This morning a researcher from Stanford University was on Democracy NOW! reporting on a new climate study, the results of which were predictably scary – I think. I say I think because I couldn’t swear that I correctly understood what he was saying. Was it scientific jargon that confused me? No, it was nothing that intelligent: the problem was that he spoke in a mixture of cliché, trendy phrases, and circular speech of the kind used by politicians when they’re being evasive. I’m not accusing Stanford researchers of evasiveness, though; I’m accusing them — or, rather, him — of poor command of the English language.
As stated, the results of the study sounded scary, predicting rapidly increasing temperatures and lengthier, more intense heat waves during summer. Given the gravity of the content, I had to wonder if I was being neurotic in focussing on style over substance. I took a long hard look at my pickiness, and came to the conclusion that balking at trendy and outright incorrect language is not just being picky or curmudgeonly. This is not about my pet peeves.
It’s about the necessity of sharing a common language in order to understand one another.
I could hardly understand the guy. I don’t know for sure if host Amy Goodman was doing any better, but from the look on her face, she too seemed to be struggling. If this information is so important, if we all need to know and understand it, then it should be conveyed in simple, clear, plain English, devoid not only of scientific jargon, but also of trendy language. (He must have used the currently ubiquitous going forward half a dozen times.)
Speech that fails to convey information correctly is useless, or worse: for instance, it can provide ammunition for those who don’t believe the concept of global warming or the science behind it.
It might even be that our failure to understand information is an obstacle to solving serious problems like global warming. Could it be? It could.
- The Desirability of English as a Growing Global Language (socyberty.com)