Thursday, December 11, 2014

A surprising cluster of circumlocutions

Circumlocution is “the use of many words to say something that could be said more clearly and directly by using fewer words.” Academics, politicians, shyster lawyers, and politicians who are shyster lawyers love circumlocution.

You can imagine my surprise when, glancing for the first time at a punchy online magazine called Spiked (the magazine’s owners spell it “sp!ked”), I immediately spotted three circumlocutions in a single sentence.

It was the last sentence of the first paragraph of an article titled “What private schools teach state schools,” by education editor Joanna Williams.

Here’s the paragraph:
As headmaster of the exclusive Wellington College (fees for boarders: £32,940 per year), Anthony Seldon is remarkably coy about championing the privileges of private education. His report for the Social Market Foundation, Schools United: Ending the Divide Between Independent and State, published this week, is his latest attempt to talk himself out of a job through either abolishing fee-paying schools altogether, or eroding any distinction between the state and independent sectors. Seldon’s defensiveness is driven by the fact that private-school pupils are more likely than their state-educated peers to get better exam results, go to the most selective universities, secure jobs in the elite professions and earn more money. (Boldface added.)

First circumlocution:
Sheldon’s defensiveness
An alternative:
Sheldon cowers
Second circumlocution:
is driven by
An alternative:
Third circumlocution:
the fact that
An alternative:
(Omit these three words entirely.)
And so,
Seldon’s defensiveness is driven by the fact that
Sheldon cowers because
The magazine’s name and layout are so aggressive that a reader might expect to read Spiked for a year without spotting a single circumlocution, insinuation, euphemism, equivocation or evasion. This reader isn’t going to read any further; life is too short.

The Takeaway: Wake up! Be direct!

See disclaimer.

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