The Glottal Stop

A Vilification of the Cliché

Posted in Opinion, Politics, Writing by admin on August 19, 2010

Throughout May, there was much discontent demonstrated by the electorate towards politicians. A good portion of this was a reflection of the public’s disappointment in policies that the main party leaders were proposing and disillusionment over their constant attempts at undermining each other, rather than developing and portraying their own merits. Another portion of this discontent was in the way that Brown, Cameron and Clegg all sounded exactly alike in their use of uninspired, meaningless political language. Speeches were cliché ridden, uncreative and hackneyed. The main party leaders were constantly resorting to some overused sound-bite or party slogan – ‘biggest fight’, ‘A future fair for all’, ‘change that works for you’ and ‘vote for change’. The whole event was frankly banal. The voters couldn’t even bring themselves to assign a majority to one of the parties.

Just as with politicians, writers should heed warnings about the use of clichés – particularly the most threadbare – lest they should incur the censure of their reader and ultimately begin to lose their audience.

We are all aware of clichés within our speech and our writing. To use a cliché here and there to help with the flow of a quick utterance, or to quickly convey a slightly more elaborate meaning within informal speech, is perfectly acceptable. However, we all know those writers, publications, or even acquaintances where the use of the ‘odd’ cliché is far too commonplace – this is where clichés start to grate:

To use too many clichés is, at the end of the day, after all things considered, worthy of a chorus of disapproval. But it may be down to a chapter of accidents that they exist; circumstances beyond control – but each to their own. Personally they make me sick as a parrot. Writers who use them should turn over a new-leaf; but then again, you can’t teach and old dog new tricks.

See what I mean? The overuse of clichés resulting in the defilement of your writings is just as criminal as continually using a flurry of exclamation marks where they just aren’t warranted.

Most clichés begin life as someone’s witty phrase for expressing or emphasising a thought. Though, clichés that are intelligent are often adopted and repeated by many. Multiply their use by a million, and you have the overused, tired husks of someone’s originality.

To overuse clichés is to have a complete disregard for the quality of your work; you are effectively writing something without meaning. When a reader sees a cliché they skim over it; they have seen it a million times before and it means the same thing as it always has to them. It is not your writing, it is not your creation; it is just a space-filler. Why use a cliché and give up the perfect opportunity to use a well placed and highly apt adjective or a beautifully crafted metaphor or simile?

No matter how hard you try, no cliché will be able to convey the feelings you are trying to portray. Often, the poverty of words can make describing an abstract emotion difficult; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you take the time to meticulously construct a sentence you can invoke, within the reader, the valuable connotations and associations that exist within language – your writing will seem all the better for it.

 

Alexander. B

Britain’s Indian Disposition

Posted in Economics, General, News, Politics, Travel by admin on August 5, 2010

For far too long Britain has acted with a deeply naive attitude towards India. Labour’s conduct towards the emerging super-power has not only done much to damage our relations at a governmental level – I.K. Gujral, Indian Prime minster from 1997 to 1998, once described Britain as ‘a third-rate power’ – but has also been detrimental to the image that the average Indian holds of us. I had ample chance for debate with Indian students whilst being shown round Mumbai University. Political students, with an insightful understanding of diplomacy between Britain and India, often told me that the former was often perceived as subordinating the latter, through some complacent arrogance that had somehow imbedded itself in the policies of successive governments after 1947.

The British ruled in India for over 200 years, the images of English gentlemen riding elephants and the stories of Kipling are a deep-set part of our culture, and to older generations India will always be that jewel in the British empire. However, we are deeply mistaken if we assume that this shared history gives us any prestige in the eyes of Indians. To Indians, this is little more than a period of history best forgotten.

Right from the outset mistakes were made by Labour about the ‘shared history’ that Britain and India were, quite wrongly, assumed to posses. During the Queen’s 1997 visit, a Band of Royal Marines was forbidden from playing due to its ‘imperial connotations’ and the then foreign secretary, Robin Cook, put his foot in it by offering to mediate between India and Pakistan.

In its final years, Labour was far too occupied in its snuggling-up to China to turn its attentions to the quietly flourishing India and recognise its increasing importance as both a military and trading ally. Once again, embarrassing mistakes were made; notably, David Miliband lecturing Indian Ministers on human rights issues whilst addressing them by their first names. All of which has only served to push Britain to the peripheries of India’s political consciousness.

Thankfully, It seems that Cameron’s delegation of cabinet ministers and business leaders – the largest British delegation to visit the country since independence – can be taken as a direct contrast to labour’s prior indifference, and putting in its place an appreciation and reverence for a state that could do just as well without our support.

