Have we taken "managerial language" too far, to the point where it makes no sense? At the Perth Writers' Festival -- author and former speechwriter for Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating -- Don Watson sits down with philosopher AC Grayling to discuss how language is evolving at the expense of logic and clarity. Is the point of good language now to mask, misdirect and obscure? Is it time to bring back the teaching of Latin in schools?
David Cohen is a freelance journalist based in Perth, Western Australia. He works in print, broadcast and online; reports news and and features; has written columns, criticism and reviews; and accepts all reasonable offers of work (and quite a few unreasonable ones as well).
A.C. Grayling is professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a fellow of the World Economic Forum and the author of Meditations for the Humanist.
Don Watson is one of Australia's most distinguished writers and public speakers. He grew up on a farm in Gippsland, took his undergraduate degree at La Trobe University and a Ph.D at Monash and was for ten years an academic historian.
He wrote three books on Australian history before turning his hand to TV and the stage. For several years he combined writing political satire for the actor Max Gillies with political speeches for the former Victorian Premier John Cain. In 1992 he became Prime Minister Paul Keating's speech-writer and adviser and his best-selling account of those years, Recollections of a Bleeding Heart': Paul Keating Prime Minister, won both the The Age Book of the Year and Non-Fiction Prizes, the Brisbane Courier Mail Book of the Year, the National Biography Award and the Australian Literary Studies Association's Book of the Year.
In addition to regular books, articles and essays, in recent years he has also written feature films, including "The Man Who Sued God," starring Billy Connolly and Judy Davis.
His 2001 Quarterly Essay Rabbit Syndrome: Australia and America won the inaugural The Alfred Deakin Prize in the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards. Death Sentence, his book about the decay of public language, was also a best seller and won the Australian Booksellers Association Book of the Year. It was published in the UK and the US. Watson's Dictionary of Weasel Words was published in 2004 and continued to encourage readers to renounce what he perceives to be meaningless corporate and government jargon that is spreading throughout Australia and embrace meaningful, precise language. More recently Don contributed the preface to a selection of Mark Twain's writings, The Wayward Tourist.
His latest book, American Journeys, is a narrative of modern America from Watson's travels in the United States post-Hurricane Katrina. Traveling the railways and highways, he writes about religion, race, class, places, politics and people; the noble dreams and confounding paradoxes of the world's greatest democracy and superpower. It was published by Knopf in 2008 and again won both the The Age Book of the Year Non-fiction and Book of the Year Awards.
Author Don Watson laments the encroachment of management-style language into other aspects of daily life. He cites humorous examples from a seminar he attended on "plain English," as well as a recent pastoral letter that caught his attention.