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Article Title

A Civil Tongue

Authors

Edwin Newman

Abstract

Edwin Newman speaks about language. We have no hope of dealing with our problems except by chance unless we understand them, and we cannot understand them or one another unless we dig ourselves out from the jargon, the mush, the smog, the dull, pompous, boneless, gassy language under which we Americans have been burying ourselves. That may not seem to be as dramatic a challenge as some others that face the country. It may be thought not to be something by which a nation lives or dies, but in the long run, it is as pressing as any, and in the short run as well.

The worst affliction from which English now suffers is bloating. It has, unfortunately, become typical of American English that enough is almost never enough.

Language will change. Of course it will change. It is all being made much too complicated, and Newman states that a nation awash in jargon, pomposity, and opaque language on the one hand, and awash in semi-literacy on the other, is not healthy. It is damaging itself.

*This address was delivered in the spring of 1983 at Sacred Heart University as the Dr. William H. Conley Charter Day Lecture.

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