The Thinking of Speaking
Issue #24 November / December 2016
Letter From The Editor
Saying Without Meaning
by Erik Zidowecki
November / December 2016 | 

People love to talk about how language is the key to communications. We often hear that the main reason for learning a language is to be able to convey our thoughts to others.

While this is true, there is also an ironic part of language we often don't mention when listening to the media, politicians, and other information outlets. That is the way in which how we say something can be used to avoid actual information from being dissimilated.

The most blatant ways of doing can be seen when asking someone a question they don't want to answer. They will give you a reply, but will often start with a phrase like "first of all" or "let me start by saying", which are English linguistic cues that what is about to follow is nothing related to what you asked. The speaker will then transition into another topic, on which they feel they can safely speak at length in the hopes that you will forget what you asked them.

Another method I have seen, which is often done in news or entertainment articles is the repeating of the same information (useful or not) in several ways which are saying the same thing but which are different enough so as the audience doesn't notice. This is a great tool for hiding ignorance or trying to build up a story which has little substance to it.

One of my favorite tricks which has become prevalent with the proliferation of news outlets and blogs on the internet is what I call "referencing info". This is when something gets reported not as fact, but as something said by someone else. For example, if a website announces that the United Nations has voted to only use Esperanto in all its official communications from now on, other websites and news outlets will report the same. However, rather than bothering to confirm the story, as would (or should) normally be done by any professional journalist, their story will contain a disclaimer in the form of "according to ...".

That reference back to the original story is key because it allows the site to basically repeat whatever they want without verifying. They are actually not reporting on the story, but rather reporting on what the other website reported on. Clever, eh? In this way, no one can ever accuse them of giving misleading information.

So while you might be trying to communicate with others, be aware that others may be using language to hide or give you false information. This can happen in any language.

Erik Zidowecki

Letter From the Editor - Saying Without Meaning
Writer: Erik Zidowecki
Petey: Blah blah blah

All images are Copyright - CC BY-SA (Creative Commons Share Alike) by their respective owners, except for Petey, which is Public Domain (PD) or unless otherwise noted.


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