Big mouth strikes again

A new piece of research that is odd even by Latvian standards, has ranked the linguistic performance of the country's 13 Prime Ministers since the restoration of independence in 1991. 

The research was carried out by the so-called 'Language Police' - a tongue-in-cheek name for the State Language Center which is the ultimate arbiter of all matters linguisto-semantic, but which in this case is the Skrivanek language and translation company.

Language Police experts ranked the PMs according to four criteria: culture, grammar, style and oratory.

Pre-eminent among his Prime Ministerial peers was the lavishly loquacious Ivars Godmanis, whose standard rhetorical technique of answering all questions with a lengthy list of bullet points seems to have impressed the experts.

As oratory it's not exactly Cicero in the Roman Forum but is effective in making Godmanis seem like he has structured thoughts, even when he is clearly winging it.

Godmanis' powerful projection and dynamism saw him carry the day.

Ranking only just behind Godmanis was polyglot Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, now dazzlingly multilingual with the European Commission. His geeky talent for trawling tiny pieces of data from the depths of memory, married with famous catchphrases such as "With regard to..." (not a zinger, but extremely flexible) put him in second place.

Dombrovskis won praise for his precise use of terminology and his readiness to speak in all situations.

Completing the podium of premium public performers was Einars Repse whose famous leather pinstriped suit might perhaps be regarded as an effective prop for his persuasive verbal patter. 

But it was Repse's voluminous vocabulary that impressed the experts most.

At the other end of the scale was the recently-departed (though happily not deceased) Laimdota Straujuma who was rated the least effective public speaker.

The experts said she would have benefited from media training. Erm - how to put this? - she did have some.

Anyway, we at LSM disagree with this verdict, having always found her homely, cakes-just-out-of-the-oven style of speaking rather pleasant and a refreshing change to the predictable "If I say things three times I am basically Kennedy" efforts of some others.

Incumbent premier Maris Kucinskis has so far performed in an average manner. Holding him back is his tendency to... pause... several times in every... sentence.

"Can we imagine that the leaders of the United Kingdom or the United States would make ten mistakes in the first five minutes of an official broadcast? It is unthinkable, but we accept it quite freely as there is a general tolerance of errors in politicians' speeches," commented Skrivanek's Aiga Veckalne.

Harsh words.

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