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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


May 3rd, 1998.

On Speaking.

"For blacksmiths and teamsters do not trip in their speech; it is a shower of bullets. It is Cambridge men who correct themselves, and begin again at every half sentence, and moreover will pun, and refine too much, and swerve from the matter to the expression."
(Emerson, "Montaigne," Representative Men.)

Speaking, it seems, has less to do with intelligence, than it has with a sense of ease. Some of the most normal people can speak in a magnificent fashion, without hesitation, in a matter of fact way; they often make great sense; on the other hand there are others, intelligent, educated, and maybe even bright who speak in a most halting manner.

Here are a few rules for speakers:

Speak Simply:-
Avoid the usual ornaments or irritants, rhetorical or epigrammatical expressions; make your utterance simple and unaffected. It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said in 1858: "A thoroughly popular lecture ought to have nothing in it which five hundred people cannot all take in a flash, just as it is uttered. ... But I tell you the average intellect of five hundred persons, taken as they come, is not very high." (The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.)

Do not be Argumentative:-
"... talking is one of the fine arts, -- the noblest, the most important, and the most difficult, -- and that its fluent harmonies may be spoiled by the intrusion of a single harsh note. Therefore conversation which is suggestive rather than argumentative, which lets out the most of each talker's results of thought, is commonly the pleasantest and the most profitable." (Oliver Wendell Holmes.)

Be Correct, or Conditional:-
A great deal of incorrectness and inadvertency (something short of falsehood) creeps into ordinary conversation, as Charles Lamb has said, it takes an admirable presence of mind, a "self-watchfulness."

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Peter Landry

May, 1998 (2011)