I didn’t have time to watch Jim Comey’s testimony live yesterday: I had to prep for the writing class I lead on Thursdays. And after that, I had to dive back into The Project That Ate My Week™, whose deadline looms tomorrow. (I’ll make it; I always do.)
But I have caught snippets of the coverage, read bits of news articles here and there. And one word sticks out for me—and apparently for many other people too:
It’s certainly not the most important thing the former FBI Director said. It won’t be a central feature of the future analyses written about this key turning point in American history. If there’s a future in which to write histories.
But it may just be the “stickiest”—most memorable—sentence to emerge from his testimony:
“Lordy, I hope there are tapes.”
Why “Lordy” matters
Think about all the ways Comey could have phrased that response:
“I certainly hope there are tapes.”
“I would welcome the release of those tapes, should they exist.”
Those are plausible examples of bureaucrat-ese. And boring as hell. Or as we can imagine Comey might say, “as heck.”
But “Lordy” takes the information out of the hearing room and puts it out in the real world. I was going to say “on the street” but that street would be somewhere in Mayberry. And that’s part of what makes it sticky. It’s somehow not of our world, so our brains hang onto it a little longer than they would a more familiar word. We turn it over, examine it from all angles. And in examining the unfamiliar word, we also hang onto the rest of the sentence: “I hope there are tapes.”
Of course, Comey was talking about the tapes that Tr*mp claimed to have of their private conversations. But when we get to thinking about those tapes, we can’t help but be reminded of those other tapes, the more salacious tapes the Russians are rumored to have. The more we think about tapes in connection with that man in the White House, the worse it is for him. And “Lordy”—lordy, lordy, we can’t let go of that word. And the tapes that follow it.
Straight from the heart
“Lordy” did not come from a lawyer or a communications consultant. It’s a colloquialism—informal language; it’s just the way people talk. Straight from the heart.
If you want people to listen to you, a communications consultant can help. But if you want people to remember you, speak straight from the heart. (And—shhh!—a great communications consultant can help there too.)
A well-placed colloquialism can have a lasting impact.