As a shepherd of speechwriters, my British and European counterpart is Brian Jenner. I'm leafing through a little book he produced, Trade Secrets: Jokes, stories and quotations for desperate speechwriters in 2014.
This one, from Robert Hardman's newish book, Our Queen, got me:
"The Queen's speechwriter was drafting a speech about a visit to Birmingham and the first line read, 'I am very glad to be back in Birmingham.' The Qeen read the sentence, picked up a pen and crossed out the 'very.'"
My favorite speechwriting authority Jerry Tarver used to joke about the speaker who was "so pompous, when he said 'good morning,' he appeared to be taking credit for it."
The other day, I almost used "good morning" in another obnoxious way.
I'm trying to reach an archivist I've never met to assertain what she has in her files.
I'm wanting her to feel the urgency urgency of my request. So instead of commencing, "Hi Joan," I begin, "Good morning, Joan."
Just to let Joan know that I know that she knows that I know that she knows that I'm writing her in the morning, and to suggest maybe she could reply to me in the morning, too. Or at least that same afternoon.
But I thought the better of it, because it occurred to me that I resent it when people I don't know "good morning" me over email. The whole beauty of email is that it allows us to engage whenever it's convenient. If you call me on the phone, say "good morning." But to an emailed "good morning," my unconscious response is, "Never mind what time it is, Bub. Tell me what you want and when you'd like to have it and I'll get back to you when I can."
So I told Joan straight up that I was in "something of a hurry" with my research, and I left it at that.
It seems to me that "good morning" should be saved for old friends and new lovers.
Am I overthinking it? Or am I just thinking it?
In Illinois in the springtime, all these billboards go up that say, "Start seeing motorcycles." As a motorcyclist, I appreciate the instinct, but I suspect the signs would be just as effective if they said, "Stop thinking about sex."
But here's some gut-wrenching safety communication that does give one pause ...
About 15 years ago I got myself involved in a smalltime Chicago political controversy. I was trying to save an old house from the wrecking ball, and I found myself dealing with community members, with activists, with high-priced lawyers, with press, with the local alderman, with City Hall bureaucrats and eventually with the mayor.
The first thing I learned: Nobody in the government ever committed anything to writing. The city people emailed only meeting schedules and public documents, and the alderman's office might as well have had no email at all.
You dealt with the alderman and his crew on the phone or in person, or you didn't deal with them at all.
The alderman would get drunk with us in the bar—and did—but he wouldn't send us anything in writing, sober. That way, anything he ever promised us, it was our word against his. And any incriminating thing he ever said might has well have been an echo in a prehistoric canyon.
The only written correspondence I still have from that time is a signed letter from Mayor Daley himself, thanking me for my efforts on behalf of the house, but promsing nothing. Several months after I got that letter, the house was demolished.
You don't do government business in writing, any jamoke knows that. But today's government kids are kids first and political operatives second, and the kids these days are afraid of the phone.
Even more afraid of the phone, it appears, than of getting their asses fired for sending emails that should never have been sent.
Nothing like a good argument at happy hour. The point of view expressed in this video, to me, splits modern American citizens about how we are supposed to think the world is working (or not). We should have to declare ourselves Tinkerers, or Topsy-Turvy-ites.
Most of the time, do you agree with Zinn's supposition that the world is topsy-turvy?
Or do you or not?
(I do. And I honor that supposition when I have the courage to. But as an American with a dollar in my pocket and roof to pay for and a child whom I not only want to protect, but take to Australia on vacation someday! ... well when you're on the topsy, how can they expect you to invite the turvy to stay indefinitely and eat whatever they want?)
I'm emceeing the Ragan Speechwriters and Executive Communicators Conference next month in Washington. In addition to the usual tightrope act, I'm introducing Jon Favreau, the best-known (and handsomest) speechwriter on the planet. This video does not bolster my confidence as I prepare. Not one bit.
Colin Wilson died last month. Do you know who he is? Maybe, and maybe not. He wrote a book called The Outsider, which was a big deal in the 1950s. But even though he's dead, he feels good about his future.
"I suspect that I am probably the greatest writer of the 20th century," he told The Guardian in 2006. "In 500 years’ time, they’ll say, 'Wilson was a genius,' because I’m a turning point in intellectual history."
It's easy to laugh at Wilson's sentiment. But don't we all—even just a teensy weensy bit—believe that we are a turning point in human history?
My dad used to say that every human being's private motto was: "There will never be another me."
Do you deny it?
On the Ukrainian Village neighborhood page:
My phone and my wallet were stolen when I mistakenly left them in the alley when I was getting out of my car. When I went back to get them the cash was gone (thankfully they left my id and credit cards) but stole the phone and have been trying to order things from amazon and apple etc. because they had access to my email and could change my passwords. ... It has been reported to police and my passwords have all been changed but I wanted to let others know to beware.
Yes, beware: Do not leave your phone and wallet in the alley. Or your mind, for that matter. You could lose it.