Will America Be the Death of English?
Admiring colleagues have called Edwin Newman an antipollutant, sensibly sardonic, a rare bird, a genial intellect, a man nobody is going to fool anywhere, anytime, anyway. Here, in his first book, these qualities are joined.
Newman focuses on the sorry state of the English language as a reflection of the sorry state of the society. He skewers stereotypes, clichés, errors, and jargon used by weather forecasters, presidents, vice-presidents, sportscasters, diplomats, senators, pollsters, convention nominators, corporation executives, newsmen, advertisers, Watergate defendants, social scientists, college presidents, foreign correspondents, youth. If words are devalued, he argues, so are ideas and so are human beings.
Drawing upon his wealth of experience in newspapers, radio, and television, Newman contends with headwind components, game plans, bottom lines, out of sight, confidence factors, unsightly bulges, nitty gritty, and such. He deflates the pompous, the grandiose, the stilted, and the hollow. He rejoices in language that is lucid, graceful, direct, civilized. The reader rejoices with him.
“It is incumbent upon every individual to read Strictly Speaking at this point in time and in the context of where we are trending word wise. Ed Newman—scholar, wit, raconteur, and stylist—has written a brilliant, curmudgeonly book. It may even be viable.” —Tom Wicker, columnist, The New York Times
“I have been of the opinion that the English language in America would disintegrate some Sunday afternoon between the beginning of ‘Meet the Press’ and the end of ‘Issues and Answers’ in a presidential election year and during the professional football season. Nothing would be left but a heap of unrelated adjectives and adverbs. On reading Edwin Newman, I am convinced that death and disintegration could come at any time in any place.” —Eugene J. McCarthy, former U.S. Senator, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of Political Science, New School for Social Research