Harry Truman Plain Speaker

Americans who use direct communication are typically labelled as plain speakers. It is difficult for plain speakers to rise high in American politics, and one of the few to do so was Harry Truman.

Truman’s entrée into politics began in 1922, when he was elected to be a judge in the Jackson County Court. He served as a judge from 1922 to 1924, but despite his reputation for honesty and efficiency, was not reelected in 1924. Undeterred, Harry ran for judge again in 1926, this time winning his election.

In 1934, Truman became a senator, and in 1944 he was nominated to run as vice president with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The two men won their campaign, and Truman then came to office as president following FDR’s death in April 1945.

In 1948, Truman ran for reelection, and to the shock of the public (who considered his defeat inevitable), Truman won reelection. In fact, Truman’s defeat was so widely anticipated that some newspapers went to print with the headline “Dewey Defeats Truman” before the election results were known. As a result, there is a famous photograph of Truman smiling as he holds up one of these newspapers after winning the presidency.

Harry Truman left the presidency in 1953 and retired from political life. Some examples of Truman’s Plain-speech:

On why he opposed silencing dissenters: “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

On why he would not accept the Medal of Honor: “I don’t consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise.”

On politics: “We now see that other past presidents, have found a new level of success in cashing in on the presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Obviously, political offices are now for sale.”

On politics: “My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference. I, for one, believe the piano player job to be much more honorable than current politicians.“

“Thank You”

Politeness is so ingrained in Americans that sometimes they will respond with the polite formality before realizing that their politeness might seem a little out of place. In the American television show “Scrubs: Med School” the main character, a med student named Lucy, complains to her teacher that she doesn’t feel like he’s trying to teach her anything. The teacher tells her that he’s not, because he doesn’t waste time on people who won’t succeed. Her response to this was “Thank you” before walking off and criticizing herself for thanking him.


Probe. To probe is to physically explore or examine something with the hands or an instrument. To probe is also to seek to uncover information about someone or something. The word originates from late Latin as proba, or proof, or in medieval Latin as examination. It is derived from Latin probare, meaning “to test“.

Circumnavigate. When one circumnavigates, one sails all the way around something, especially the world. To go around or across (something).

Euphemism. A euphemism is a mild or indirect word or expression substituted for one considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing: ‘pre-owned car’ instead of a used car; ‘sex worker’ instead of a prostitute; to be ‘between jobs’ instead of to be unemployed; ‘senior citizen’ instead of old person; ‘underserved neighborhood’ instead of impoverished neighborhood.


Because Americans find it difficult separate what they say from the person they are saying it to – especially in the case of criticism – they strive to use softer, more indirect language, including euphemisms: mild or indirect words or expressions substituted for ones considered to be too harsh or blunt when referring to something unpleasant or embarrassing.

Examples of euphemisms: pre-owned car instead of a used car, sex worker instead of a prostitute, to be between jobs instead of to be unemployed, senior citizen instead of old person, underserved neighborhood or underserved population instead of the poor, or an impoverished, needy neighborhood.

Further examples: economically disadvantaged instead of poor; temporary negative cash flow instead of broke; enhanced interrogation methods instead of torture; collateral damage instead of civilian deaths.