Look at the picture. One sheep is commenting to her neighbour on the quality of the pasture. Quite innocently she says “Amazing grazing”, not realising that it is very like the title of a well-known religious song. The power of what the sheep is saying lies in its association with the song. It catches our attention.
The right word at the right time? Can you say it?
What is the power of words? Can we acquire it?
It was my good fortune to be in advertising with great copywriters and artists. Dorothy Sayers, the crime write, author of ‘Murder must advertise’, was a copywriter at S H Benson. Stanley Penn, who came to work in slippers to save time so that he could improve his vocabulary, wrote some of the great straplines for Guinness. Gilbert Hughes had written “Fine cars these Fords” but it was rejected so he adapted it to “Fine sets these Fergusons” and sold a million televisions. Simple stuff but the wordsmiths were wonderful teachers.
As with so many things in the world we over-complicate and overuse words to the point where what is powerful becomes the opposite of what is brutal. A young lady sat next to me at dinner. Because she was driving a car she had declined the offer of wine. She looked at my sparse dish and said “Are you not eating?” I replied “Are you not drinking?” “I have to drive a car”, she said. ”I have to drive my 85-year-old body”, I explained. We laughed. A gentle exchange of less than Shakespearean inventiveness but good engagement.
The Abertay University in Scotland has come up with a discovery that men who don’t look handsome can compensate in the girl-getting business by being creative. They go on to say that this doesn’t happen for women. So discriminatory, but they claim they are reporting research findings. A sample of one may not have the authority of Abertay but I can tell you that humour is the best seducer. And humour demands creativity. Even maybe for sheep.
Perhaps in today’s world it is necessary to add that no sheep was seduced for this article.
I use the word deliberately because all communication is seduction. Even ordering your Filet-O-fish from McDonalds involves engagement that requires seduction. Nobody communicates well until they understand this. It also makes the point that communication must never be rape. Richard Nixon discovered this when the investigation into Watergate disclosed so much bad language. “Expletive deleted” became the invigilators cry.
Today we don’t even bother to delete. That means we end up with a bundle of bad language so meaningless that it neither shocks nor amuses. Pointless communication is murder.
Humour demands a command of the language and that certainly requires creativity. It also needs the listener to be creative. Oscar Wilde humour is not widely enjoyed in Asia, largely because of language differences. Sarcasm goes straight over the heads of most people today. Pity because it was a way of discovering stinging creativity – not always kind.
It boils down to one rule – think about the other person, their needs, their motivations, their fears, their loves. They are fascinating, complicated, beautiful, difficult. They are my Gods.
If you like, they can be yours, too.