We shouldn’t stand for clumsy rhetoric

In a speech on why Scotland should stay in the United Kingdom, David Cameron said:

The letters “UK” stand for unique, brilliant, creative, eccentric, ingenious.

I’m going to assume that this isn’t the result of spectacular illiteracy. Instead, it’s a failure to watch out for ambiguity – but a pretty big failure.

He meant “stand for” in the abstract sense of embodying values. But as we all know, and as he and his speechwriters somehow forgot, the phrase also has a narrower sense of explaining what initialisms mean.

He primed his audience to expect this latter sense with his preceding mention of the letters UK, and then immediately strengthened that impression by having the first word in his list begin with U.

The result is an agonisingly clumsy lump of rhetoric. Useless klutz.

(HT Chris Applegate)

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  • nigelgrant  On February 8, 2014 at 6:24 pm

    All good. And the deliberate ambiguity in your heading can never have a negative meaning. Nice.

  • Theophylact  On February 12, 2014 at 1:32 am

    “Useless Klutz. ” I saw what you did there… .

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