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How to sound completely insincere

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 pm, November 4th, 2012 - 53 comments
Categories: brand key, john key - Tags:

John Key has a problem.

Okay, too vague.  John Key has a specific problem I want to talk about today, and it’s not actually his policies, his actions, or his own blessed mangling of the English language on a daily basis.

It’s that John Key clearly gets advice from people who don’t understand sociolinguistics.

Cue Wiki!

Sociolinguistics is the descriptive study of the effect of any and all aspects of society, including cultural norms, expectations, and context, on the way language is used, and the effects of language use on society

In non-encyclopedia speak, sociolinguistics is about how you (presumably) talk differently in the boardroom than you do at the dinner table, or at the pub, or in church.  In some societies you may even be using completely different languages in different settings and circumstances, but in relatively-monolingual NZ let’s keep it in terms of “I say “fuck” a lot less when on the phone to my mum”.

Sociolinguistics is about different groups having different ways of speaking to each other and to people outside the group – and how you can’t just parrot the language of a group to gain acceptance in it.

How does this apply to John Key’s shitty marketing advice?  Well, for all he’s clearly a smug, duplicitous banker who lies to the people of New Zealand on a regular basis, there’s always those moments when you can spot the coaching behind the key messages.

The two examples I want to use today:  “textses” and “thick as batshit”.

The latter story has only broke this weekend, and a lot of people on Twitter are making eye-rolling “duh, it’s “thick as pigshit, numpty” comments at the PM’s expense.  I think they’re missing the point.  This isn’t about Key fucking up a basic, well-known phrase.  This is about somebody telling him, “say something a little outrageous, like that David Beckham’s thick as pigshit, it’ll get the talkback crowd onside and drive the liberals batshit.”

But John Key isn’t actually a dude who uses words like “thick as pigshit” in his day-to-day conversation.  It’s not natural language to him as an older, finance-industry-trained politician.  So he’s fucked it up.  Instead of sounding like One Of The Common People, a dude you’d have a beer with, he’s revealed that the blunt, cheeky tone is a facade.

It was the same with the “textses” sent by Richard Worth.  Even mainstream journos noted how awkwardly Key pronounced the word – and for a guy who mumblefucks the language as often as Key, that’s saying something.  What’s my conclusion?  He’s not a dude who says “texts”.  He probably says “text messages”.

But some utter tit in his message-massaging team probably had the brainwave:  “If he says “text messages” the kids won’t think he’s a right-on rad dude!  Say “texts”, John.”  (And don’t call them “dirty”, that sounds bad, call them “lurid”, like Worth was just writing a 140-character Mills & Boon.)

And Key, trusting that his senior advisors have a clue, follows their advice.  And comes across sounding like … an utter tit.

John Key is never going to be appealing to young adults the way, say, Justin Timberlake is.  He’s  simply from the wrong generation, in the wrong career, addressing them in the wrong circumstances to sound like a member of their group.  (And the exact same would apply to Shearer.)  It’s the verbal equivalent of walking in with your cap on backwards trying to throw gang signs.

So if you want to sound completely insincere, do as John Key apparently does:  hire media coaches who don’t understand that it’s far better to sound like a genuine, un-hip Dad than a try-hard git.  That you sound more honest admitting when you’re not familiar with a particular type of terminology than using it wrong.

And send out weekly e-newsletters.

53 comments on “How to sound completely insincere”

  1. kea 1

    I think you are missing the point. The right (and more parsimonious) way to frame this question is to ask – do Conservatives seriously have a sense of humor ?

    If so, could it be .. John Key ?

    • karol 1.1

      do Conservatives seriously have a sense of humor ?
      If so, could it be .. John Key ?

       
      Yes John Keys can! [me trying to sound like Obama]
       
      Your spelling could be part of an interesting sociolingusitic study, kea.
       
       

    • QoT 1.2

      … not particularly seeing the relevance to the post, myself.

    • Mary 1.3

      Even if it is someone else making the call (which I’m sure at least some of the time it is) Key’s still thick enough himself to go along with it – ultimately Key has to agree with his spin doctors to utter the precise words. Much of the other time it’s my guess it’s Key going it alone – not necessarily prepared but simply because of his lack of discipline when he’s speaking. He thinks his so-called relaxed style allows him to always get away with winging-it but he just doesn’t have the oratory smarts needed to be able to do that. Ultimately it all comes down to the fact that he’s a bit thick.

  2. Jackal 2

    Ah yes! Our communicationally challenged PM is now the focus of much ridicule both here and abroad. Here’s perhaps the best example of Key’s aphasia.

  3. karol 3

    I’ve been around a feew guys like Key, with the same combative sense of humour, all my life.  I think there are some Kiwi males of his generation that think it’s funny to use language that is “down-to-earth” and slightly clumsy. 
     
    Key’s attempts to get onside with young people through language may be a fail with them – but it will probably be seen as scoring a point for a lot of slightly unsophisticated older Kiwi guys.

