Island Life by David Slack


Let’s learn English, with John Key.

What is a paraphrase?

Well hello there. Hey, when you and I were at school, it’s fair to say that a paraphrase meant something pretty unambitious. It meant you took someone's words and said them another way to make it clear what they meant.

That might be good enough for the tired and cynical government of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen, but it's not good enough for the National Party.

When we use a paraphrase, we take the words our people have said and we give them a top-up of ambition.

We’re focused on what’s important. So we take out the words that aren’t important and we focus on the ones that are.

Take Lockwood. Someone - probably some Labour stooge - snuck up behind him with a recorder the other day when he wasn't looking and went running to TV3 with the tape.

Well, of course what he said didn’t sound quite right. Fair enough. No-one can go on sounding ambitious 24/7. So it came out like this.

There's some bloody dead fish you have to swallow ... to get into Government to do the kinds of things you want to do ... and you have to balance up what really matters.

If you try to do everything differently you'll scare the horses and under MMP it's very hard to win.

Once we have gained the confidence of the people, we've got more chance of doing more things.

We may be able to do some things we believe we need to do, perhaps go through a discussion document process ... you wouldn't be able to do them straight off ... I'm hoping that we'll do some useful things that way that may not be policy right now."

Now some people seem to think that what Lockwood means is: we’ll tell people whatever it takes to get them in our taxi cab, but once they’re in, we’ll take them to the other side of town from where they were headed. But that’s not what he means. To believe that you’d have to believe that I want to be a taxi driver. I would never want to be a taxi driver. Not that there’s anything wrong with being one.

If you want to know what Lockwood meant, you have to understand how to use a paraphrase going forward. If you do that, you’ll find that we’re ambitious to a man. Not forgetting the girls, of course.

And that’s what I did on the radio this morning. Geoff Robinson was all: you guys aren’t being straight with us and I said, well look, my friend, you haven’t paraphrased it.

If you paraphrase what Lockwood said going forward, it comes out as: You need to win public confidence and you need to talk to people. Leave out the bit about keeping shtum, leave out the bit about wanting to do something different from what we say we want to do, just concentrate on the bit where he goes: your call is important to us.

That’s what we’re all about. If you boil a hundred words down to ten, things are always clearer.

That's what I call paraphrasing. It’s ambitious, it’s focused and it cleans out all the needless detail.

Who needs 36 pages of words when you can fit them on one? Only a dawdling fool like that silly old bugger James thinks that sort of thing still matters. He needs to focus.

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