Thursday, February 05, 2015

Thought for the Day

'It wasn't what you said it was the way you said it.' Ever been on the receiving end of that bit of pocket wisdom?

I am reading a fabulous little book by Mark Forsyth called 'The Elements of Eloquence'.

It was given to me by a friend who always sends copies of her favourite book each year to five people she thinks will enjoy it. Lovely thing to do.

In the book, sub-titled 'How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase' we are introduced to the proper names for all the different ways of speaking.

Please, please me sang the Beatles, possibly unaware they were using polyptoton.

Why do you have flip-flops and not flop-flips? Why do bells go ding-dong not dong-ding? Because English has a feel for the correct order of words. If you break it; that's called hyperbaton. Used by Yoda in Star Wars, it was.

And why say 'everybody' when you can say 'ladies and gentlemen'. That's a merism.

So, whether you are complaining about a football result, a supermarket or the weather (that was a tricolon by the way), it will make a difference how you say it.

When I was a child I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me.

St Paul had a way with words. Epistrophe, in fact. But it helped him tell his Christian audience to act more maturely. They might not have listened otherwise.

If we have an axe to grind we might make progress if we get our language sharper too. It's what you say and how you say it.

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