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It is what you say AND how you say it

By Ian Nance - posted Tuesday, 16 June 2009


At an advertising agency where I produced retail advertising exclusively, the owner referred to me jokingly as “his chief vulgarian”. Or should that have been “vulgar Ian”?

This was probably because I understood the vulgate, the everyday informal use of common language, and applied it tactically to the desired section of the market. I talked to the potential consumers in their everyday speech style, a characteristic which was the style of that agency and which gained it enormous success (and hatred!).

Speech types often can be an identifier of the uncaring or the thoughtless, particularly the irritating, nasal style of dialect where the colloquial triumphs. Many disdain anything other than the constant clumsy vernacular which bonds them to their peers.

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Yet informal speech is extremely worthwhile and widespread across our society where it fulfils a need for easy spontaneity.

Many folk adopt a speech style if that manner of speaking is considered germane to their occupation: the commentator screaming a sporting call; the rigidly formal idiom of the policeman; the euphemistic dialect of the bureaucrat; the flimflam of the politician; the sing-song announcements on PA systems.

All these are a form of branding, yet all are habitual and unthinking.

Change in verbal fashion is a fact of life, therefore education and understanding about one’s language is vital for good speech and clarity of thought. You have to know the rules to be able to break them.

The declining standard of English teaching over recent years has the effect of its being no longer usual for students to enhance their basic linguistic expression. They seldom understand the nature, structure and rules of their language well enough to do much more than jump the examination hurdle. The problem is that the hurdle’s bar has been lowered!

Near enough is considered to be good enough, and those like myself who comment adversely on present day usage and style, are often regarded as pedants.

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Many of us, who studied English thoroughly in those bygone years when grammar learning included parsing and analysis, often choose to use its vast range of nuances for the sheer enjoyment of proficiency as a cultural art form.

Is that just an ego trip, or a wish that good speech might spread to others?

For many years words, and the way they were delivered, were my tools of trade. Directors, actors, writers, and all manner of verbal artists, employ an understanding and skill with speech to convey the closest possible communication of thought and emotion.

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About the Author

Ian Nance's media career began in radio drama production and news. He took up TV direction of news/current affairs, thence freelance television and film producing, directing and writing. He operated a program and commercial production company, later moving into advertising and marketing.

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