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May 30, 2012


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You're right. Yesterday a Canadian federal cabinet minister said that he was "dealing with a law that was wrote sixty years ago."

Spot on, Nancy. Great post.

Great contribution to the debate, Nancy! This topic is not just linguistic - it reflects the claim that the "good language" preserves the state first expressed by Herder in the18th century Germany.

I agree with the general thrust of your argument, but I think you too easily discount the way that poor language usage can undermine credibility. You bring up the case of George W. Bush and how his flubs didn't prevent him from earning the presidency. But he was also often mocked as a dumb. Whether he was or wasn't isn't my point here. The perception that he wasn't smart undermined his credibility as a leader on both the U.S. and the world stages. As a result, he had a harder time reaching his political goals. He was very unpopular when he left the presidency, and it's notable that the next election brought in a president known for his mastery of language. So while I agree that the business and political worlds ("the people of power") ultimately don't pay anywhere near as much attention to prescriptivist rules as writers and other grammar nerds do, I do think good communication skills play an important role in leadership.

Nice post, Nancy.

Ms. Burns's hypercorrect 'whom' may have been motivated, at least in part, by its occurrence right after a preposition — or for one or several of the reasons Arnold Zwicky mentions here:

@Henry: I don’t dispute the value of good communication. I do dispute Bloom’s argument that it’s the lingua franca of the powerful, and that the hoi polloi needs to master it to be in with the in crowd. I wish it were so, but I don’t see much evidence of it. Indeed, I see almost the opposite – in corporate America, communication skills tend to be regarded as an arcane specialty. And writers and editors are among the first to be laid off in a “rightsizing” event.

Yeah, I’m a big old cynic.

But thanks for fighting the good fight! And for reading my blog.

Ultimately, the real issue is that the New Yorker likes to think of itself as relevant.

Very interesting post. Management speak presents a whole chamber of horrors that I attribute to a culture in which everyone is afraid of correcting those above them in the hierarchy. Presents many dangers. Remember how Hitler began issuing nonsensical orders because everyone was afraid to give him the bad news than divisions he was ordering didn't exist any more. When underlings never challenge fuzzy ideas indicated by fuzzy language, the organization is headed down a very dangerous road.

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