Emotive language is any language that aims to manipulate, influence or create feelings in us so that we adopt the viewpoint of the writer or speaker.
Before we look at emotive language, we need to take a step back.
Denotation / Connotation:
Words can have two different types of meanings:
The denotative meaning = the factual, objective meaning of the word
The connotative meaning = the idea that words give, as opposed to its strict meaning
Think about a rose:
Denotative meaning of rose = a flower
Connotative meaning of rose = love / passion
When we talk about emotive language, we’re referring to the connotative meaning of words, i.e. the deeper meanings that these words convey and the emotions that they stir up.
Now, the problem comes in where words have different emotive associations to different people. This can have unfortunate results!
The following verse by John Donovan illustrates this perfectly:
Call a woman a kitten, but never a cat; You can call her a mouse, cannot call her a rat; Call a woman a chicken, but never a hen Or you surely will not be her caller again.
You can say she's a vision, can't say she's a sight; And no woman is skinny, she's slender and slight; If she should burn you up, say she sets you afire And you'll always be welcome, you tricky old liar.
While some emotive words have favorable connotations, others have unfavorable connotations, for example:
The following passage comes from the website of Max Clifford, one of Britain's foremost public relations consultants. His job is to provide positive publicity for his clients.
In this description, he cleverly presents a very subjective view of himself as though it was fact:
Max Clifford has been in the business of public relations protecting and promoting a wide variety of clients for well over 40 years. He has become as instantly recognisable as many of the stars he has represented over the years. His views and comments are sought on a daily basis for the world’s media on a wide range of subjects and he regularly appears on TV and radio as a guest on current affairs, news, documentaries and chat shows.
Also during the last 20 years he has become increasingly involved with many of the major front page stories in the British media. He now regularly breaks stories and stops stories in between orchestrating PR campaigns for a multitude of clients from all over the world and is also patron of two children’s charities and helps fundraise and supports many others. Often poacher and gamekeeper at the same time, he has helped save many a famous career from media damage and destruction. Increasingly during the last decade, he is approached by members of the public who seek out his help to get justice and awareness often when all other means have failed.
Do you think this article is subjective or objective?
What are the four objective 'facts' in the article?
Why do you think he mentions the charities?
How does he want us to perceive him?
What emotive words does he use to create that impression?
Johannesburg - The University of SA (Unisa) will investigate a complaint of racism against a lecturer lodged by civil rights body AfriForum, a spokesperson said on Friday.
AfriForum head of community affairs Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg wrote a letter to Unisa on Friday complaining about a talk given by lecturer Boitumelo Senokoane during a philosophy seminar.
Van Rensburg alleges that Senokoane's talk entitled "White Man, you are on your own" was attended by about 40 academics and members of the public.
He complained that Senokoane said white people, liberals in particular, should not be trusted by black people, that whites who fought against apartheid "should not be regarded as partners" by black people, that white people's economic and political concerns did not need to be dealt with, and that white people had "never committed any good deeds towards black people" and they did not have "moral authority in any area".
Senokoane had told the group that the "God of the white man" had "deserted him", that white people were "social outcasts and religious hypocrites", and that racism was a "white phenomenon", Van Rensburg said.
Stereotyping is a way of categorizing or labeling people we meet, based on how they look, speak, talk, dress, etc. It assumes certain things about people (whether true or not) based on a set of generalizations.
To stereotype is to pre-judge someone and rank them on a scale of worthiness, relevance or desirability according to your own prejudices.
Some people hold on to gender stereotypes which specify which jobs they think women are capable of doing, and which professions should best be left to men.
Some people also hold on to racial stereotypes which cause people to act in a dismissive or condescending way towards those who they perceive to be inferior to them, based on race.
These stereotypes can limit us in our self-perception and life choices. Many people use stereotyping as a form of humor, but stereotyping also has a dark side. When it is built on racism or sexism, it is a form of prejudice and can be offensive.
Steve Martin, as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, gives us a humorous example of stereotyping in "The Pink Panther 2":
Read through the article before addressing the discussion points that follow:
BBC DEFENDS TOP GEAR STEREOTYPING
The BBC apologized to the Mexican ambassador to London on Friday for remarks made about him on a top television show – but defended its jokes about the country as being part of British humor.
Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora had written to the BBC earlier in the week about comments made by presenters of the motoring show Top Gear describing Mexican as “lazy”, “feckless” [ineffective, incompetent] and “flatulent” [gassy].
In an apology to the Ambassador, the BBC said: “On the broader issue of comments about Mexican as people, the show has explained they were making comic use of a stereotype; a practice with which regular viewers of Top Gear will be familiar.”
In the show, during a discussion about a sports car made by Mexican firm Mastretta, presenter Richard Hammond said vehicles reflected national characteristics.
“Mexican cars are just going to be lazy, feckless, flatulent, overweight, leaning against a fence asleep looking at a cactus with a blanket with a hole in the middle on as a coat,” he said.
In Mexico, a spokesman for Mastretta Cars – a new high-end sports car presented at the Paris Auto Show – said the program was unexpected positive publicity for the firm.
“We were not prepared for this … the Top Gear program has given us publicity in Mexico and abroad that we could not have paid for,” Carlos Sandoval, a spokesman for the firm, told AFP.
The BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson later said “we won’t get any complaints about this because the Mexican Ambassador’s going to be sitting there with a remote control like this” – before slumping in his chair and snoring.
The BBC said hundreds of Mexicans had contacted its Spanish-language website, BBC Mundo, to complain.
Medina-Mora described the remarks as “outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults”.
But the BBC said that while the comments may have been “rude” there was “no vindictiveness” behind them.
“We are sorry if we have offended some people, but jokes centered on national stereotyping are a part of Top Gear’s humor, and indeed a robust part of our national humor,” the statement said.
“Our own comedians make jokes about the British being terrible cooks and terrible romantics, and we in turn make jokes about the Italians being disorganized and over dramatic; the French being arrogant and the Germans being over organized.”
Are you familiar with the program Top Gear and the type of things the presenters say?
The BBC defended Top Gear by saying that such jokes are “a part of British humor” and that the show was making “comic use of stereotypes”. Do you accept this defense? Why / why not?
What do you understand by the term “national characteristics”?
Suggest some possible South African “national characteristics”.
Do you think it is okay to laugh at Hammond’s or Clarkson’s comments? Why / why not?
The program was unexpected positive publicity for Mastretta Cars. Does this justify the use of offensive stereotypes to describe their cars?
Medina-Mora described Clarkson’s remarks as “outrageous, vulgar and inexcusable insults”. Do you agree or do you think that the Ambassador was taking things a bit too seriously?
Would you be justified in using stereotypes, even if they are “rude”, as long as there was “no vindictiveness” behind them?
Stereotyping can have tragic consequences. Consider the following extract from Learning the lessons of the Holocaust by Tracey Petersen:
Societies that have engaged in genocidal killing have a history of incremental levels of discrimination against the target group.
It may begin with stereotyping and then move to excluding the target group from the general population through legal and other institutional measures.
From public platforms, those targeted are labelled "aliens" and "foreigners". Nazi propaganda referred to Jews as vermin, "rats in human disguise". Hutu extremists called the Tutsi "cockroaches".
These terms, repeated often enough, make it easier to convince ourselves the target group is less than human.
This lethal cocktail of racism, prejudice and discrimination makes it increasingly likely that the target group will be seen as an existential threat. The only solution for such a threat is annihilation.