A speech writer's take on important speeches, and the craft of writing for an audience.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Elements - Moving Gingerly
It’s an expression we all use - “I’m moving gingerly.” It may even bring to mind an image of how you were the day after you started playing tennis again - after years away from the sport.
There is, despite its familiarity, a mysterious aspect to the phrase.
What does ginger have to do with it? Is ginger a solution to the problem? If not, why do we say moving gingerly?
Even without knowing the answers, it is easy to see that this, like so many other phrases we commonly use, is there to help us communicate.
The use of this phrase in the English language can be documented at least back to 1607 - the same year the first permanent English settlement in North America, was established at Jamestown. It may have been in use as much as a century earlier. It’s been in use so long, its exact origin is a matter of debate. Well, at least for those who debate such things.
The point is - while a speech must of necessity use words, a language uses more than words. Colloquialisms, common understandings if you will, even when the reason for use of the specific words involved is unclear, are essential to communication.
Common understanding is key to communication, and that is the ultimate purpose of every good speech. Even when the topic about which you are speaking is one which must be approached “gingerly.”
A veteran writer, researcher and lecturer, with more than 25 years experience in politics, political communications, and public relations. I’ve studied speech writing at NYU, and authored a number of published articles on the practice of lobbying as well as topics in American history.
My lecture on the War of 1812: 1812 – Uncle Sam’s First War, is now a lecture in the New York Speakers in the Humanities bicentennial commemoration series.