Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beware Journospeak

It’s journospeak, and the local college paper’s writers have it bad. You can tell when a writer has it: They use those magic woids and phrases that you only hear in certain newspapers, where the writing and editing is slack and unimaginative.

Favorite journospeak phrases include:
  • members of the community
  • police recognized area volunteers
  • And the ever-popular passive voice: “A bill designed to legalize marijuana for medical use in Idaho was introduced into Idaho legislature by Representative Tom Trail (R-Moscow) on Jan. 19.”
You can hear readers thudding to the ground as they fall asleep reading their boring prose – as I can hear them occasionally after they’ve ready my blog.

This false formality, this mangling of words, this drawing upon the trite and overused, is what Arthur Kober draws on in his amusing piece “Monroe Goes Back to the Indians,” in which Bella Gross writes a painfully mangled letter to her beau Monroe, tossing him to the street in a formality that reveals Bella’s lack of the writing graces. Behold:

“First of all,” she went on,” I don’t want to throw up anything to your face but I feel this matter must be thrown up. Namely you might of forgotten about the fact that when I left ‘Kamp Kill Kare’ you declared yourself with all sorts of promises galore. I took you at your word in connection with the matter and gave up some ‘contacts’ which to me I didn’t want to give up, at the same time I thought inasmuch as you declared yourself the fair and square thing to do was not to go ‘galvinating’ around, not that I am the ‘galvinating’ type girl inasumuch as I wouldn’t stoop to be that common.”

Ow. Ow. Ow. I know I’ve written some real klunkers in my life, but Bella’s the kind of writer who inspires unrest.

You know, I think I’ll use this with my writing students, if I ever get any. This is an excellent bad example.

Kober obviously has an ear for mangled language. And like Prof. Henry Higgins from “My Fair Lady,” he doesn’t seem shy about recording the mangled messes for the masses, to humorous effect.

Kober’s work is, of course, a good cautionary tale to the rest of us who find it all too easy to slip into the comfortable garb of the cliché writer. See? That sentence is full of stinkers. And we all ought to improve our vocabularies so when we write, we read real good.

No comments:

Post a Comment