Meet George Gopen, Exploring The Complexities And Eloquence Of The English Language

Sep 21, 2015

George Gopen, professor emeritus of the practice of rhetoric at Duke University
Credit Duke University

George Gopen thought it was a riot when he beat his college roommate in a pun contest.

"If you keep maltreating your girlfriend, she will send you a dijon letter that says poupon you."

While he loves to pun, Gopen does not take words lightly.

He has spent 45 years teaching literature, composition and rhetoric; the complexities and eloquence of the English language.

So when he heard President George W. Bush give a muddled speech in 2001, George Gopen felt compelled to write the White House.

It was a 15-page letter that criticized everything from the pace to structure and syntax. George believes the administration took everything to heart, and a few months later, the Republican Party was ready to award George, a Democrat, with GOP Businessman of the Year. 

Stories like that define George's career as an analyst of the English language. He is credited with a simple writing theory called the Reader Expectation Approach. It is a set of guidelines for writing and communicating clearly, based on how the reader interprets language, and it has helped countless students, corporate clients, and scientists speak and write more clearly. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with George Gopen, professor emeritus of the Practice of Rhetoric at Duke University, about his life and career in prose, rhetoric and linguistics.