Friday, August 9, 2013

The Brevity of the Headless Chicken

A pot calls a kettle black…
Dan Q: How was your day?
Tony B: Been running around like a headless chicken.
Dan Q: You mean a chicken with his head cut off?
Tony B: Perhaps. But that takes six words and headless chicken is two.
Dan Q: Two doesn’t tell the whole story.
Tony B: But it beats about the bush, it’s lexiphantic.
Dan Q: Excuse me, lexiphantic isn’t a word…
Tony B: Consider it to mean using six words when two will do.
Dan Q: Words like “lexiphantic” are confusticating.
Tony B: You mean “confusing.” We probably both need an editor to watch what we say.
Paraphrasing Polonius: “Since brevity is the soul of wit, I will be brief: you beat about the bush, but let that go.”
 For example: Alistair Cooke in his acceptance speech for the 'Best Speaker of English' award in 1998, parodied a US Government representative's version of Genesis 1:3:
 "The Supreme Being mandated the illumination of the Universe and this directive was enforced forthwith."
Cooke then compared this with the King James version:
"And God said, Let there be light: and there was light."


rolenzo said...

Isn't that a headless quail, Dan?
A most interesting posting! The tension between brevity and rhetorical richness. Even my engineering students come to appreciate the choice - the technical academic genre is coming to have some rhetorical dimension. Some!

Barry Natusch said...

Wondering where this year's summer rolls and roils with Rolo? For some of us, we alternately shiver in the heat and simmer in the frosts as we switch hemispheres. Yes, the contrast between brevity and bombast, between crisp clarity and frizzy woolliness... Getting rhetoric right can be dementing. Prost!