The State of the Public Debate ­ Blog ­ ISAA

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The State of the Public Debate

This past week I attended my first ISAA Conference. I had no real idea of what to expect. Suffice to say that I enjoyed it immensely and that I would probably be able to have an argument with just one of the speakers. Having not been to a similar event for quite a while I was pleased to once again hear speakers using the English language effectively to say what they mean rather than using the language incorrectly to say nothing, or to say what they think I might want to hear, or simply to assert an unsubstantiated and usually invalid position.

For some years it has seemed that public discussion of important (and not so important) issues in Australia has been reduced to the passionate delivery of hyperbole, non sequiturs and meaningless clichés repetitively asserted by people who either want my vote, are mired in vested interest, have been taught to use the one answer to all possible questions or who missed many of the English lessons they clearly should have attended.

Have you noticed that all professional football teams are comprised of “de boys”? (And full credit to them by the way). Does “the reality is that at the end of the day it won't happen overnight” actually mean anything? Could “in the coming hours and days” mean “soon”? And why must we always repeat ourselves for emphasis, why must we repeat ourselves for emphasis?

Perhaps I am very unique in reacting this way, one of the only pedants who think accuracy and precision in language is important ..... or perhaps not.

PS: I recently heard a sportsman conclude a discussion on what he believed was a poor sporting performance with these words: “Oh well, you know, at the end of the day the sun comes up”! J

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