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WINSTON CHURCHILL
 AND
THE KING'S ENGLISH

 

"Pray take away this pudding,"
 Winston Churchill commanded one night at dinner,
 "It has no theme."

“Be still when you have nothing to say: when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot.”
-D.H. Lawrence

 

June 1940. The Nazis are poised to strike Britain. The Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, addresses Parliament.

"I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.
Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

October 2001, New York City. The aftermath of a deadly, frightening attack, almost instantly compared to the Blitz. Thousands dead. A city in mourning. On the television, a commercial featuring the bright lights and sights of Manhattan flashes across the screen, Mayor Giuliani imploring would-be visitors to "come see New York united in its finest hour."

 

We Are All Churchillians Now

 

 "An orator's primary aim is to persuade his audience."
-Macaulay

 

After the Battle of Britain, Sir Winston said of the Royal Air Force, "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few," a phrase which could rightly pertain to Churchill himself.
An English patriot, Winston Churchill had an enormous impact on the modern western world. Without him, the British would most likely have succumbed to Nazi control around 1940. No other statesman could have created the same faith in victory and inspired the nation to fight on wholeheartedly when all seemed lost, as Winston did.


"He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle," said Kennedy of Winston Churchill.


Churchill wrote every word of his many speeches — he said he spent an hour working on every minute of a speech he made


He loved the simplicity and clarity of Shakespearean plays and the King James Bible. His mature style combined elements of all of these.

 
"Winston Churchill managed to combine the most magnificent use of English — usually short words, Anglo-Saxon words, Shakespearean," says Andrew Roberts, author of a history of World War II called The Storm of War. And he did it at a time when the world was in such peril from Nazism, that every word mattered." 
Churchill was in touch with the British people and knew how to motivate them and keep their faith alive. Through the use of his exceptional oratorical skills, he made speeches at crucial times when Britain had little but words to fight with:
"I offer you not pay, quarters nor provisions. I offer hunger, thirst, forced marches, battles and death. Let him who loves his country with his heart, not with his lips only, follow me.” 


In 1953, Winston Churchill was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his writings and speeches.


Use Churchill's speeches to improve your own skills in speech writing, public speaking, or history.


One of his most accomplished skills was his use of imagery:


“If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including all that we have known and cared for will sink into the abyss of a dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.”


The structure and style of Churchill’s sentences also deserve our attention. He indefatigably molded and remolded them until they met his high standard of excellence. Carefully constructed with the precision of a master craftsman, imbued with the fervent passion of an artist, every utterance became a radiant jewel of linguistic perfection. And his efforts have been amply rewarded. He ranks among the most widely quoted figures of the Twentieth Century. 


“My method is simple. I like to use Anglo-Saxon words with the least number of syllables."


"The Old Lion"


"Wickedness - enormous, panoplied, embattled, seemingly triumphant, casts its shadow over Europe and Asia. Laws, customs and traditions are broken up. Justice is cast from her seat. The rights of the weak are trampled down. The grand freedoms of which the President of the United States has spoken so movingly are spurned and chained. The whole stature of man, his genius, his initiative and his nobility, is ground down under systems of mechanical barbarism and of organized and scheduled terror."


 Simplicity is one of Churchill’s keys to literary and oratorical success.


Not so, with Mr. Borthroy Turnbull: 


"Things never begin with Mr. Borthroy Turnbull; they always commence."
-George Elliot


In thinking and in conversation, the most natural grammatical progression is: subject, verb, object. Churchill rarely deviated from this very elementary formula. This allowed listeners to concentrate on his message without sifting through convoluted syntax. 


“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy, hope.”
-Winston Churchill


“We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches”


"We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old."


Here are eight other literary devices which Churchill regularly used:

Alliteration


Churchill astounded audiences with his amazing alliterative ability. To leave an even stronger impression, he would begin an alliterative pattern and then suddenly break it at an unexpected point. In a speech before a secret session of the House of Commons, for instance, Churchill declared: "We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible."


On other occasions he wrote:


“The western clouds flushed into fire…the air crew neither flinched nor failed.”

"Czechoslovakia...was deserted, devoured, destroyed."

Allusion

"Hitler must blood his hounds, and show them sport,or else, like Actaeon of old, be devoured by them."


The Contrapuntal Turnaround


This device, a favorite of writers, reverses the position of two words in a sentence to highlight a paradox. For an example, we have Churchill’s splendid juxtaposition of "beginning of the end" and "end of the beginning."


 The Rule of Three 


While in marriages two may be company and three a crowd, the opposite holds true in rhetoric. A sequence of three similar words or phrases has a spellbinding impact.  "Meanwhile, never flinch, never weary, never despair."


It is necessary that constancy of mind, persistency of purpose, and the grand simplicity of decision shall rule and guide the conduct of the English-speaking peoples in peace as they did in war.”


 Antithesis Device


    By linking apparent contradictions, Churchill produced powerful descriptive phrases.


"The government cannot make up their mind, or they cannot get the Prime Minister to make up his mind. So they go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."


Use of Contrast


I am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than for weakness especially military weakness.”


“This is no time for generalities, and I will venture to be precise.”


A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory.”


Parallelism


This is the repeated use of any piece of sentence structure, from prepositional phrases to entire independent clauses-in the following speech.


"Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”


Rhetorical questions


These engage your audience with questions that prompt them to get involved cognitively.


Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat


"I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.
You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

 


"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shadow just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then, rearrange the rules to suit yourself."
- Truman Capote

“A diminishing number of people today realize or understand the legacy of Sir Winston Churchill. It is of utmost importance that his story be taught in schools. His messages of always keeping hope and never giving up are invaluable lessons that are significant to every society and person. His legacy should be taught to all.”
- Binette, Crawford, Mitby, and Gelman


"For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. I could not stop it if I wished; no one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on full flood, inexorable, irresistible, benignant, to broader lands and better days."
-Winston Churchill

References:

https://www.fictionpress.com/s/3080135/1/Winston-Churchill-and-His-Effective-Use-of-Rhetoric

http://www.school-for-champions.com/speeches/churchill_never_give_in.htm#.VS6Pmz9Snow

http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=17931

http://clear-writing-with-mr-clarity.blogspot.com/2009/08/grammatical-parallelism-parallel.html

Price, Matthew

 

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