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The Decline of Straight Talk and the Rise of Linguistic Dross

When it comes to discourse strategy, American English in the last twenty-five years or so has undergone a marked decline in what can be called “straight talk” for want of a better phrase or term, meaning discourse patterns that are not engorged by a variety of fillers. The most common instance of linguistic superfluity, particularly among younger speakers, is the hiccup-like insertion of the word like. Another such word is the clause-initial basically; and to a lesser extent, so. All of these items have been characterized for what they are in earlier posts, as has the general prevalence of HYPERTROPHY in its myriad forms, among which the varieties of PLEONASM figure prominently.

What becomes clear as a leitmotif is the overarching concept of QUALIFICATION. Speakers seem more and more unable to clothe their ideas in linguistic dress that is not weighted down with dross. Here, again, as in so many cases chronicled in earlier posts, what comes to mind as explanans is APOTROPAISM. Qualification invariably comports some degree of pulling back from constating things/ideas directly. The more hedges speech is intercalated with, the less likely that its purport will entail (potential) danger.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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