Monday, March 23, 2015

Speaking out

A certain phrase has had a recent uptick in usage, especially by broadcasters doing teasers for upcoming interviews. That phrase is, "speak out."

Nowadays, someone is always "speaking out." A person "speaks out about her recent ordeal" or "speaks out about his wartime experience" or "speaks out about injustice." Okay, fine; that's how I've always heard the phrase used. But it hits me strangely when people are advertised as "speaking out" about their new movie, a change in hair color, or a career move. To me, "speaking out" has always had the ring of important announcements, breaking silence, speaking truth to power, or setting records straight. It's not the same thing as just plain "speaking." We can speak of a new recipe, a snowy commute, or next season's fashions, but is that really speaking out?

I consulted my dictionary (Webster's New World, 2nd College Edition), and this is what it says:
"speak out (or up) 1. to speak audibly or clearly 2. to speak freely or forcefully"

So there is more to it than just saying something; there's an implication of power and importance. I may be the only person in the country who cares. This may just be the tiny pet peeve of a devoted wordsmith, but I mention it here for what it's worth. It takes a lot of courage to truly "speak out," and I like the way we have a special phrase to honor that.


  1. I don't know if I'd been guilty of using the phrase the wrong way, but my impression of what speaking out means is that you're releasing something out to the world that others might expect you to keep inside.

    1. That, too, I think. It has the ring to me of essential truths.