Likelihood of Success

Ron Coleman’s pretty good blog

Defining eloquence

Posted by Ron Coleman on March 19, 2008

Instapundit links to this headline:William Jennings Bryant

ABC NEWS: Buried in Eloquence, Obama Contradictions About Pastor.

It is rather ironic how the definition of eloquence has devolved. It once meant a talent for powerfully, persuasively and elegantly communicating ideas. Now it is used to describe the use of pretty language to obscure meaning.

There are other words for that.

Advertisements

23 Responses to “Defining eloquence”

  1. Ara Rubyan said

    Excellent point. I have found lots of people rolling their eyes and making air quotes around the words “great speech” when referring to Obama’s talk the other day. Frequently, the phrase “blah, blah, blah” gets mentioned, too.

    It’s another example of how we got (and may get again) the government we deserve.

  2. pennywit said

    I have a feeling you’re about a century late decrying the downward definition of eloquence. Consider, for example, William Jennings Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech. So-called “free silver” could have had a deleterious inflationary effect on the economy, but Bryan still proclaimed:

    [Y]ou shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

    –|PW|–

  3. You’re mistaking my point for an insistence that eloquence only be employed in the service of ideas that are themselves defensible or even proved correct, Pennywit. No. WJB was wrong, and very wrong, but we knew exactly what he wanted, what he meant, and what he believed.

  4. pennywit said

    I’ll certainly concede that point to you.

  5. Ara Rubyan said

    WJB was wrong, and very wrong, but we knew exactly what he wanted, what he meant, and what he believed.

    Actually, I don’t — not any more. Are you kidding me? That was over 100 years ago.

    I’m more concerned about today. Today, right and wrong are given equal footing as if the simple exercise of free speech is all we need in order to insure that we live in a free society. Republicans say Earth is flat (or Jesus rode a dinosaur); Democrats disagree.

    That’s what passes for a debate about right and wrong.

    Fact is, what matters most today is whether or not someone really, really believes in what they say. That we call “resolve” or “backbone;” THAT we value more highly than gold, whether it comes in cross-form or not.

    There’s no value in discerning right or wrong. Why bother? There will always be a TV producer who can pull someone out of his Rolodex that will be ready for their close-up, ready to argue the contrarian position no matter what.

  6. TomInStL said

    Sometimes eloquence is judged in comparison. When one speaks out with intelligent preparation and delivery amongst a sea of mangled talking-point spouting droids, they might be adjudged articulate and yes even eloquent.

  7. bgates said

    Republicans say Earth is flat (or Jesus rode a dinosaur); Democrats disagree.

    I’m struck dumb trying to lampoon the Democrats for a similar nutty belief among the fringe of their party. Every idea that comes to mind – “Democrats say America is the worst country in the history of the world; Democrats say all private property should be confiscated and administered by the state; Democrats say abolishing the American military will result in eternal worldwide peace…” are mainstream Democratic notions.

    The first moon landing happened during a Republican administration. Did Ara know that? Are you kidding me? That was over 15 minutes ago.

  8. hitnrun said

    Actually, I don’t — not any more. Are you kidding me? That was over 100 years ago. I’m more concerned about today. Today, right and wrong are given equal footing as if the simple exercise of free speech is all we need in order to insure that we live in a free society.

    Huh?! What? History is hard! What are you talking about? Obama is good!

    Nice strawman on evolution, by the way. Clearly, Republicans nominated McCain over Huckabee because of the growing anti-science movement ::rolleyes::

  9. Chill Burger said

    Today, right and wrong are given equal footing as if the simple exercise of free speech is all we need in order to insure that we live in a free society. Republicans say Earth is flat (or Jesus rode a dinosaur); Democrats disagree.

    Can I try? Democrats say Bush perpetrated the 911 attacks (or the Mossad flew the planes via remote control); Republicans disagree.

    Ok, now that ridicule of stupid ideas has been made bipartisan, I suppose we can move along.

  10. PC Martin said

    “… Now it is used to describe the use of pretty language to obscure meaning.”

    that’s the greatest most accurate statement I’ve heard to date since Obama emerged on the scene.

  11. I liked the beginning and middle of Obama’s speech. The idea of reconcilation between black and white is a powerful one.

    Unlike many, I don’t think Obama should thow aside a lifelong friend to become President. He should by all means criticise that friend’s creations but asking him to throw him off the bus is just plain unfair.

    But then on the last page or two of it, he started saying that what we should all work to is the old liberal bromides – from socialized medicine to supporting teachers’ unions to getting out of Iraq.

    I don’t believe in any of that, so does that mean we should stay divided?

    I don’t think so, but certainly it does prove Obama isn’t the guy to unite us.

    D

  12. The False God said

    The use of complicated language doesn’t hide one’s hypocrisy any better than talking points do. Politicians of this age are not defined by their language, but rather by their principles and actions.

    They have become bureaucrats and thieves, whereas they were once statesmen.

  13. HEY!

    This whole thread and the post that spawned it was about Obama. So, how is it that you folks managed to get through an entire thread and post without once mentioning the ACTUAL subject of the post?

