Thursday 14 December 2017

Speaking a language that's sort of English -- but not exactly

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

Well thank God for that: no ESB strike. It was like an early Christmas gift. Actually, more like the plot of some schmaltzy Yuletide movie: sworn enemies forget their differences and metaphorically kiss and make up, just in time for cooking the turkey.

Listening to Brendan Ogle, firebrand union leader, speaking to Pat Kenny (Newstalk), a thought occurred: he sounds almost exactly like every other union official.

The kind of terminology he uses. The way sentences sound pre-formulated. The jargon and cliché. The odd syntax, repetition, non-sequiturs. The vague sense that you're not really listening to a person at all, but an intelligent computer programme. Even stranger, though, is the fact that Ogle and fellow union chiefs also speak more or less the same as government ministers, corporate spokesmen, councillors, lobbyists, a host of other vested interests, and indeed, many media commentators.

Which is weird, and ironic too, I guess, seeing as they're all coming from quite different perspectives. These people speak a language that's sort of English, but not exactly English.

In short, none of them talk like regular human beings. Have you ever used a sentence like, "I'm glad you asked me that question. First and foremost, I'll tell you what I won't be doing about this issue, here in this present moment in time." I thought not. That's good, you've passed the test -- you are normal, congratulations.

This sort of bureaucratic/ corporate flim-flam is ripe for the satirical plucking -- there's a turkey joke for you, gratis -- and You Couldn't Make It Up (Newstalk) is the latest effort to do some plucking on the airwaves. Hosted by telly and radio veteran Pat O'Mahony, and featuring comedic talents such as Tara Flynn, Karl Spain, Colm O'Regan and Morgan Jones, it's basically a mash-up of Have I Got News For You? and Whose Line is it Anyway?

They've spun some fresh innovations from a well worn format -- comedians incorporate earlier material into an end-of-show sketch, for instance -- and a couple of cracking gags. I especially liked O'Regan's joke about the Healy-Raes negotiating with Iran on nukes. It wasn't great, but it wasn't half-bad either. And, over a run of 10 weeks, you'd expect the show to really get into its groove.


Irish Independent

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