Words and context

Teaching a writing workout workshop yesterday for the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA), much of the focus was on words – emphasising their symbolic value. 

Today’s news shows that all the carefully crafted words in Chancellor Gordon Brown’s conference speech praising the PM (and himself) mean nothing against the under-the-breath remarks of Cherie Blair muttering “that’s a lie” in the nearby exhibition area.  Symbolic of a strained relationship undoubtedly.

The number 10 PR machine has cranked into action – not claiming comments out of context (this time) so much as a journo mishearing the words spoken.   In the US, Bush is busy redefining the meaning of the word torture – in the context of counter-terrorism.  Much as his predecessor redefined the term “sexual relations” in the context of denying wrong-doing.

English is a living language – where the meaning of words is open to adaptation, but their deliberate manipulation to political ends is undoubtedly propaganda.  Something that does remain a dirty word, alongside spin.  Both unfortunately linked too closely with Public Relations – which desperately needs better ethical symbolism.