Stumping for Republican Congressional candidates in the 1970 midterm elections, Vice-President Spiro Agnew attacked the GOP’s liberal critics in one of the most memorable speeches in the history of American politics.
“In the United States today, we have more than our share of nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H club—the hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”
Around the same time, Nikki Giovanni published her poem, “kidnap.”
if i were a poet
i’d kidnap you
put you in my phrases
and meter you to jones beach
or maybe coney island
or maybe just to my house
lyric you in lilacs
dash you in the rain
alliterate the beach
to complement my see
Agnew’s remarks were written by his acclaimed speechwriter, William Saffire, who went on to write about language and politics as a New York Times columnist. That a GOP operative can deploy playful language in the service of partisan politics with the same dramatic effect as a radical African-American poet writing about romance, speaks to the power of merriment in effective communication.
Both the speechwriter and the poet demonstrate that a sense of fun–even whimsy–can animate a message about subjects as serious as intimate love and political contempt. Note how each uses alliteration and rhythm to drive home wildly different perspectives.
Done right, this style of content creation is timeless; consider, for instance, that when both Saffire and Giovanni wrote their respective texts, the state-of-the-art-technology in the typical American household would’ve been a battery-powered calculator.
Having fun and building your brand needn’t be mutually exclusive.