0

From Paul Graham's talk for high school students:

But as so often happens, the closer you get to the truth, the messier your sentence gets. We've taken a nice, neat (but wrong) slogan, and churned it up like a mud puddle. It doesn't make a very good speech anymore.

My understanding is that it means the slogan is being used for so many times that it does not sound good any more (hence the mud puddle simile). Is that correct?

  • No. The author has been paring down his speech, getting to what he is increasingly seeing as the most important, or rather the only really important, part of the message. But he's had to adjust what is left. And this necessary adjustment has resulted in a pithier speech, but a speech that doesn't sound anywhere near as good. – Edwin Ashworth May 14 '18 at 9:53
  • 3
    @EdwinAshworth Actually, it's just the opposite: the author has taken a pithy slogan and added several qualifications, which makes it a lot more accurate but far less inspiring. – StoneyB May 14 '18 at 10:30
  • @StoneyB 'So far we've cut the Standard Graduation Speech down from "don't give up on your dreams" to "what someone else can do, you can do." But it needs to be cut still further. There is some variation in natural ability. Most people overestimate its role, but it does exist. If I were talking to a guy four feet tall whose ambition was to play in the NBA, I'd feel pretty stupid saying, you can do anything if you really try. [2] We need to cut the Standard Graduation Speech down to, "what someone else with your abilities can do, you can do; and don't underestimate your abilities." ... – Edwin Ashworth May 14 '18 at 21:52
  • But as so often happens, the closer you get to the truth, the messier your sentence gets. We've taken a nice, neat (but wrong) slogan, and churned it up like a mud puddle. It doesn't make a very good speech anymore. But worse still, it doesn't tell you what to do anymore. ' This speaks of cutting / losing detail, not padding / adding detail. – Edwin Ashworth May 14 '18 at 21:53
  • @EdwinAshworth It's not detail he cuts, but scope. – StoneyB May 14 '18 at 23:20
1

Full paragraph for context: re: muddy v. clear(er) water

We need to cut the Standard Graduation Speech [to high schoolers] down to, "what someone else with your abilities can do, you can do; and don't underestimate your abilities." But as so often happens, the closer you get to the truth, the messier your sentence gets. We've taken a nice, neat (but wrong) slogan, and churned it up like a mud puddle. It doesn't make a very good speech anymore. But worse still, it doesn't tell you what to do anymore. Someone with your abilities? What are your abilities?

google books

He argues that 'don't give up on your dreams' should be 'don't give up". He uses the example of a high school student of diminutive size and physical prowess being advised to aspire to professional sports (an unrealistic dream). To un-muddy the waters (water = the message to high school graduates) the advice should be: don't give up.

The author has taken a pithy slogan and added several qualifications, which makes it a lot more accurate but less inspiring. StoneyB

.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.