Illustration by Marshall Reeves

Went to a public speaking meeting the other day and found it enlightening. There was certain exuberance about the scene. Members, mostly people in their thirties, observed each other’s speaking styles, commenting on such things as hemming and hawing, moving about excessively, and not looking at the audience.

Amazingly though, no one said anything about the fast talkers and practically all of them fell into that category. Perhaps it was because the session was held early in the morning — before businesses open. Everyone’s mind was stimulated by the cups of coffee, already concentrating on catching that new account, explaining last week’s mishap to the boss, or briefing the new batch of recruits on company policy within the three hours allotted for it.

Everything moves faster nowadays – jetliners, messengers, even pickpockets. Internet language has devised its own form of shorthand to stay au courant, but for the spoken language there really isn’t any place to go. The human mouth can increase its pace so it will rival Danny Kaye’s record of being able to name 100 Russian composers in one minute, but alas, it does very little for retention. On the other hand, it does a hell of a lot for making this a very nervous, frazzled and bedazzled world.

The only speaker who often paused for effect and enunciated properly that morning was a much older retired lady. She was not about to close any deals, she was not vying for contracts or trying to impress her boss. She was just being herself and, by the way, also the best kempt member of the group.

A master public speaker, I would call her.   


Introduction to Drabek’s Glossas

According to one wag the two signs of old age are:

a. the inability to stay with a thought.

b. the inability to leave that thought.

As a well-established octogenarian, I have been warned of the dangers. In this collection, I have tried to avoid them by limiting myself to one-page essays, which I call glossas. I feel that brevity has become a lost art in this age when so many people live in constant fear of being misunderstood. We tend to explain and explain — God, how we explain! And since our emails often abbreviate only words, not thoughts, I consider this to be a pioneering effort.

My glossas deal with some of the things I feel qualified to comment upon and quite a few I don’t. That too is downright revolutionary, because until now it has been largely assumed that such things as conflict avoidance and pathology should be left to the experts. But let’s be honest about it: that kind of approach has left us with two world wars and something called 9/11. And we’re still without a cure for the common cold.

This volume then breaks entirely new ground in that it explores home remedies. And since the paper’s getting short, let’s begin.

Jan Drabek

Jan Drabek


The octogenarian Jan Drabek has been an ambassador in Africa, Chief of Protocol, author, Vancouver High School teacher, a graduate student in southern India, a radio announcer in Germany, a sailor aboard a US aircraft carrier, and a failed naval aviator trainee.