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Jewish World Review
Nov. 14, 2008
/ 16 Mar-Cheshvan 5769
Dumber rather than smarter
There should be a law against overused expressions. Come to think of it, "there should be a law" is one of them. Come to think of it, so is "come to think of it." Everyone probably has their favorite overused trite expression that they would like to see done away with. I have so many that it would be hard for me to choose which one I'd ban first. You might start with "no problem," "that is so cool," and "slippery slope." And don't forget the ever clever "24/7" which is said by practically everybody, er, 24/7. That witty phrase "You GO girl" should GO directly to the dustbin of tired clichés.
There's a hackneyed meaningless expression that politicians use that drives me nuts. Actually there are lots of hackneyed meaningless expressions that they use that drive me nuts, but there is one in particular that has gained in popularity in recent years. I heard it again today when at a press conference Barack Hussain Obama said, "I'd like to see an economic stimulus package enacted sooner rather than later." It's the "sooner rather than later" part that gets to me.
"Sooner rather than later" means nothing; it's a total bloviation of words. A waste of breath. Complete bull. Why not simply say, "I'd like to see an economic stimulus package enacted soon." Period. Sooner, by definition, already means rather than later - you don't have to say it. It would be like saying "Id like to have my coffee at a temperature that is hotter rather than colder." Or telling a waiter that you'd like your meal severed faster rather than slower.
Adding the "rather than…" thing is unnecessarily redundant. If you turn on a lamp you're making the room brighter rather than dimmer. Yes, of course you are. If you take a bath you're getting cleaner rather than dirtier. Uh huh. If you lose weight you're getting thinner rather than fatter. Yeah, that's usually how it works. And if you do something sooner rather than later it generally means that it got done sooner. Get the idea?
And speaking of speaking, has anyone besides me noticed that for such an "eloquent" speaker, Obama (when not reading from prepared text) says "y'know" an awful lot of the time? If you haven't noticed him using that phrase, it's because he says it very quickly so it's easy to miss. Sometimes he says it so fast that it kind of sounds like "yo" instead of "y'know." Listen for it the next time he isn't standing in front of a teleprompter. He also stutters when he is trying to talk fast over someone.
My theory on the "Obama Eloquence" thing is that he really isn't such an articulate speaker - it only seems that way because for 8 years we've had a president who couldn't speak in public at all. Whatever else you think about George W. Bush, you must admit the man had no way with words. Bush just couldn't express himself; he couldn't get his ideas across. This is a problem in an age where the act of communication is more important than the ideas you are communicating, unfortunately.
With Obama, it's not what he says, it's not even how he says it, it's the SOUND of his voice that people respond to - he sounds like a professional announcer. And he reads speeches extremely well from a teleprompter, knowing just where to place the emphasis, and how long the pauses should be. Clinton and Reagan were masters of that, but they didn't need to read it, they were just as smooth and articulate speaking extemporaneously. No "y'knows" or stuttering.
Americans like their presidents to sound strong - and between Obama and McCain who sounded stronger? You may not like what Obama is saying, but boy; he sure says it with strength and authority.
"What did that guy say?"
"I think he said he's going to raise our taxes."
"Well, that's okay, because he enunciates it so beautifully!"
Being good at public speaking shouldn't be the reason you get elected for president, but I think that's exactly what helped get Obama elected - or at the very least, it didn't hurt. The other thing that didn't hurt was the fact that he looked "cool." Of course voters should vote for someone based solely on their plan for governing, not on the way they speak or look. But we live in a time where people do judge a book by its cover.
At any rate, we now have a new president-elect. We know he has nice diction and mellifluent tones, but how this president will govern is anyone's guess. By all indications, our country will make a sharp turn to the left. Taxes will probably go up, social programs will undoubtedly increase, and big government will in all likelihood get even bigger. This country will be changed drastically, there's no doubt. The only question is, how soon will the changes take place? My guess is sooner rather than later.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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© 2008, Greg Crosby