Thursday, 14 March 2013

Yes, Melvyn. So, (not) ...

"In Our Time"(BBC Radio 4) this week was on Chekhov. Last week I noticed, along with several people in the Twittersphere, that there was a good deal of use of "So..."  to answer Melvyn Bragg's questions.

I suggested it might be because the scientists on that programme seemed to want to give the impression that they were making* a cohesive, logical presentation, rather than answering a chairperson's questions. These might or might not be relevant, or even correctly phrased, so we'll carry on ...

From a listener's point of view there seemed to be a lack of engagement with the questioner and the questions. It seemed slightly unfair on our chairman, even slightly condescending, perhaps?

This week there was engagement, disagreement, even argument but on more equal terms. MB did not back down with the experts - three women, interestingly - but stuck to his point, made them hurry up or backtrack. They answered directly, sometimes a with yes or no, and once or twice with "Yes, that's a good way of putting it."

They weren't always pleased: one said "It isn't as simple as that!" But MB came back with "Well, we haven't got much time." One of the experts said they had only scraped the surface of the subject. "It's a good surface you've scraped," said Melvyn, to finish.

Interesting comparisons? Two cultures, male, female experts, interactions?

*Make or give a presentation? Used to be "make a speech" but "give a talk / presentation / address" etc. But now I'm confused. I also had to avoid repeating "give".

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