By Sir Taki Theodoracopulos
I am writing this dispatch from the birthplace of “oracy,” the art of public speaking first perfected by the Athenian Demosthenes, a speaker so eloquent and influential he managed to force the great Aristotle to move back to Macedonia, his birthplace. Demosthenes did not like nor trust northern Greeks like Aristotle and his pupil, one Alexander the Great, the same distrust that many American Southerners felt for the interfering Northerners circa 1861.
Oracy, needless to say, is a skill equal to numeracy and literacy, one mastered at school in my day but, judging by today’s public speakers, no longer taught at any level. Only last week, sitting in a London café, I took out my notebook while three attractive American young women babbled away nonstop. I felt a bit like Henry Higgins in Shaw’s Pygmalion taking down Eliza Doolittle’s cockney outbursts. One of the three women noticed what I was doing and asked me rather coldly why. “I’m counting the times you’re using the word ‘like,’” I answered her. I did not dare tell her I was a linguist—which I am not—because they might have called the fuzz thinking that a linguist is some kind of sexual pervert. Never mind. Let’s get back to oracy and the beauty of eloquent speech.
The great Tom Wolfe once wrote, while reviewing a collection of my writings, that Americans cannot compete with the Brits in public speaking because the latter are examined orally in class, whereas the Yankees write it down. It made sense. Educated Englishmen are above anything else very good speakers. Americans can be, like, like, you know, like…you know, and so on.
When I look back at my youth and my education at an American private school for boys, public speaking was a popular subject taken even by “jocks” like myself anxious to avoid science, math, and other difficult majors. In class we had to read aloud poems or passages of literature, and at times we had to read a speech written by our own little old selves. Captains of sports had to review the year and their individual sport at the end of each term in front of the whole school, and public speaking came in handy then because “jocks” on scholarships were notoriously inarticulate, as they remain to this day.
Needless to say, the debating society was crawling with wimps who preferred to jaw rather than fight, but looking back, my sore soccer knees and numerously operated-on wrestling shoulders convince me that the wimps were smart and we, the jocks, were the dumb ones. In today’s climate, good speech is a negative, especially if the f-word is left unsaid. It is also dangerous for teachers to teach things pupils might not relate to. Worst of all, of course, is the invention of trigger warnings, a system that allows students to remain as dumb or even dumber by doing away with all difficult subjects—like Shakespeare, for example. Ditto safe spaces, another invention by the woke mob for a student to remain uneducated and stupider than when he or she arrived at school.
It all has to do with elitism, the kind practiced by ghastly lefties who write lies for The New York Times and spread nonsense when reporting the news on television. This warped and degenerate elitism wants the scope of teaching to be narrowed, for high standards of word use, elocution, and presentation to be done away with and replaced by “ordinary” speech—in other words, dumbed down to the level of the uneducated.
Let’s put it another way. When was the last time you saw a movie where the hero spoke well, like an aristocrat? If you watch TCM, you hear William Powell, Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Grace Kelly, Herbert Marshall, Bette Davis, Ronald Colman, and others like them articulate and pronounce their words beautifully. In today’s films, a proper accent usually means the person is up to no good, a phony and a crook. And today’s actors mumble on cue. When was the last time you heard and understood every word pronounced in a recently made movie? The inability to speak well was once upon a time a great hurdle to overcome. Yes, it was unfair, because not everyone could afford to send their children to a posh school where they learned to speak clearly and get their ideas across. But in today’s schools, pupils are taught that speaking properly is elitist and snobby and not with the times.
British society was always separated by the way Brits spoke. It is still split, but the other way round. A posh accent today is suspect when applying for a job, a working-class or regional accent is the winning ticket. America never suffered from such class distinctions, and regional accents are a joy, at least for this writer, who loves Southern drawls. But an extreme regional accent does not exclude oracy, and great American public speakers in the past all had accents of their birthplace.
F—ing this and f—ing that have become the lingua franca of today’s celebrities. Needless to say, all this f—ing does is show how limited in brain power these freaks really are. Masters of the devastating retort these inarticulate vulgarians are not. Learn to speak clearly and there are no limits.