    • QoT 3.1

      Yes, but are those a crowd he really needs to appeal to? I would personally say that using his own natural language – which isn’t au fait with what the kids are saying – would appeal to that crowd more than looking like he’s trying to ape the young folk.

      • karol 3.1.1

        That’s true – and it does, as you say, expose the fact that Key is trying to be something he’s not in an insincere attempt to get young people’s support.  It also shows who Key really represents – older white guys who will spin a line to sell us something we don’t necessarily want.

        • QoT 3.1.1.1

          ‘Zactly. He should stick to appearing on radio shows with convicted abusers and saying “check out the tits on that Liz Hurley, phwoooooor” for that audience.

      • rosy 3.1.2

        Interesting view, and largely I agree with it, Especially when someone like Key is talking about new technology or trying to get in on new trends. But Karol has a valid point – and ‘thick as pig-shit’ is a term that can trip off the tongue of someone in the 40-60 generation. In fact I used it just last week when describing Americans who might, against their own interests, vote for Romney.

    • Reagan Cline 3.2

      You’re right there Karol !

    • Dr Terry 3.3

      Karol, I love you, BUT why this picking on”older” guys (I am a sophisticated “older guy”, I hope!) When referring to Kiwi males you can safely be inclusive of all ages!

      • karol 3.3.1

        Dr T, I wasn’t thinking of ALL older white guys, but of a few I have known for many years. My parents were white middleclass Nat supporters….. I so know Key’s type from that milieu.  I think there will be more like them than the young girls Key was aiming to impress.

      • QoT 3.3.2

        Dr T, you really seem to have a sore spot where people mentioning age – in relation to white dudes – are involved. Fact is, age plays an important part in how we speak, just like class / region / education level.

    • Tracey 3.4

      do most young people know that he got the phrase wrong???? Surely he’s not trying to get alongside young people but their parents?

  4. Generally people expect people in positions of high authority to show discretion and not badmouth or put the country in disrepute; National has badmouthed Finland (‘cant feed it’s people) and now David Beckham (which will not go down well with the UK public). When will the gaffes end, is the role of the National party to mess up relations with other nations and make New Zealand a laughing stock?

  5. SouthDeeznuts 5

    Where did he make that statement, CV?

  6. SouthDeeznuts 6

    Ah, I just found an article in the Herald that covers it. Nevermind

    • weka 6.1

      Dude, use the reply button under the post you are replying to. It gets too confusing otherwise.

    • kea 7.1

      .. so everyone except consumers of National party opinion polls think he’s ‘off’, but I have yet to see National party politicians rolling in isles at his attempts at humour.

      QOT raises a serious issue, but as a Hollywood producer once quoth

      “if you can’t put an idea on a postcard, then you haven’t got an idea”.

      As a south London writer once scribbled “brevity is the soul of wit”.

      An even older aphorism is

      Vita brevis, ars longa, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile

      which in Aotearoan English means

      Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience perilous, and decision difficult.

      Similarly, ‘insincere’ translates as “dishonest, untruthful”.

      It could be worse, I suppose ..

      “North Korea To Punish Mourners Who Were Insincere”
      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/north-korea-punish-mourners-insincere-kim- jong-il_n_1204377.html

      I don’t think anyone has yet accused Shearer of insincerity.

  7. Lloyd 8

    I don’t have extensive experience with batshit, but during my fleeting visit to a cave in Borneo I recollect that the stuff on the ground was pretty runny…..

    Hey if Becks has four times the financial assets of John Key, does that mean John Key is four times thicker than batshit?

  8. framu 9

    Just on the sociolinguistics – and not about john key

    saw a doco (well watered down for TV “doco”) about pigs – domestic pigs have a whole set of vocalisations that wild pigs dont use – and they only use them in the presence of humans!

    • QoT 9.1

      Guinea pigs are the same, I understand, and I wouldn’t be surprised if cats have developed a specific “FEED ME, HUMAN” frequency.

      • karol 9.1.1

        There was an elephant on the telly a couple of nights ago – repeats some of the Korean words of its keepers.  Not that I am comparing Key to elephant – one of them never forgets!

      • Anne 9.1.2

        I wouldn’t be surprised if cats have developed a specific “FEED ME, HUMAN” frequency.

        THEY HAVE!!

      • lprent 9.1.3

        Try Burmese. They combine it with some antisocial socializing….

  9. John Key of course has his advisers and I’m sure they are trying to advise him on how to behave. I’m sure he goes through hours of debate training in order to get through question time and the opposition trying to get answers about serious issues but John Key “fucking up” in public comes from a different place.

    John Key is a psychopath. Psychopaths don’t feel the way you and I feel. They mimic. When John Key is doing his “fuck you” in the chambers of the Beehive he is doing something he is good at. “Fuck you” is his attitude (and that of all psychopaths) towards mankind in general and to the opposition in particular.

