When “life raft” words sink you …

Jay Rosen’s analysis of Komen for the Cure Foundation head Nancy Brinker’s CNN zombie interview screw-up is super-lucid, and the comments section is very instructive as well. I especially liked Rosen’s use of the phrase “life raft words”:

“The recurrence of certain ‘life raft’ words, often used ungrammatically or in extremely awkward ways – ‘translate’, ‘mission’, ‘excellence’, ‘measure’, ‘outcome’ – suggests that Brinker was provided with talking points that were supposed to function as a magic switch. But she couldn’t actually make the switch happen in English, so she fell back on the words, as if brute repetition of the words could summon the magic, which of course wasn’t magical at all but simply the substitution of cheery or harmless talking points for what was actually happening outside the studio.”

I’d put “life raft” words under the broader category of bullshit, a topic I teach in my upper-level communications classes. Rosen’s phrase will be referenced there this semester and thereafter, no doubt.

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