Posts Tagged ‘language’

Mired in Controversy

September 22, 2010 Leave a comment

You will notice in the clip below that I am introduced first as “a controversial former member of the Labour Party in Mana” and then as the author of a “controversial blog”. What on earth have I done to deserve the use of the c-word twice in a matter of seconds? The doubling up of certain adjectives can be troubling. Take the phrase “fascinating guy”, for example. Used once, it is straight-forward, as in:

That Stephen Fry is a fascinating guy

Double up and you end up with:

That Stephen Fry is such a fascinating guy, with a fascinating past.

This makes you think that there is something a bit strange about Stephen Fry, or that person ostensibly praising him is either being a little sarcastic or trying to convey a hidden meaning.

Or take this:

Richie McCaw is a very clever rugby player.

We can all applaud such an insight, but how about:

Richie McCaw is very clever on the field. Very clever indeed.

This is now a sledge, a roundabout way of calling McCaw a cheat.

I would have been happy with one use of controversial — to be honest, I think it is fair given my central role in the failed 1996 coup attempt against then Labour leader and now-icon-of-the-international-left, Helen Clark.  And, after all, it’s lot better than the opposite:  I have no interest in being an uncontroversial former staffer who write uncontroversial blog posts But two controversials — in precisely ten seconds? That conveys more than just a little disputatiousness on my part.

If you’re intersted in the whole story from TV3’s “The Battle for Mana”, here it is.

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