Words index  Vivian Cook

Blair Speak: Does Tony Blair speak differently from everyone else?

Here are the ten most frequent words Tony Blair used in interviews with the media at the start of the Iraq war compared with the top ten in the British National Corpus (BNC) sample.

 

Adjectives

Nouns

Verbs

 

Blair

BNC

Blair

BNC

Blair

BNC

1

economic

new

people

time

say

say

2

fair

good

inspectors

people

think

know

3

nuclear

old

countries

way

make

get

4

true

different

Iraq

year

know

go

5

difficult

local

weapons

government

try

see

6

wrong

small

resolution

day

come

make

7

Iraqi

great

issue

man

mean

think

8

united

social

time

world

happen

take

9

clear

important

world

work

go

come

10

important

national

UN

life

take

use

The main differences between them are that Blair uses:

       more adjectives like economic, less adjectives like new

       more nouns like country, less like way

       more verbs like think and mean (often called personal verbs, as they express personal views), less like use

The pronouns I/she/they/etc are often a clue to how a personís mind works. In the BNC compared to BlairSpeak, Tony Blair is using proportionately more first person (I/we) forms and less third person (he/she/it/they) forms than the BNC average. It was said that Charles de Gaulle did not use the first person je very often in speeches because whenever he talked about La France, he actually meant himself, in the tradition of Louis XIVís Líťtat cíest moi (The state is me). Tony Blairís speech sounds more egocentric than the BNC average. To be charitable, this might tell us something about the differences between the type of English used in interviews and the average English of the BNC. Or it might indeed be that Tony Blair is basically interested in talking about himself.

Did Blair ever say sorry?

The only five examples of Tony Blair apologising in the interviews were:

                    I'm sorry, that is simply not right.

                    Iím sorry, Jeremy, I'm not allowing you to get away with that, that is completely wrong.

                    I mean let's not be absurdly naÔve about this Ė I'm sorry, what Hans Blix has said is that the Iraqis are not cooperating properly.

                    I'm sorry, it is absolutely clear what has been happening over the past few months

                    If that is breached and the inspectors say, no I'm sorry we can't do our job and in those circumstances Ö

All these are apologising for contradicting somebody by asserting oneís own opinion, i.e. not an apology at all Ė equivalent to the deadly use of with respect for contradiction.