    It is when he get’s outside his comfort zone and he has no clue as to how to mimic the target group you see his true face.

    That of a vile, vicious psychopath. The fact that it happens more often these days is because he stopped giving a fuck and is planning to cash in with the people he so faithfully served by becoming the PM of NZ. And no it’s not the Kiwi voter.

    • OneTrack 10.1

      He has different politics to you, so that means he a psychopath. The hubris is stunning.

      • Colonial Viper 10.1.1

        It’s his psychology which is different and malignant. His politics is just how it shows up. Unless you count his “Fuck You” attitude as a legit brand of politics, of course.

        Do you?

      • kea 10.1.2

        It could be interpreted to mean that once he is away from people who worship money markets he retreats into a type of out-group aggression, with a symbolic use of the index finger in the parliamentary chamber which is well understood among diverse sub-cultures in NZ.

        Psychopathy is an outdated diagnostic category, but ‘travellerev’ strikes the mark when pointing out that when he is outside of his comfort zone he reverts to the body language of a pampered money trader.

        Perhaps you could inquire about the supply of women to Sydney futures traders working for Rich, White, and Fey before the SFE went completely digital.

      • felix 10.1.3

        lolz, OneTrack accuses trav of possessing such hubris that she can’t understand what a person thinks if they disagree with her, and he does it by writing a comment which clearly states that he wasn’t capable of understanding the comment that he had just read, and disagreed with.

      • travellerev 10.1.4

        Um nope. I’m a political atheist as Gerald Celente would say. I can assure you that not a single NZ politician has anything to say that I value or would vote for and here is an interesting article about Traders being more reckless and manipulative than Pychopaths and about Psychopathy being an outdated term? Maybe you should explain that to the researchers above. They seem perfectly fine using that term.

        • kea 10.1.4.1

          The last time I looked ‘psychopathy’ had been replaced by ‘sociopathy’ in the DSM, but now it seems that the latter has been renamed ‘antisocial personality disorder’ to distinguish it from the first.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociopathy#Psychopathy_and_sociopathy
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociopath#Psychopathy_and_sociopathy

          There is a difference between journalistic and clinical use. In the end we are
          dealing with human and cultural constructs rather than physical science and it pays to have some healthy scepticism about their use.

          In other cultures an times these syndromes have been described differently, and WHO’s ICD differs from the DSM which

          “evolved from systems for collecting census and psychiatric hospital statistics, and from a manual developed by the United States Army, and was substantially revised in 1980. There have been five revisions since it was first published in 1952, gradually including more mental disorders, although some have been removed and are no longer considered to be mental disorders. The last major revision was the fourth edition (“DSM-IV”), published in 1994, although a “text revision” was produced in 2000. The fifth edition (“DSM-5″) is currently in consultation, planning and preparation, due for publication in May 2013.[1] The International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), produced by the World Health Organization (WHO), is another commonly used manual which includes criteria for mental disorders. This is in fact the official diagnostic system for mental disorders in the US, but is used more widely in Europe and other parts of the world. The coding system used in the DSM-IV is designed to correspond with the codes used in the ICD, although not all codes may match at all times because the two publications are not revised synchronously.”

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diagnostic_and_Statistical_Manual_of_Mental_Disorders

          • travellerev 10.1.4.1.1

            As i said tell the researcher who came up with the result. I use the word clinically. John Key shows many of the clinical signs of Psychopathy.

  10. Fortran 11

    Wish I could see some humour somewhere in what David Shearer says.

    • kea 11.1

      I have posted elsewhere that he should do a clowning improvisation course. There are a number of places around where he could do that, if he wished, but while Key remains buoyant in the polls it is easy for him to be funny.

      Perhaps you should have a few beers with Shearer, sometime.

      More broadly, with an economy without a capital gains tax an enormous amount of capital has been borrowed for property speculation (which Key – to his credit – tried to introduce, but was rolled) – a bubble which could shortly pop if NZ follows current events in Canada

      http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/02/canadas-housing-bubble-springs-a-leak/

      Given tough times for a lot of people, it would be good to be able to get a bit of a lift and inspiration from from the leaders of the major political parties. Churchill managed to crack a few jokes – if you don’t mind black humour – during WWII.

      • kea 11.1.1

        .. and no, I don’t think Key’s “batshit” jibe in public was appropriate, whatever he says in private.

  11. Looks like when it comes to communicating with people John Key is ” thick as Pig Shit” in an endevour to look and sound cool to young kids.

    Great role model for our young, but perhaps that is how the children of the wealthy see the ordinary people (the worker) in Aotearoa.

    • karol 12.1

      Well Key didn’t just make it a double, but a triple, IMO:
       

      He said the host would not do well in a charity golf event that afternoon because he was wearing ”that gay red top”.

       
      Key disparages “red”, the colour of the red flag, and socialism.  And couples it with a negative slur on gays.
       

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