P.S. Two years later
I've just noticed that the original YouTube video had been removed. Luckily, there are plenty of others of the same thing.
- Are Latin languages inherently more 'long-winded' than English?
- If so, does this create problems for turn-taking that hadn't been noticed by research originally based on tape recordings of conversations between native speakers of English?
- If so, could a greater reliance on gestures be a practical solution to any such problems?
- Hand-written version (for one particularly difficult chapter of a book I wrote 30 years ago, only about about one sentence a page survived without being crossed out or amended, which meant throwing out 19 pages for every one I kept), followed by
- the author's amateurishly typed version, with much Tippex and scissors & pasting before handing it to
- a secretary who typed a neat version which
- still needed further editing and amendments before
- the final typed version was submitted to publisher who would eventually send back
- galley-proofs for copy editing (with minor changes still possible) before
- PUBLICATION OF THE ARTICLE/BOOK
'And it's probably no coincidence that, unlike most of his political opponents, he's one of the ever-decreasing number of MPs who actually had a proper job outside politics before becoming a full-time politician.
'As chief economist at Shell, making economics intelligible to colleagues who weren't trained as economists must have been a routine part of Vince Cable's everyday working life - that has now, in his 'new' life, become his strongest 'political' asset.'
This strikes me as being rather interesting, if only because I'd been writing about being under legal pressure to 'tone down' some of my comments on the pros and cons of PowerPoint before the publication of my book Lend Me Your Ears - and had pointed to this video as an example of something that was 'freely available on YouTube and, as far as I know, hasn't attracted any attention from Microsoft's legal department.'
The removal of the version on YouTube that I'd embedded suggests that someone somewhere isn't very happy about it.
Brain also attached a link to the best presentation he saw this year (below) and asks if anyone else has any other great speeches to which they'd like to draw attention - suggestions to him or in comments below.
I’ve just received an email with Christmas greetings from the White House Writers Group in Washington D.C., which contains a nice little ditty:
Santa called the other day.
"I need a speech and right away!
It should sound new, but somehow old;
A message sweet, yet still quite bold.
My words must be both short and clear
And memorable throughout the year!"
Our writers worked all through the night
To get each phrase exactly right.
Then one scribe cried, "Ah ha! I know!
Tell Santa to say just, 'Ho, ho, ho!'
Rhetorically speaking, their use of repetition, contrasts, alliteration rhyme and a three-part list can hardly be faulted.
But, having just heard Santa using these very words 3,000 miles away from Washington, I realise that this memorable line raises another intriguing question, namely, what had he been talking about just before saying “ho, ho, ho”?
The reason for asking the question comes from many years ago when I heard the late Gail Jefferson talking about her fascinating and innovative work on transcribing particles of laughter, of which “ho, ho, ho” is one of several possible vowel sounds – such as “ha, ha , ha”, “he, he, he”, “huh, huh, huh”, etc.
The gist of Jefferson’s point was that which one of these gets selected often seems to be triggered by vowel sounds that had come immediately before it. Someone might say “he was stung by a bee – he-he-he!”, “he was locked in the bar – ha-ha-ha” or “she dropped a bottle of gin on her toe – ho-ho-ho”.
I didn’t catch what Santa had been saying just before he used the line that had been supplied to him by the White House Writers Group, so there’s scope here for a pre-Christmas creative competition.
- Should I leave things as they are, keep up the boastful pretence that one of my books has stayed in print continuously for 25 years and receive an annual pittance in royalties?
- Or should I get the rights back and make the book available in electronic form, at a lower price and with the addition of new material on what's changed since 1984?
After thanking Tony Benn earlier today for his lifetime contribution to my career, I was not intending to post anything more about him for quite a while.
But, having invited comments about the yesterday’s video clip on Twitter, replies came in from a number of people who had noticed something about his eyes and/or eye movements (for which, thanks to Olivia Mitchell, Marion Chapsal and Martin Shovel).
I was fascinated by this, because I’d originally thought of adding a note about his eyes to my comments on yesterday's video clip - pointing out that, in the parts of it where we can actually see his eyes, he doesn’t blink at all.
I didn’t mention it because I thought the post was already quite long enough. But the reason it had crossed my mind was because of of something else I’d written about Mr Benn 25 years ago.
Mad staring eyes?
‘… his more vindictive critics sometimes claim he has ‘mad staring eyes’, a point he has occasionally even joked about in some of his own speeches. In fact his eyes are rather large, and this may actually be a much more important communicative asset than he or his critics realize. It presumably means that more people will be able to track more of his eye movements over a greater distance than is possible in the case of speakers with less prominent eyes. The rate at which Mr Benn blinks his eyes while making a speech is much lower than is the case with most other orators, and this may further contribute to visibility of his eyes … which has probably contributed to his gaze being described as ‘staring’ ('Our Masters’ Voices', pp. 91-92).
Some years after that, I met someone whose wife worked as a nurse in a mental hospital, where there was a locked ward for severely disturbed patients. Bolted into the ceiling was a TV set that was kept switched on more or less continuously, even though it seldom attracted much attention from residents who spent much of their time wandering around the room in different directions.
According to the nurse, there had only ever been one occasion when she’d seen all of them gather together as a group and gaze up at the the TV on the ceiling at the same time. It was during a live broadcast from a Labour Party conference, where there was one, and only one, speaker who seemed to hold them ‘spellbound’ for quite long periods and in a way that nothing else on television ever did.
By now, of course, you'll obviously know exactly who it was. But at the time, I remember being totally amazed, flabbergasted and almost a little stunned to hear that even this audience was held in thrall by the power of Tony Benn's oratory.
This particular clip comes from a Labour Party conference in the early 1980s, when he was at the height of his powers and a prime mover in his party's electorally disastrous lurch to the left after Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 (on which, see also HERE).
It shows how he was so in tune with the way the audience was reacting that a slight response to his news about that day's record stock market fall was enough to prompt him to break off from what he was going to say and launch into an impressively constructed contrast, each part of which ends with the phrase ‘the wealth of the nation’:
BENN: For a moment between debates the stock market had its biggest fall was it within living memory 30 points – and uhh that is an indication that indeed it was rather appropriate that ITN was swinging
[A] from the stock market where they’re gambling with the wealth of the nation
[B] to Brighton where we represent the people who create the wealth of the nation.
The sequence also provides more examples of the way 'iconic gestures' come before the word(s) to which they relate, as discussed in earlier posts (HERE and HERE): Benn's swinging hand movements get under way quite a while before the word ‘swinging’ comes out of his mouth – whereupon his hands start moving to his left just before the words ‘stock market’ and to his right just before he say’s the word ‘Brighton’.
Then the slightest pause after ‘create’ followed by the coordinated downward movements of his head and hands are reminiscent of the precision with which an orchestral conductor brings in the whole of the chorus on time – and the audience starts applauding just before he's finished repeating ‘the wealth of the nation’.
But, as was typical of Benn, he didn’t stop there but carried on trying to ‘surf’ the applause - not that he says anything more important than "and that is also-" and "now uhh-") while the applause is still preventing his words from being heard - for more on which, see HERE andHERE).
One point of interest is that, as the applause gets under way, the camera switches away the from the audience to focus on Benn's former Labour cabinet colleague and arch-enemy of the day, Denis Healey, who had just narrowly defeated Mr Benn in an election for the party's deputy-leadership - but who seems to be thoroughly enjoying this particular line.
Another is the fact that a stock market fall as pitifully small as 30 points was treated as such dramatic news in those days!