The Gift of the Gab: How Eloquence Works

The Gift of the Gab: How Eloquence Works

by David Crystal


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The Gift of the Gab: How Eloquence Works by David Crystal

A many-faceted exploration of spoken eloquence: how it works, how it has evolved, and how to tap its remarkable power

We all know eloquence when we hear it. But what exactly is it? And how might we gain more of it for ourselves? This entertaining and, yes, eloquent book illuminates the power of language from a linguistic point of view and provides fascinating insights into the way we use words. David Crystal, a world-renowned expert on the history and usage of the English language, probes the intricate workings of eloquence. His lively analysis encompasses everyday situations (wedding speeches, business presentations, storytelling) as well as the oratory of great public gatherings.
Crystal focuses on the here and now of eloquent speaking—from pitch, pace, and prosody to jokes, appropriateness, and how to wield a microphone. He explains what is going on moment by moment and examines each facet of eloquence. He also investigates topics such as the way current technologies help or hinder our verbal powers, the psychological effects of verbal excellence, and why certain places or peoples are thought to be more eloquent than others. In the core analysis of the book, Crystal offers an extended and close dissection of Barack Obama’s electrifying “Yes we can” speech of 2008, in which the president demonstrated full mastery of virtually every element of eloquence—from the simple use of parallelism and an awareness of what not to say, to his brilliant conclusion constructed around two powerful words: dreams and answers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300226409
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 06/20/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 1,240,628
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 8.06(h) x (d)

About the Author

David Crystal is an independent scholar with lifelong experience as a lecturer, public speaker, and broadcaster. An honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Bangor, he lives in Holyhead, U.K.

A native of the United Kingdom, Audie and AudioFile Earphones Award winner Derek Perkins's audiobook narration skills are augmented by a knowledge of three foreign languages and a facility with accents. He has narrated numerous titles in a wide range of fiction and nonfiction genres. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA.

Table of Contents

Prologue ix

1 Value-added speech 1

Interlude 1 Yes we can

2 Eloquence everywhere 7

Interlude 2 Times are a-changing

3 Knowing how 12

Interlude 3 Going on and on, not

4 How long have I got? 20

Interlude 4 When you're the boss

5 Where will I be? 27

Interlude 5 Capitulation

6 Who am I talking to? (To whom am I talking?) 37

Interlude 6 Eloquence battles

7 Who am I talking to - abroad? 47

Interlude 7 Teach me, believe me, move me

8 What to say? 57

Interlude 8 It ain't what you say…

9 When do you say it? 65

Interlude 9 Strings of pearls

10 How do they do it? The memory game 75

Interlude 10 Shakespeare was there first

11 How do they do it? The rule of three 85

Interlude 11 Three centuries of triples

12 How do they do it? Weight control 95

Interlude 12 Magical foursomes

13 How do they do it? Order, order 101

Interlude 13 The great Q

14 How do they do it? Variation 108

Interlude 14 Going beyond the rules

15 How do they do it? Being natural 118

Interlude 15 Sounding, erm, eloquent

16 Sounding - natural 126

Interlude 16 WPM

17 Rates of exchange 135

Interlude 17 Ratty speak

18 The melody lingers on 144

Interlude 18 Rounding a sentence well

19 Build-ups, beats, and breaks 153

Interlude 19 Handling hecklers

20 Paralanguage 163

Interlude 20 The UX of content

21 Mind your technology 171

Interlude 21 Debating the point

22 Talking about content… 180

Interlude 22 Autocues for all?

23 Reading it 193

Interlude 23 Laying it out

24 Nerve ending 203

Interlude 24 Putting nerves to work

25 Homo eloquens 213

Appendix 1 Obama's victory speech 220

Appendix 2 Martin Luther King's speech delivered at the March on Washington 228

Endnotes 234

Further reading 236

Index of personalities 238

Index of subjects 240

Illustration credits 244


Praise for David Crystal’s A Little Book of Language:

A Little Book of Language may be for children (of all ages, as the saying goes), yet it's by no means childish or juvenile. In other words, buy it for your son or daughter, but read it yourself.”—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

A Little Book of Language is a paean to language in all its guises. Crystal has clearly thought long and hard about his subject. . . . [H]e is always revealing and thought-provoking.”—David B. Williams, Seattle Times

“An enlightening and entertaining celebration of language and linguistics.”—P. D. Smith, Guardian

“In his light and amusing A Little Book of Language, David Crystal treats the world's 6,000 tongues—which are disappearing at an alarming rate—as a natural resource no less precious than our oceans and forests.”—Daily Beast

“[An] exhilarating romp through the mysteries and vagaries of language. . . . This is the perfect primer for anyone interested in the subject.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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