English which failed to survive into the modern era. Until today! Naturality is back!
En passant, does a journey have pillars?
Watching Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation last night, and Shakespeare came up. Anyone who wields words for a living can only look on in awe…
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,