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    novelDeath Sentence: The Decay of Public Language
    Don Watson
    Random House, 2003

    “While English spreads across the globe, the language itself is shrinking. Vast numbers of new words enter it every year, but our children’s and leaders’ vocabularies are getting smaller! You write for your audience and your audience knows fewer words than it used to and hasn’t time to look up unfamiliar ones.” Don Watson

    If you have read George Orwell’s 1984 or any of his writings on language (eg. ‘Politics and the English Language’, Inside the Whale and other Essays, Penguin, 1962), you will be familiar with the idea that a narrow vocabulary produces a narrow range of thought. As such, it is not an original premise that launches Watson’s book, in which he considers ideas explored by equally famous wordsmiths, Noam Chomsky, Frederick Nietzsche and Ben Jonson (“speak that I may see”).

    But what makes Watson’s ‘manifesto’ interesting is its unique position as an Australian text, about Australian language, in a modern context. While Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky write about hegemony and language, Watson considers language’s local application in politics and business. His main argument is that managerial language is quickly passing into public language, making it meaningless, in much the same way that a politician can respond to a question at length without providing an answer.

    While this book is clearly of “profound weight”, as its cover states, there are times when it becomes as repetitive as a parrot, which is coincidently the motif used by Watson to highlight the ways we use language (eg. as a social tool to be accepted by the flock). While Watson attacks others for lack of clarity, his structure leaves much to be desired, and is suggestive of spontaneous prose (he was a speechwriter by trade, of course). But, then again, the wealth of astute and clever references indicates otherwise. It is a book definitely worth reading – in small doses.

    No Cash, No Fear
    Terry Allen
    John Wiley & Sons, Inc

    Allen is the quintessential entrepreneur – or at least, the type of entrepreneur we love to hate (but can’t help admire). He has the fearlessness (and hide) of a rhino, more enthusiasm than a Hi*5 cast member and the verbal abilities of a siren (sending his backers onto the rocks of financial ruin more often than not).

    No Cash, No Fear is an autobiography presented as a ‘how to’ book. On the back cover, Allen promises to reveal how to build a business with none of your own money. On the inside, he describes how to use bold promises to sell books (great to see that he practices what he preaches). But despite the hype, it does deliver on what it promises, describing a range of ways to cook up a business, raise capital, have an IPO without an underwriter and market a product when it doesn’t yet exist.

    Its only fault is that each lesson is generally limited to the circumstances of the anecdotal experience used to make the point – and not everyone will want to (or should) take Allen’s advice. It’s a gripping read – to be taken with a grain of salt.

    “To me, the interest rate is absolutely meaningless. Getting the capital is absolutely everything. You only pay interest for a little while. If your new business is successful, you pay off the loan and the interest stops. If your business fails, the worst that can happen is that you declare bankruptcy and the interest stops. So don’t fret about the interest rate. Get the loan!” Terry Allen