Linguistic seductions: 4. The power of inarticulateness

You may have seen this TV commercial:

It may be a TV commercial and it may force you to buy the movie provider, but it is really really disturbing in the way it treats language. The whole skit is based on the premise that the speech of the coach in the film alluded to is so memorable that it does not require repeating even one word of it. In other words, it is enough to get the players’ energy going to simply say “do you remember the speech?”. It assumes, therefore, that memory of the feeling the players as audience received suffices to motivate them to overcome their losing streak. The power of inarticulateness seems overwhelming, relegating verbal expression to nothing if not a memory of some speech or another from whatever source. Of course, anyone who has not seen the film is left out, and therefore cannot participate in this communal feeling memory. In other words, language in this instance is useless since the shared experience is sufficient.   

As if inarticulateness of the coach wasn’t enough, there is also the utter speechlessness of the players who basically use affirmative grunts to convey their turn in this strange conversation.

It is ironic that notwithstanding the major advancements in theories of communication, linguistics, and narratology (all disciplines whose purpose is to analyze the function of verbal and non-verbal language), the art of oratory has fallen to the wayside. It is also disconcerting that generally, in a multimodal society, the seductions of inarticulateness are not easily deciphered. It is as if postmodernity were afraid of eloquence, its seemingly oppressive power.


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