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About the Blog

“The Silver Tongue” is written by a group of rhetoric scholars committed to providing smart, entertaining insight into the language that shapes our everyday lives.

Although many people associate rhetoric with deceptive or “slimy” communication, we believe that rhetoric is the way things get done in a democracy, that communication and persuasion are desirable alternatives to force. We cannot solve social problems without understanding, and we cannot achieve understanding without rhetoric.  Of course, rhetoric can be can be used to deceive, too, and it frequently is.  It can be a force for good or deception, depending on who’s using it.

Our blog was inspired by a comment made by Kathleen Hall Jamieson in “Eloquence in an Electronic Age: The Transformation of Political Speechmaking”.  She writes that:

Knowledgeable critics of film, plays, and television educate the public in their respective arts and in the standards by which these arts should be assessed.  The absence of such evaluation of public speech denies the mass audience comparable assistance in evaluating an art that plays a direct role in the affairs of state (p. 6).

If rhetoric really matters to the public, as rhetoricians often claim, then we have a responsibility to aid the public in making sense of it.  We are obligated to make our expertise available to engaged citizens who want “assistance in evaluating an art that plays a direct role in the affairs of the state.”

Of course, scholars have been studying public rhetoric for millennia.  Academic journals offer an almost unlimited supply of excellent commentary on the role of rhetoric in public life.  “The Silver Tongue” is different because it is immediate, accessible and—we hope—fun to read.

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