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Questioning Intonation

Oh I know there are much more important things to be concerned about,  but it is one of these things that is pervading the broadcast media. I suppose it started about 20 years ago and I believe it began in Australia.

It consists of someone answering a question but raising the pitch of their voice at the end of a sentence, thus making it sound like another question rather than an answer. It irritates the Hell out of me, to the extent that I have begun shouting at the radio when someone does it.

Being a regular listener to speech and news radio, my anger seems to increase on a daily basis.  Another thing that is becoming evident is the increased use of buzzwords in news interviews. Next time you hear an expert or media type being interviewed, just count the number of times they drop in the following words:

Partnership, robust, engage, stakeholders, consultation process, customers, excellence, best practice and the like.

We are drowning in a sea of glittering generality.


General Failure

Ever heard of Glittering Generalities? They are words and phrases used by politicians which mean precisely not very much and more often than not, the square root of hee-haw. Glittering generalities were much loved and often used in the heady days of New Labour. Perhaps the most often used one was ‘hard working families’ or hardworkingfamilies.

I wrote about a former Scottish Labour Leader’s use of glittering generalities here more than four years ago.

It seems that based on her success, current Scottish Labour Leader Johann Lamont is determined to follow in her predecessor’s footsteps.

From this morning’s BBC news:

I’m sure the SNP’s reaction will be similar to what it was to wee Wendy.

Glittering Gordon.

Yes folks today was the Prime Minister’s make or break day with a key speech to the Labour party conference. What was his big idea? what was his rallying call to the troops? what was that killer line that would galvanise support and get the government and his leadership back on track?

Here it is.

Are you ready?

“What happened with 10p stung me because it really hurt that suddenly people felt I wasn’t on the side of people on middle and modest incomes – because on the side of hardworking families is the only place I’ve ever wanted it to be,”

‘Hardworking families’ is the most hackneyed glittering generality in politics. Politicians use the phrase in a vague manner, with the intent that the listeners, by dint of the positive connotations, perceive the politician to be referring to them; and with the intent that listeners agree that anything to the benefit of “hardworking families” is right and anything to the detriment of “hardworking families” is wrong.

Brown’s fucked. He’s just proved it.

The Alexander Technique – All That Glitters.


Hardworking family wummin shows off the fruits of her Labour

“The Scottish Nationalists are penalising hard working families” – Wendy Alexander at the Scottish Labour Conference this week.

Ah yes Wendy, “hard working families” was perhaps the most over used phrase of the2005 UK election campaign especially by you and your Labour colleagues. What does it mean? well actually it means precisely hee-haw and is what is known as a glittering generality i.e. a vague term with positive connotations. This should be right up Wendy’s street because politicians in general and Labour politicians in particular are prone to using this sort of pish all the time.


The SNP leadership show their level of concern over Wendy Alexander’s performance at the Scottish Labour Conference

Here is a cut out and keep guide to glittering generality.

  • “Use attractive, but vague words that make speeches and other communications sound good, but in practice say nothing in particular.
  • “Use linguistic patterns such as alliteration, metaphor and reversals that turn your words into poetry that flows and rhymes in hypnotic patterns.
  • “Use words that appeal to values*, which often themselves are related to triggering of powerful emotions.

“A common element of glittering generalities are intangible nouns that embody ideals, such as dignity, freedom, fame, integrity, justice, love and respect.” (*and in Wendy’s case, excuse me while I stifle a guffaw, socialism!)

Wendy Alexander is the High Priestess of Glittering Generality. She is I believe presiding over the demise of the Labour Party in Scotland.