Friday, March 29

Spike Milligan, who died recently, once said: 'I love breaking clichés. People hang on to clichés. The cliché is the handrail of the crippled mind.’,6109,659393,00.html

See also 'Avoid Clichés -- Like the Plague' by Patricia Fripp, including 'Fripp's Four Foolproof Tips' for making your point when writing or speaking. She quotes Sol Stein's advice in Dialogue for Writers: 'Your job as a writer is to energize people, not put them to sleep.'

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Snobs and slobs by David R. Williams

'You . . . need to think carefully before you choose your words. You need to be aware of the language battle that is raging around you. Only then can you choose consciously, and with full knowledge of the consequences, how much of a snob or how much of a slob you want to be. Worse yet, that this is an ongoing war between two eternal factions means you have no generally accepted rule you can safely follow. Some teachers are more snob; some more slob. Which you are going to be is up to you, not some authority.

'Along with this debate goes the perennial pedagogical punchout between those snobs who insist that students master the traditional rules of grammar and those slobs who think it more important to empower students by allowing their oppressed voices to burst out of the shackles of patriarchal rules. The snobs argue that learning how to write correctly is a tool that actually empowers students, that students who master the "correct" way to write can get good jobs, seize control of their lives, and escape from whatever ethnic ghettos entrap them.

'The slobs respond that "correct" means "by the standards established by white males in order to make everyone else play by the rules of which they are already the masters." They argue that it is more important that students be allowed to express themselves in their own idioms and styles and punctuation and not be made to feel illiterate and stupid simply because they are different. This, they say, truly empowers students by allowing them the freedom of their own subcultures.

'My own view is that both standard grammar and the liberation of individual voices are needed. Just as a good jazz musician must first master the scales and fingering of his or her instrument, so the writer must, as the snobs insist, master the technicalities of grammar. But just as technical mastery alone cannot a jazz master make, so a writer must also learn how to dig down and release his or her individual soul before the music can swing. Expression without form is the wailing of an infant, but form without all that primal energy is as dead as the letter without the spirit. We need both.'

See also
* 'On Dimwitticisms' at
* 'Words to be Wise' at
* 'Scarcely Used Words' at
* 'The Perfectibility of Words' at
* 'Why Linguists Are Not to Be Trusted on Language Usage' at
* 'The Remains of All Writing, the Spoils of All Speech' at
* 'Clues to Concise Writing' at
* 'Grumbling About Grammar' at

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