This BBC Radio 4 programme - one of the 'Something Understood' series, is a delightful reflection on the value of written letters. If written letters have fallen out of your life in favour of texts or emails, it is especially worth listening to. "American broadcaster Julie Shapiro began a long correspondence with her great aunt Lill following the death of Lill's husband twenty-five years ago. It lasted until Lill's own death seven years later. These letters, read by Irma Kurtz, form the central part of a programme that examines the rituals, intimacies and sustaining qualities of old-fashioned letter-writing". Link to the BBC site and programme.
'Committed suicide' or 'took her own life' rather than, plainly and more accurately, 'ended her life'. And 'lost his faith' rather than simply, and again quite possibly more accurately, 'stopped believing', or even 'gained new understanding' or even simply 'changed his mind'. I have an amateur's interest in language and especially turns of phrase, and these examples, in their common form, irritate me, as does 'committed Christian' (rendered useless by association with the fervent end of things) and 'self-confessed this or that'.
Today the Executive Director of the Aston Business School sent me a cheery email, addressing me by my first name (we have never met) and beginning: "I hope you’re well. As a senior professional at [my place of work] are you looking to take your role to the next level and become a thought leader in your field? If the answer is 'yes', then the Executive DBA (EDBA) - the highest internationally recognised business qualification available - from triple accredited Aston Business School could be just what you're looking for."
I replied: "Dear Ann: No, I’m not, but thanks for asking. I have no wish to become a ‘thought leader’ and rather regret that any sane person might even think in such terms. I do understand the pressure on universities to market themselves, but it can make for very dispiriting reading. And no mention anywhere of improving one’s skills for the common good or in the service of others..."
I once viewed universities with respect. Something pretty serious seems to have overtaken them.
Funny how you can miss things. Yesterday I came across the term 'overtalk'. Hugely serviceable; I don't know how I managed without it. The phenomenon, of course, is well known: people who talk too much; and not only that, but use too many words, too many sentences, to make a single point. I am much happier knowing that it has an official description. Funny that. My impression is that people generally use more words now than they did. Can that be true? Perhaps it is because the world is noisier (internet, social media, 24/7 TV, blah blah. Blah. blah indeed). Apparently the origin of 'overtalk' has been traced to the mid 19thC, used by one Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873). So people were at it even then.
When facing a seemingly endless eleboration and repetition of a simple point I have found myself interjecting 'understood'. But to little benefit. The speaker is on a roll, or perhaps too locked into a fantasy of some sort. I suspect anxiety to be at work.