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January 19, 2009

Words - Short & Memorable

Dear Readers,

As Winston Churchill put it "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all."

One of the mistakes English language learners make is to . . .

. . . overly focus on long, sophisticated or seemingly "trendy" words - especially to point of neglecting the more common, more universal and almost timeless small words of the English language. Perhaps our use of words displays our ultimate core attitude toward language - do we use language to impress, to dominate or to communicate?

My personal bias is that language (and perhaps human beings as well) is at its best when we focus on communicating as opposed to trying to control others.

Since the eyes of the world are on the inauguration of the new president of the United States, Barack Obama, consider some memorable phrases from other US presidents, especially consider the simple, clear and memorable words they used.

Thomas Jefferson wrote “Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle" and "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace.” And of course, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time." Abraham Lincoln

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." Theodore Roosevelt

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"And “I see one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” Both by Franklin Roosevelt.
John F. Kennedy declared: “My fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."
"If you live long enough, you'll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you'll be a better person. It's how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit." Bill Clinton

And of course, the most simple, direct and memorable line from Barack Obama, "Yes, we can".

When it comes to expressing ourselves - in whatever language - be like the presidents at their best, keep it simple.

Until next time,



About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and unlikely and ridiculous situations. Learn more about Morf HERE.

Posted by mmorf at January 19, 2009 01:32 PM

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