    Amazing.

    And, for the record, I never, ever found Sen. Obama to be eloquent. He does indeed use lofty/ornate words and phrasing to avoid revealing what he really stands for.

  14. Richard said

    Perhaps Obama would not throw aside a lifelong friend (Pastor Wright?) but it appears he has thrown his dear old grandmother off the bus (“she is a typical white person…” etc.

    Senator Obama appears to be tone deaf to the feathered nuances of normal American life. He seems sensitve to perceived slights involving black Americans, but totally insensitive to the feelings of old grandmothers of a different generation, or of non-black Americans recoiling from the anti-American and racist blasts of Pastor Wright’s black liberation theology. Seems like a spoiled Ivy League kid who never grew up.

  15. Great Speeches said

    Obama is receiving acclaim for giving one of the great speeches in history. But, a great speech is not a collection of pretty words and vague thoughts designed to save one’s own skin. Great speeches, given by great men and women who take action, quite literally change the course of history, or at least stand athwart history yelling “stop!” Great speeches and their speakers don’t throw bones to every group of people who are listening. They simply state universal truths that are self-evident. Most importantly, the great speeches that come to mind are all about the Fight for Liberty. I don’t know what Obama’s speech was about, what universal truth it states, or what changes to the course of history it may bring, but the word “Liberty” doesn’t come to mind.

  16. Mugged by Reality said

    It is fun to watch all of the pundits who praise Obama’s “momentous” speech. They are the same ones who swooned when he chanted nothing but “hope” and “change.” He could say nothing at all and they would be enraptured. When the Wright videos surfaced, they had a moment of fear that it had all been a fairy tale after all. Could Wright prove them to be so wrong? But, wishing not to be mugged by reality, the same pundits were ecstatic to be able to applaud such a speech in their lifetime, to remain in their dream, and put their fears to rest.

  17. I’m not very optimistic about uniting with Obama. He may be optimistic about uniting with me, but wouldn’t be if he knew me.

    Freedom isn’t everything, but if he understands that government action removes freedom, maybe he’ll at least try to avoid those damaging side effects.

    Yours,
    Wince

  18. Amos said

    I like the idea of reconciliation between black and white, too. What I find ridiculous (and in Obama’s case, hypocritical) is the idea that reconciliation is a government affair beyond getting rid of the mostly government-imposed restrictions. I’m conservative and a Darwinist. In fact, I’m probably conservative because I’m a Darwinist. Reconciliation, like all social changes, best happens if it emerges from the slow, personal changes that go on in the privacy of one’s own mind. Thrusting social changes on to people is tantamount to supposing an omniscient Divine Creator. The only difference is that the people who want to use the State for their hopeful monsters are far from either omnipotent or divine.

    The wounds are not America’s as The Fourth Revelation asserted. They are human. The problem isn’t a question of doing this or doing that. It’s a question of believing this or believing that. After 70 years of creating the perfect Soviet Man, they ended up with petty monsters whose society-wide depression and lack of moral foundation compels them to rule in a mob State.

    The State cannot have a dialogue; it can only have lectures, edicts, rulings, propaganda and referenda.

    Only people can have dialogues. And they have: which is why Obama is where he is right now.

    Pet peeve: Obama failed to notice the first, greatest act of the civil rights movement: The American Civil War. (Yes, I know and in many ways reject the State’s right argument.)

  19. Kyda Sylvester said

    Eloquence ain’t what it used to be. But then what is. As I’ve tried to tell some of the young (very young) Obama supporters I’ve encountered along the way, they (and many more among us) have lived their entire lives during a period of great mediocrity (not in every field, of course, but certainly in education, arts and letters and politics and government) and along the way standards have steadily eroded (devolved) to accommodate that mediocrity.

    So much of what is thought fabulous! extraordinary! monumental! phenomenal! today in a different age wouldn’t have been considered above-average even. I mean, come on–today “we are the change we’ve been waiting for” is what passes for eloquence (or at least an eloquent rhetorical flourish). Grandiloquence, maybe. I’ll say this for Obama, he knows his audience. He’s got people who should know better–Sally Quinn among others–swooning right along with the kids.

    Also, “progressive” theories in the soft sciences and their applications in public life over the last 40 years have served to dumb us down considerably, but that’s another discussion.

  20. Babylon said

    Eloquence is the music of a snake charmer. Barak Obama clearly knows the melody.

  21. Am I the only one who remembers not so long ago when Mario Cuomo was anointed the Orator of the Generation?

    In contrast, “everyone knows” GWB is a retard because he is such an awful public speaker.

    The constant focus is on the superficial alone. Glibness is all. This is hardly new, but we should for that reason certainly be suspicious of it, at the very least.

  22. pennywit said

    For those who were here to remember it: How much substance did JFK carry with his eloquence? When I look back, I think Reagan had a decent substance/eloquence mix. The “tear down this wall” speech was one of those that (I think) actually helped prompt people to action.

    –|PW|–

  23. Amen, Brother Coleman! You done said the truth!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: