"Apparently, James Murdoch went to the School of Lawyerish Non-speak, and passed with high honors!"
Denise Graveline (@dontgetcaught) via Twitter, yesterday.
I've blogged before about something that conversation analysts call 'pre-delicate hitches' (for more examples of which, see the list of posts below).
‘Hitches’ are things like pauses, ‘ers’ and ‘ums', restarts of a word that had been aborted, etc. They tend to occur at points in a conversation where you're leading towards a topic or a word (or it could be news, gossip, a swear word, obscenity, joke, etc.) that's likely to come across as rather delicate, controversial or even offensive to whomsoever you happen to be talking to.
The general argument is that we use such ‘hitches’ to let our hearer(s) know that we know that they too might find what we're saying rather 'delicate'.
One pause every two seconds
So I wasn't at all surprised to see that James Murdoch's backing of Rebekah Brooks yesterday (a delicate topic if ever there was one) was punctuated by 24 pauses in 48 seconds - although, like Denise Graveline (above), I was fairly appalled by his use of transparent and proactive 'lawyerish non-speak'.
Apart from the high pause rate in this particular clip, I also enjoyed "I am satisfied" and "I think", neither of which sounded as confident or certain as he perhaps should have done under the circumstances. Note also the slight hesitation "are-are.." before coming up with his assessment of her standard of ethics and conduct as "very good".
The question put to Murdoch (3.40 seconds into the full 16 minute interview HERE) was the interviewer's second attempt to get an answer:
"My question was is it really conceivable - you're asking people, in looking people in they eye and saying 'look, she and others in her position did not know that you were paying out enormous sums of money to these people' and what I'm saying is 'is that really conceivable?'"
After delaying for about 1 second, Murdoch starts to reply (slash marks in the transcript below indicate pauses of different duration):
Murdoch: "I am satisfied ///that Rebekah//her leadership of this business//and her//standard of ethics/and her standard of conduct/throughout her career//are-are very good/and I think/ what she's shown and what what we have shown//with our actions//around/transparently and proactively working with the police//Recall/it's the///process of information discovery//that we went through//proactively and voluntarily/that actually started these investigations /to be opened again by the police//earlier this year//It's the proactive and transparent handing over of information to the police/to aid them in their inquiries around payments to the police and things like that actually/she has led/and this company has led."
Related posts on pre-delicate hitches
- Gordon Brown is finding the jacqui Smith expenses story more 'delicate' than he says
- The 'delicacy' of Mrs Clinton's 'consequences' for North Korea
- 'Pre-delicate hitces' from Brown as he avoids answering a question about the Queen
- Pre delicate hitches from the White House
- Andy Burnham declares his candidacy for the Labour leadership
- Was the royal engagement interviewer more nervous than his interviewees
- Prince Charles knew that what he said about Camilla becoming Queen was extremely delicate