Mind Your Language

16 Jan

Despite being seriously overworked this week and in desperate need of an early night, it was nigh-on impossible to allow myself to settle down under the duvet with a good read on Wednesday night until I’d seen the highlights and post-match reaction to Blackpool’s historic win over a shambolic Liverpool side. This enforced apnoea had nothing to do with how Liverpool’s rapid descent into the footballing twilight zone was to be dissected with yet more non-confrontational and placid pronouncements from ‘King’ Kenny. It had everything to do with one man who has single-handedly transformed the post-match interview and has become more essential in viewing terms than any of his opposite numbers in the media-conscious summit of the Premier League. Take a bow, Ian Holloway.

Holloway will rightly receive the acclaim for the refreshing courageousness with which his Blackpool side has taken on all-comers in their first excursion into the top flight since the Premier League era began. But what has truly set Holloway apart from his peers whilst introducing him to a wider global audience, is his apparent refusal to submit himself to the bland realms of cliché and empty pronouncement. Unafraid to speak his mind, he has taken on FIFA’s might by pithily dismissing the thinking behind moving Qatar’s World Cup to the winter months by sarcastically stating in December:

“Happy Christmas. You wait ‘til I get home, I’m going to tell my turkeys, ‘don’t worry, it ain’t Christmas – we’re moving it. It’s alright, you’ve got some respite… I’ve had a word with FIFA and we’re going to move it. Fantastic!’”

However, it’s not only Holloway’s refusal to kowtow to the powers that be that makes him so watchable. It is his turn of phrase which shows a unique application of how the English language can be utilised for effect when diverging away from platitudes and overused statements that demands that he should be held up in as high a regard as that other celebrated purveyor of the tongue, Stephen Fry. Witness how he beautifully mangles a metaphor to his advantage when referring to a particularly hard-fought and ugly victory:

A win’s a win. To put it in gentleman’s terms, if you go out on the night and you’re looking for a young lady, and you pull one – you know, some weeks they’re good-looking, and some weeks they’re not the best. She wasn’t the best-looking lady we’ve ended up taking home, but she was very pleasant, very nice, and thanks very much – let’s have a coffee.”

While his use of emotive language might not fit in too well with Education Secretary Michael Gove’s ideas on the English Baccalaureate that seeks to impose uniformity on young people, Holloway nevertheless shows that when used with originality and flair by a well-considered individual, words really can resonate, entertain and enlighten. But in order to do so, they must be in possession of someone who has a complete mastery and command of what they are saying.

If only someone would point this out to our friends across the Atlantic. The tragic events that took place in Tuscon, Arizona this week (that saw 22 year-old gunman, Jared Loughner kill six and injure fourteen outside a supermarket) have sadly once again highlighted the dangers of speaking with impunity and with little regard of the consequences of what comes out of your mouth.

I’m not suggesting Sarah Palin prompted this troubled young man to embark on his killing spree but her use of inflammatory rhetoric before and after the tragedy betrays a person who has little or no regard for sensitivity and furthermore builds a picture of someone who actually has no idea about the words emanating from her heavily glossed lips. America’s right-wing has become more and more vicious in its attacks on the perceived liberal outlook subscribed to by President Obama and his political colleagues.

Switch on Fox News at any time of the day and you will be witness to some truly outrageous worldviews that seek to denigrate and vilify President Obama. Of course, it’s never libelous because the network relies heavily upon innuendo, suggestion and carefully selected adjectives. But if you are promoting an idea that your President is a “racist”, as Glenn Beck has done on more than one occasion, then don’t be surprised if this spills out onto the streets of America and fans the flames of confrontation. Mrs Obama has recently been labelled a ‘fascist’ on right-wing talk radio, for instance. Does anybody in their right mind (no pun intended) seriously entertain such ideas?

What’s worse is when the totems of the Republican Party display a complete ignorance of what they are actually promoting. Responding to building criticism of her divisive language, Ms Palin stated:

“Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn”

The term ‘blood libel’ refers to an accusation or claim that religious minorities, most notably Jews, were open to ritualized murder, especially that of young children. By attempting to justify her position, Ms Palin only further served to intensify the anger towards her philosophies by comparing her situation to a systematic act of racial hatred, something that appeared in doubly bad taste since Democrat Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was shot at point blank range and remains critically ill in hospital, is herself Jewish. Whether Palin’s use of such a specific term was calculated for effect or as I suggested, highlights her (or more specifically, her speechwriters) linguistic frailties nevertheless forces us to consider the notion of free speech itself.

Whilst we all have a right to an opinion, it does not necessarily give us carte blanche to make that known at every available opportunity. There is such a thing as tact. A little more of that might be what’s needed in the USA right now. And if that’s not possible, then maybe US politicians might look to take a leaf out of Ian Holloway’s book. A little humour, intelligence and originality in what you say will win you many friends. It will even keep people from catching up on much needed sleep.

Further Reading: Taking The Mick – Dispatch 19th September

Follow Dispatches on Twitter: @gregtheoharis

6 Responses to “Mind Your Language”

  1. Steve HUghes January 16, 2011 at 15:10 #

    Bristol’s finest. Enough said.

  2. zolasbackheel January 16, 2011 at 19:02 #

    Very good article, have to say I wondered what the link between Palin & Holloway would be when I saw someone recommend this blog on twitter!

    Unlike Holloway (who I love listening to), I have forced myself to stop watching most things to do with American politics. Not only does it make my blood boil seeing the things Palin, Beck etc say, but the prospect of Palin ever getting in to power is one that genuinely frightens me.

    The woman is completely and utterly devoid of intelligence, common sense, political thought and morals. The way she has achieved masses of followers is beggers’ belief – how can the most powerful country in the world populate such a high percentage of ignorant, right-wing morons?

  3. Michael January 17, 2011 at 17:07 #

    If Palin and Holloway swapped jobs, the world would undoubtedly be a much better place.

  4. SpursSimon January 17, 2011 at 17:46 #

    I am sure the only writing linking Holloway and Palin – in the old days I bet you would have got a googlewhack for that!

  5. Jim Dimond January 18, 2011 at 10:41 #

    Excellent piece of writing – indeed “words really can resonate, entertain and enlighten”! Holloway is a breath of fresh air, whilst the stench of Palin and her ilk seeps like poison across the Atlantic..


  1. Links for 07/02/2011 « Pele Confidential - February 7, 2011

    […] Mind Your Language by Greg Theoharis at Dispatches From a Football Sofa – An accomplished article on Ian Holloway, Sarah Palin, and the use of language when addressing the media […]

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