Can You Hear Me, Gordon?
Or, Are you listening to me, Gordon?
The Time magazine has put together the 2009 list of world’s 100 most influential people. The interesting thing about this annual feature is not just the people on the list, but that their profiles are written by other high-profile people. Sometimes, these other high-profile people are also on the same list, and their profiles are written by… I think you get the idea.
As expected, Barack Obama is on the list. And who has written his profile? None other than Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of the country that has lectured the world about proper English for ages. Lets take a look:
Time and time again, people have talked of Barack Obama’s talent for listening. His real talent is for hearing what is actually said. [Time]
That was confusing, wasn’t it? Don’t worry, I looked it up. Here, the BBC explains the difference between hear and listen:
We use hear for sounds that come to our ears, without us necessarily trying to hear them! For example, ‘They heard a strange noise in the middle of the night.’
Listen is used to describe paying attention to sounds that are going on. For example, ‘Last night, I listened to my new Mariah Carey CD.’
So, you can hear something without wanting to, but you can only listen to something intentionally. [BBC]
According to Gordon Brown then, Barack Obama’s real talent does not lie in paying attention to people. It lies in unintentionally picking up the words that someone happens to be speaking in the vicinity. In other words, Barack Obama is a highly sensitive microphone.