Half-way into the first base decade of the twenty-first century, elections were scheduled in three major nations : the US, the UK and Australia. Reading about these in the media, I was struck by the duplicate happening of the phrase “ aglitter generalities ” referring to a proficiency of canvassing adopted by politicians. Though the term appeared fresh to many of us, it had been used by Abraham Lincoln in 1859. He sent a letter to Henry L. Pierce in which he said the opposition was deriding Jefferson ’ mho principles as glittering generalities. The term became wide known after the Institute for Propaganda Analysis listed it as one of the seven techniques of propaganda .

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V.R. Narayanaswami

Glittering generalities have two features. They are undefined and much equivocal, and the hearer receives the feel that is close to his own perception of the word. Second, they are positive words, sometimes called virtue words. The hearer about instinctively trusts the informant. here are some examples : family values, birth correctly, democracy, caring society, honor and freedom. many of these are abstract nouns with a penumbra of entail that is hard to spell out .
In major speeches, like the Republic Day lecture in India or the inauguration lecture of the US president, there will be a liberal supply of merit words. Obama ’ s yes-we-can lecture bristled with such words : judge and equality, opportunity and prosperity and heal this state .
When a politician says, “ we should cherish and protect our democratic values, ” the hearer is swayed by the positivist intension of the words. majority rule is a sure measure, a care for concept. But majority rule means different things to different people and the loudspeaker conceals the proposed mean. Starting with the Gettysburg definition, you could focus on any of the three prepositions, of, by and for, and come up with three different definitions .
In a broad sense, any country that chooses its government by voting for it in elections can be considered democratic. But within this there are many possibilities. Who is qualified to vote ? Is there discrimination on the basis of sex, education, or old age ? When a speaker uses democracy as a generality, these questions disappear. Blind toleration is what we see .
many analysts have linked glitter generality to George Orwell ’ s ideas in the try Politics and the english Language. Orwell fulminated against the degradation of the english speech. He wrote : “ Political write and lecture are largely the refutation of the indefensible. ”
A common parole with convinced connotations is “ class ”. Politicians find that a reference to family values brings its rewards. One of the virtue words that politicians exploited during the end decade was “ hardworking families ”. This phrase was widely used during the elections in the UK in 2005 and in the US and Australia in the following years. In his celebrated yes-we-can speech, Obama referred to the plight of “ hardworking Americans who struggled with costs that were growing, ” and “ barren hardworking Americans holding the bag ” .
In England excessively, “ hardworking families ” was seen as a glitter generalization. A BBC report on-line said : “ It is quickly becoming the most overuse phrase of the 2005 election. ” family and class values are cherished phrases and evoke an emotional response. How do you identify a hardworking family ? Do you mean a syndicate that works hard and does not depend on benefits from the government, or a family that works hard but needs digest from the government at the same meter ? Is the definition related to the number of children in the kin ? Interviewed on television, a mother of eight asked : “ Why should people with lower incomes be prevented from having children ? We are not living in China … ”
As in political discourse, glittering generalities play a significant character in shaping people ’ south opinions through advertising. But that discussion calls for a separate column .
V.R. Narayanaswami is a erstwhile professor of English, and has written respective books and articles on the use of the speech. He looks at the peculiarities of business and popular English use in his fortnightly column.

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