April 9, 2020, by Brigitte Nerlich

A different kind of language in times of coronavirus

This is just a quick note on the language used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak in his speech on 8 April, 2020 on economic support for the charity sector, at the daily press conference at Downing Street.

It starts with the well-rehearsed statements to which we have all become accustomed.

It wishes Boris Johnson well in his recovery from Covid-19…..

I was doing the washing up when I listened to this, just expecting the same language of war and fight. But there was none of this. I was really surprised. So I continued to listen, instead of switching the radio off. So here is what I heard and what others might have missed.

We language watchers are always quick to criticise the language used by politicians. It might be good to also give praise were praise is due.

A language of care and compassion

Here is some of what Rishi Sunak said – I have highlighted a few words that struck me while I continued doing the dishes…:

“We are all taking part in a collective national effort to protect the vulnerable and each other, to secure our public services, and to save lives.

This endeavour is underpinned by an important, simple idea – that we depend on each other.

When you need it, when you fall on hard times, we will all, as one society, be there for you.

To take care of you, until you are, once again, ready to take care of yourself and others.”

This was followed by:

“we all depend on each other”

“One of our greatest strengths as a country is our civil society.”

“You have not been forgotten”

“we in government will do our part

“the unsung heroes looking after the vulnerable and holding together our social fabric

Two short weeks ago I spoke of the need for kindness, decency and the sort of neighbourliness that is at the heart of these charitable and community efforts.

The normally invisible connections between us have, in recent weeks, become more apparent.

These connections might be hard to see, but they are there, and they are strengthened by our compassion for others.

He ends his speech by saying:

“At this time, when many are hurting and tired and confined, we need the gentleness of charities in our lives.

It gives us hope.

It makes us stronger.

And it reminds us: we depend on each other.”

We could all do with more language like this while getting through these dark times – together!

Image: labelled for reuse

Posted in infectious diseases