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The Plain-Speaking Englishman

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Chapter Summary

The starting point for understanding concepts of plainness of speech is to understand contemporary concerns surrounding rhetoric. In the section devoted to plainness, which receives pride of place in the study of elocution, Thomas Wilson is adamant about its value. Language is another layer, and indeed an intrinsic one in the rich texture of attributes that distinguish Cloth from Velvet Breeches, and thus true from false Englishness. First, the identification of plain words with the true Englishman has nothing to do with a defence of rustic boorishness and clumsiness of utterance. Second, plain-speakers were invariably envisaged as men. The penchant for mixing languages received its most thorough condemnation from Wilson, who, has been seen, kept a weather eye on the contemporary scene even as he traced the more formal aspects of rhetoric in The Arte. Speech was not the only site where a gambit was made for a native plainness.

Keywords: Englishman; language; plain-speakers; Thomas Wilson



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