Alliteration Alert: It’s election time!

by Peter Paskale

How do you choose which candidate to vote for? I’ll bet you go into the booth, earnestly scratch your head, and muse:

“Now which of these candidates do I most fervently disagree with? Ah – yes – this guy or gal – they really upset me! I’ll vote for them!”

No? You don’t? Why in that case you must be voting for a candidate that you agree with! It sounds like you might even be voting for someone who agrees with your values! And that makes you, my friend, a Values Voter! And for many of us, this news will come as something of a surprise – not having been invited to that big political summit of our fellow Values Voters that took place this weekend in D.C. Maybe the invite is still in the mail?

Phrases like Values Voter and Moral Majority are badges of political honour, worn with pride by certain sections of the electorate. Look a little closer though and you’ll spot an interesting fact about these terms – they are completely meaningless.

Everybody who votes, votes on their values, and therefore everybody is a values voter.

Most people in this world are moral thank goodness, and therefore there is, of course, a moral majority.

Both labels are truisms – statements that while sounding true and occasionally profound, actually say nothing at all. So how come both of these junk-phrases have gained so much traction?

It’s because they are great political examples of alliteration – the art of taking two words that begin with the same letter and then sticking them side-by-side. Think of “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” and you’ve got alliteration taken to extremes by small children. Think of Batman and Robin – the Caped Crusaders – and you have alliteration in comic books. Think of Kit-Kat or Coca-Cola and you have it in famous brands. Think of the mainstream media and you have it in the folks who bring us the news.

Alliteration is everywhere, and it’s function is to create catchy soundbites. When used to denote groups of people however, something a little unpleasant starts to happen. That sheer catchiness creates a profoundly polarising smugness. For example, if you come to think of yourself as being part of the “moral majority”, then your neighbour who possibly doesn’t agree with you, can only be part of an “immoral minority”. If you see yourself as a part of an exclusive sect called “values voters”, then you must have a pretty judgemental view on the voting habits of the rest of us.

A good political alliteration will seize the soundbite and spice a speech. JFK knew this and used alliteration to deliver empowering phrases such as “let us go forth and lead the land we love” and “a grand and global alliance”. More recently though, it seems to be used to divide and conquer.

As we enter the final weeks of campaigning for the mid-terms and many a speech is made, let’s listen out for those alliterations and ask ourselves if this is a phrase designed to inspire the electorate, or to divide us? When we can answer that question, we start to gain insight into the true, unstated values of the candidate.

Voting on the true, interior values of the candidate? Now that’s being a values voter.

Stocking Inspiration: Your Holiday Party Speech

by Peter Watts and Gavin McMahon

Will your Holiday speech be a Holiday stocking, with tempting surprises and interesting shapes?
To help you to write one that has your team rocking,
We’ve prepared a short list of some toys we’ve been stocking.

As you plan your speech for the office party this year, wouldn’t it be great to have a team of speech-writing elves on hand to do the heavy lifting for you.

Well you do! Your own specialist elves, Gavin and Peter, have prepared a stocking full of festive ideas.

Choose just three or four of these professional Yuletide speaking techniques, and you’ll have Jolly Holiday oratory to be proud of.

For supporting your theme

Anaphora: A Christmas tricycle

A three wheeler bike gives perfect support no matter how fast you might ride. No wobble for you; there’s a wheel at each corner. Holiday messages get that same solid stability when you include the same phrase in consecutive lines of your speech:

This year we’ve delivered service that is the best in the market.
We’ve been able to give our customers a product that is the best in the market, and that’s because we have a team of people who are the best in the market!

Let’s celebrate a successful year past
Let’s celebrate a successful year ahead
Let’s celebrate  an incredibly well earned holiday

For linking ideas

Anadiplosis: The train-set

For one step further on the tricycle theme, try a train-set!

Just as train-sets link together with the rear of one car connecting to the front of the car behind it, you can string phrases together with the last word of one line becoming the first word of the next.

It’s a stylish technique that connects themes, and sounds superb.

I wish you happy holidays. Holidays full of excitement. Excitement that brings you back refreshed next year.

 Make it a priority this holiday to find some downtimeDowntime allows time for reflection, and reflection gives rise to new ideas; new ideas that lead to new opportunities.

For really hammering home the holidays

Metanoia: Candy cane pencil with eraser & sharpener

What better way to write your Holiday speech than with a candy cane pencil. Only for this technique you’ll also need an eraser and sharpener because you’re going to turn the usual bland Holiday greetings into something far sharper!

First think of a nicely classical Holiday greeting, such as “I wish you all happy holidays.” Now take your eraser and audibly rub-out the bland, replacing it with something far sharper:

 I wish you all happy holidays. No, I wish you all sensational holidays!

 This has been a good year. No, strike that. This has been a fantastic year!