That is not to say that this new ‘special relationship’ is completely without benefits for India. The £700m deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Hindustan Aeronautics will provide a multitude of jobs to the masses of unemployed within India (a problem that is currently being remedied by assigning three of four workers to do the job of one).

Furthermore, though we cannot rely on a shared sense of history and nostalgia to support relations between our two countries, we can appeal to the deep personal ties that are not hard to find. Britain has a 1.5 million Indian diaspora and there are 34,000 Indian nationals studying in Britain, and despite the growing allure of America as a place to study, Britain is still held as the highest in terms of repute (in all the Indian cities I visited, I saw billboards advertising agencies that would – perhaps misleadingly- ‘guarantee’ you a student visa to Britain). All of which instantly brings Britain and India closer together.

Let’s hope that David Cameron’s pledges to place a cap on non-EU migration and restrictions on student visas doesn’t end up being irrevocably detrimental towards these personal ties.

Alexander B

A Case for Divorce

Posted in General, Opinion by admin on August 3, 2010

It has always seemed that – aside from the perishable nature of love and conflict arising from domesticities, both the trivial and the grace – the two quite influential factors in escalating global divorce rates (particularly in the UK and America) are that of the economic hold over the individual (i.e. commitments to careers and a desire for job security which almost necessarily holds a sort of precedence over marriage), and that of Hollywood.

My latter reason, I believe, is not as completely barmy as it might at first seem.

Take these statistics:

# 1 United States: 4.95 per 1,000 people
# 2 Puerto Rico: 4.47 per 1,000 people
# 3 Russia: 3.36 per 1,000 people
# 4 United Kingdom: 3.08 per 1,000 people
# 5 Denmark: 2.81 per 1,000 people
# 6 New Zealand: 2.63 per 1,000 people
# 7 Australia: 2.52 per 1,000 people
# 8 Canada: 2.46 per 1,000 people
# 9 Finland: 1.85 per 1,000 people
# 10 Barbados: 1.21 per 1,000 people

These are the top ten countries for rates of divorce throughout the world (Divorce rate per 1,000 people). Sourced from divorceform.com and recorded in 2004 (admittedly a little outdated, but still relevant to this article).

The country with the highest divorce rate (the highest number of divorces per 1000 people) is the USA; not only the home of Hollywood, but along with Canada, the country with the highest consumer expenditure on going to the movies (see graph). In fourth is the United Kingdom; a close ally of the USA and heavily influenced by American culture. In eighth is Canada; America’s Northern neighbours, as well as sharing its ‘top cinema spending’ spot. Three other countries within the list have English as their official national language (Australia, New Zealand, Barbados) and thus lack a language barrier to Hollywood’s cinematic allure.

Of course, there are many other factors to consider here. Russia has it problems with alcoholism which are sure to account for such a high divorce rate. In Finland, an increasingly secularized view of marriage that saw it as an arrangement that could be ended if it did not satisfy its partners has often been cited for top ten position. However, a more interesting reason raised is that Finland’s gradually expanding welfare system could manage an ever greater portion of the family’s traditional tasks, and it made couples less dependent on the institution of marriage.

Undoubtedly the rights of women have had a large part to play in divorce statistics, particularly where their status in society is determined by a prevalence of religion and cultural tradition. For example: in many countries a huge stigma is attached to a woman if she divorces. Worse so are those cultures where there is not even a capacity for women to seek a divorce, where marriage is little more than female objectification.

In their favour, the above tabled countries are places where – of which the majority are deeply feminised – divorce is usually easily granted, and it is not seen as a stigma upon women if she is a divorcé. Unfortunately, this has lead many idiots of the online community to conclude that feminism is bad for marriage (where to begin with this fallacious notion?).

Anyway, back to the Hollywood theory.

Robert Pattison

Robert Pattison

With Hollywood comes the idealised romance, the wet dialogue, and misleading simplification of emotion. Millions have grown attached, through Hollywood, to the idea of marrying a man of Brad Pitt qualities and living the happy-ever-after life. Millions of teenagers are right now dreaming of the day they find their very own Robert Pattison. But of course, the reality of Love and relationships is oh-so very different.

An outlandish theory? Well, apparently not:

Recent findings by researchers at Heriot-Watt University (Edinburgh) have shown romantic comedies, such as Notting Hill, promote unrealistic expectations of love; resulting in an almost detrimental effect upon relationships.  And not long ago, a poll in Australia found that people felt the most dissatisfied about their partners after watching romantic comedies.

Food for thought.

Fitzboodle.