A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
Right up front, allow me to say -- I am no linguist. I struggle every day just handling American English. Too, I understand that language is an ever-evolving form of communication and has been since our ancient ancestors began to notice that certain grunts actually meant something.
Not only am I not a linguist, I am most certainly not a diplomat. A diplomat has been described as someone who lies for his country.
Before I retired, I had a sign on my desk that read: “Be reasonable. Do it MY way.”
After doing a bit of light research on the Internet, I have learned that I am among a rather large group of people who don’t understand the use of the word “take” when referring to a decision. Example: “Today, the UN is expected to take a decision to … “ Heck down here, in North Carolina, we make a decision.
The reason I dragged diplomats into this commentary is that it seems to me to be the diplomatic community that most uses the word “take” rather than “make” a decision, etc.
OK. I have concluded that, yes, there is a difference between making a decision and taking a decision. Here’s my conclusion.
“Making a decision” entails all the research, planning, collating, and generally, thinking through the consequences of deciding. “Taking a decision,” suggests that two or more decisions have already been made and one has to mentally reach out and “take” one. In other words, one would have to decide which decision to take.
Is this confusing enough for you, so far?
Since the people I most often hear and/or observe using “take” over “make,” when referring to a decision, are diplomats, I have to wonder – if my conclusion above is anywhere near correct? Could this be the reason the world is so screwed-up?
I mean – think about it. The diplomats are busy, every day, “taking decisions.” Now, I have to ask an important question. Who the heck is making the decisions the diplomats are taking??? See, THOSE are the people who are really in charge and I think it’s about darned time we know who they are! Don’t you?
No, I don’t think “take” is a European term as opposed to an American term. Actually, I think it is a Freudian slip. See, I think the poor slobs who lie for their country, you know – the diplomats – really, I mean REALLY, want us to know that THEY are not responsible for making the decisions. It is sort of like the American POW who blinked his eyes in Morse code on enemy propaganda film during the Korean War. Saying the word “take” in place of “make,” I believe, is a form of VERBAL Morse code.
By now you are surely wondering if ole J. D. has slipped a cog. In truth, I may have. Honestly, though, when you work with “words” for a living, you tend to notice things such as the substitution of one word for another. Sure, it is a little thing, but I submit that a collation of a lot of little things can quickly make a large thing. (I have no clue what that means! But, hey! It had a nice ring to it when I wrote it!)
English and Latin are the only two languages I have really studied. And I studied BOTH hard. I’ve had a love affair with language since I was a child. I would sit by the Philco table model radio and mimic Edward R. Murrow, and Lowell Thomas, and then, as time went by and TV became a part of our lives, I mimicked Douglas Edwards, then Walter Cronkite.
Speaking to one another by means of vocal audible vibrations is far more important than we might think. It is still, today, a necessary skill. I often wonder at the inability of modern Americans to converse with one another without the aid of an electronic device.
It is said that once upon a time the people of the earth all spoke one language. Their communications skills were so great they became arrogant and decided there was nothing they could NOT do.
So they decided to build a tower that would reach into heaven where they would confront God as equals. Being less than amused, God destroyed their tower and cursed them all with different languages (known as The Confusion of Tongues) so they could never again reach a level of arrogance that would breed such contempt for their Creator.
But – as it turns out – that was not the end of the story. Man has since erected another Tower of Babel where man’s arrogance is again testing the patience of the All Mighty. However, today we do not call it the Tower of Babel. No. We call it the UN.
J. D. Longstreet