For listing accomplishments

Polysyndeton: Eight tiny reindeer

Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen, On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen.”

Each name stands-out brighter than a Santa suit in a snow-drift. This is because each is emphasised by the stressed word that appears before it. Imagine if the line went: “Now Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen.” They’d all become one long stretch-reindeer blur.

For lists of accomplishments, make each stand proud by replacing commas, with the word “and”:

This year we’ve launched products and won clients and expanded the business and been more successful than ever before.

 We’ve grown the team and increased our service levels and developed the business.

To pack items into a list without those items blurring, remember the old saying:

Many ‘ands make lists work!

For encouraging miraculous achievements

Argumentum a Fortiori: A Charlie Brown Tree

Charlie Brown conjured the holiday magic from the unpromising foundation of that poor little Christmas Tree. The last one on the lot, and missing all it’s needles. It was a Charlie Brown Tree, and everybody laughed at it. But Charlie Brown’s indomitable spirit made that tree glitter.

Where have your team conquered seemingly unconquerable odds. Emphasise those moments. Celebrate those moments. Conjure the magic of past achievements, and your team will conjure magical achievements to come.

We’ve grown the business. If we can grow the business in a recession year like this,
then think what we can achieve next year.”

“We’d all agree that project ABC was the most demanding assignment we’ve ever been asked to do.
It was a tight deadline. It was a challenging client. And they kept changing the specs. And still we achieved it!
If we can meet that sort of pressure, we can meet anything!”

For defining ideas

Analogical reasoning: A drum kit & Snakes and Ladders

There are toys children love to receive but that parents hate them to be given. Drum kits for example. Why do parents hate Holiday drum kits?

It’s because drums are to family friction as games are to family fun

Analogies create the illusion of cause and effect: A is to B, as C is to D. It makes your case sound logical and your logic sound vivid. Where things are vivid, they are always remembered!

Make them seasonal: Santa is to Christmas as the Bunny is to Easter

Make them businesslike: Creativity is to success as oxygen is to breathing

Make them funny: Holiday time with the family can be to relaxation as a canal-root filling is to massage

For tackling painful memories

Litotes: A lump of coal

A lump of coal in the stocking means someone’s been bad. There are times though when it isn’t someone who’s been bad, but something that’s been bad, such as hard times or tough decisions during the year just passed.

In a Holiday speech, your team will expect you to reference those times, but with this being a celebration you don’t want to collapse the party spirit.

Negatives need acknowledging without re-animating, so use a “not……but…” structure:

This past year has not been without it’s challenges, but……

There have been times when this past year has not been the easiest, but…..

We’ve had to make decisions that have not been happy ones, but….

Follow that “but…” with an uplifting statement. You will have nodded to the tough times, but immediately re-directed your audience to better times to come.

To create a sound that sounds superb

Alliteration: A Suzy Snowflake snowglobe

Seasonal sound-bites often use words that start with the same letters. Let’s take “Suzy Snowflake”, and “Dominick the Donkey”, and then of course there’s the phrase itself: “Happy Holidays”.

Doesn’t “Delightfully delicious” sound so much more delicious than “delicious” alone? Instead of a “peaceful holiday”, how about a “perfectly peaceful holiday”?

Doubling down on opening consonants doubles the delight of delivery.

To avoid it all becoming a just little too sugary….

Oxymoron: Sour candies

Christmas Rhetoric-05

There’s a way to double-up on the double-sound technique, that’ll make your Holiday audience pucker-up with pleasure.

Like the most mouth-watering of Holiday candies, this treat starts sour, and then turns sweet!

Take two words that start with the same letter, but have more or less opposite meanings. Now try colliding them together. Make sure the first one’s nasty, and the second one’s nice!

Fearsomely festive

Disgustingly delightful

Fiendishly fun-filled

Horribly happy

It’s a tasty little contradiction that offers sweetness with a twist.

To add festive colour

Epithets: A box of crayons

Whilst plain speaking might be admired, a speech that is plain is a speech that will fail.

Your Holiday speech needs to move, to inspire, and above all, to be remembered. It needs to have colours. The colours of a bright box of brand new crayons.

Google search for a “Christmas Word Cloud”. There are lots out there to choose from and sprinkle some of it’s sparkling adjectives throughout your speech. Go with an approximate ratio of 1:50. For every 50 words of plain speaking, make sure you have at least one bright splash of festive colour.

May your Holiday speech be bright. May your Holiday speech be memorable. And may your Holiday speech be fun.

If you have fun in it’s writing, then you’ll have fun in it’s delivery, and if you’re enjoying it then you can guarantee that your audience will as well.

Happy Holidays!

 

For even more ideas about writing and delivering Holiday speeches, try this article as well: “Unaccustomed as I ham”

%d bloggers like this: