A celebration of American English

Political consultant, pollster, and sloganeer Frank Luntz, in Words That Work (2007), pp. xiv-xv:


For the record, I love the English language. I have built a career attending to matters of rhetoric, to the painstaking and deliberate choice of words. I love the soft twang of Southern belles and the gum-popping slang of Southern California valley girls, the gentle lyricism of the upper Midwest and the in-your-face bluntness of Brooklyn cabbies. I’m enthralled by the bass rumble of James Earl Jones, the velvet smoothness of Steve Wynn, the upper-crust sophistication of Orson Welles and Richard Burton, and the sexy intonations of Lauren Bacall, Sally Kellerman, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. When spoken well, the language of America is a language of hope, of everyday heroes, of faith in the goodness of people.

At its best, American English is also the practical language of commerce. The most effective communication is the unadorned, unpretentious language of farmers, mom-and-pop shopkeepers, and the thousands of businesses located on the hundreds of Main Street USAs, as well as the no-nonsense, matter-of-fact, bottom-line language of men and women who built the greatest companies the world has ever seen.

This is meant to be celebratory and to sound heartfelt, but it strikes me as patronizing and overwrought. But then it’s Luntz.

(Richard Burton, by the way, was a child of the Welsh working class.)

3 Responses to “A celebration of American English”

  1. Michael T. Wescoat Says:

    Catherine Zeta-Jones is also Welsh.

  2. meg Says:

    And how ’bout that “Men are sophisticated, women are sexy” thang?

  3. mollymooly Says:

    Probably also some Brooklyn cabbies are Welsh, among other nationalities.

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