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Clearly not

Watching the news on the BBC frequently in the last few months means that - strangely enough - I regularly see British politicians interviewed. And this has led me to an increasing dislike of the adverb "clearly".

Inevitably, it's used in situations such as "as I have clearly said".

Firstly, we are none of us best-placed to judge the clarity of our own language use to others.

Secondly, if you have to tell other people you were being clear, you're being condescending. It's telling them they're too stupid or inattentive to have realized on their own how effective your communication was.

Until now, I'd never realized how insulting nominal clarity could be.

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sollersuk
Nov. 25th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
I've just remembered the story of the 19th century mathematics lecturer who at one point said "And it is obvious that...", ground to a halt, muttered "excuse me" and hurried out of the room.

Half an hour later he came back in and said, "Yes, gentlemen, it is obvious"
makyo
Nov. 25th, 2012 07:25 pm (UTC)
Yes, I like that story, although it seems to be one of those untraceable apocryphal academic legends like the Oxbridge don cheerfully lecturing to a completely empty room, the student who calls for cakes and ale during an exam and is later fined for not wearing his sword, or the university where nobody wears mortarboards now because disgruntled fellows threw theirs in the river when the senate decided to admit women students.

The half-hour detour incident in your story has never happened to me, although there have been a few occasions when I've looked at what I've just written, thought about what I've just said, or stared at my slides for a few seconds and thought "hang on... is that actually right?" before then either realising it is, or spotting the error and correcting it.
sollersuk
Nov. 25th, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
My late husband was a mathematician, and the story has the ring of truth to me - "obvious" and "clear" are words that exist in a parallel dimension for mathematicians. Also the idea that if something is aesthetically pleasing it has a high likelihood of being true.
miss_whiplash
Sep. 3rd, 2013 08:34 pm (UTC)
We had a physical chemistry tutor at Kingston poly who was fond of the word. We invented a game; on the 18th time he said it in any lesson we would all put up our hands and ask why it was obvious.

We'd done the statistics in the first four weeks and decided we were reasonably likely to do it most lessons unless he modified his behaviour.

He never did.