Joseph Romm raves about Reagan, balks at Barrack: Figures of speech make and break communication

I have recently read Joseph Romm's new book, Language Intelligence,
which is really a brief review of rhetoric. It introduces modern readers to
the age-old topic of eloquent language intended to persuade
audiences. Romm uses just a few prime examples for each of the several
topics covered, from the ancient Greek greats to medieval masters who
wrote the King James Bible to modern practitioners such as Lady
Gaga. The point is to expose the principles of rhetorical discourse,
such as the various forms of repetition, irony, metaphor, and
seduction, and provide readers with some of the tools necessary to
build an effective argument as well as to erect a wall to defend
against the constant bombardment by advertisers, politicians, and
other persuaders.

The lessons are clear and well illustrated by examples. Especially
useful are the examples from recent political figures such as both
George Bushes, Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, and Mitt Romney. Several
Republican strategists are pointed out for their cunning use of
rhetorical devices (Luntz and Rove, especially). Scientists (climate
scientists, especially) are singled out for their clumsy attempts to
communicate, usually avoiding rhetorical figures of speech. The
use of the figures being discussed occasionally becomes too blatant,
often in the final paragraphs of sections, but it is pleasing as a
reader to see such employment as sections close because it reinforces the
lesson. I am convinced that this brief introduction should be standard
reading for college students across disciplines, and those in the
sciences should pay careful attention to the lessons and employ more
intelligent language when describing their own work. Older readers
might pick up some new tricks, too, if they choose to read the book.

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