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Diplomatic language

July 31, 2008

Hello again,

Over recent months a lot of politicians seem to have been trying to impress not only their electorate but people abroad. Nicholas Sarkozy, with his wife, ex-model, Carla Bruni, went on a charm offensive; the rather less charismatic Gordon Brown addressed...

... meetings abroad and most recently, US presidential hopeful, Barrack Obama, took to the skies flying around the world on a quick tour of key countries.

As I listened to the carefully spun speeches of these powerful men, I was struck by the use of certain key words that are used to make us all feel included in their plans. The language of international diplomacy is larded with such terms and I have the distinct impression that speech writers have a list of words and phrases they feel bound to include to give a speech diplomatic credibility.

The people addressed are usually 'friends' or 'partners' and 'stakeholders'. The activities are 'shared'and there is usually a desire for 'dialogue',' cooperation' and 'collaboration'. It is important to mention 'values', especially if these are 'mutual' and include concern for 'human rights' and 'democracy'. Mention is usually made of what 'unites' the various 'partners' and 'joint' plans for the future are usually 'ambitious' and outcomes have to be 'sustainable'. Talks have to be 'open' and it is important to make a 'commitment' to work 'together' for 'global solutions'. At the end of discussions, the participants will usually 'pledge' a contribution to the project,

On reading what I have written, I can see that I come across as somewhat cynical. Well, I suppose I am. It is almost as if ' speech-writing software is being used, where you put in the key words you want to use (each speech will have a desired number), fill in the date, time and place, names of participants and topic, and then, at the click of a mouse, out spews the required rhetoric.

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  1. Liana Says:

    Your article reminds me of "wooden language" of the communist era in Eastern European countries...all speeches were using same words, arranged differently and this way, anyone could "compose" and "ode to the beloved leader".
    At a first sight, the whole process seems wrong but as long as politicians have to sound credible and avoid delicate matters, it is almost impossible to not fall into the trap of using "the right words" as these words have proved to be of general appeal and "safe".

    Thank you for all your excellent articles. I learn a lot from them. My best wishes !

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