Tuesday, May 31, 2005

POLITICALLY CORRECT

Some ichoate thoughts on the term politcally correct

1) In the 1950's, the value of political correctness was called either good manners or probity. This was back in the day of infra dig, the idea that there were some things well mannered people did not do under any circumstances. Oh, yes, we had the kitchen and the closet and the back door for the marginalized, lamentably so, but men wore white shirts and ties to baseball games, and ladies wore white gloves and hats to communion. (This writer is old enough to remember the peach polyester pants suit worn to communion controversy at the Lutheran Church, circa 1969). But that sense of certain things being beneath us set the groundwork to end the blocks of the kitchen, the closet, and the back door. The thing of it all now becomes how to weed what is still very good and yielding soil, to separate the plant pests from the useful herbs.

2) But manners, and probity, and infra dig are culturally dead. Like Vauban's walls around the French village on the Alsatian border, they have been rendered irrelevent. Seige walls beg for breeching; those seige towns get what they deserve. The Village had a revolt, and what passes for a Left in this country supposedly occupy the Fort, and now impose their own codes. But how much of these PC codes is just asking for a display good manners? Only this time a bunch of pasty white punks from the suburbs are now the victims (another word deflated of meaning).

3) We live in an Age of Insincerity. Or rather, the table stakes are not worth the candle. Academia PC battles are for the ability to have a monopoly on how to write badly, how to manufacture shoddy art, how to create joyless music, how to produce turgid histories devoid of heroes. The whole gruesome PC show has the quality of that Marx Brothers routine in Day at the Races, where Chico sells Groucho a groaning mass of arcane turf guides just to make a $5 bet.

4) Genuine PC seeks to issue every man and woman a fund of honest civil exchange, the coin must bear on both sides the stamps of dignity and obedience to make true coin of the realm. The ideal of honest coinage is not made invalid by the prescence of the occasional counterfeiter, or by sharp dealing in the currency market.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Ds

Debate and Dialogue

Bipartisan debate is a form of price fixing--an exercise in racketering between two well-entrenched mob bosses. In our political world, this is the mutual agreement to fall towards the center. Unfortunately, the center happens to like Rocky Road Ice Cream, not because they actually like it, but because it is unadventurous, and they have been told since the age of reason that it is the flavor they should like if they truly love Ice Cream. So we get a debate, one party argues for extra nuts, the other less; the one accuses the other of poor patriotism towards the concept of Ice cream, while the other insists that the ratio of nuts to heavy cream requires a bit more nuance. But if you like Tin Roof Sundae you are SOL. And both Rocky Road salesmen now bond together to prevent any third alternative. Point being if its a false dichotomy, its not a debate. If the process refuses to challenge the premise, walk away. Of course what debate fails to realize is that during a time of true crisis the Center has a tendency to wimp out, and if truth would be told, the Center kind of sucks.

Which tails into the second word, dialogue. Often an invitation to dialogue is actually a barely disguised summons to appear before a kangaroo court, a theatre of self-criticism of a quasi-Maoist variety.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

CZAR or TSAR

For some reason, a word that derives from an earthly despot whose word, nod, and even baleful glare, were treated as edicts from on high, is now used to describe a political eunuch. In Washington, when a problem is intractable, beyond human means of what we like to call resolution, the powerless man to lead the attack on this irreducible constant is named after a legendary potentate of mighty and dreqadful mien. For example, when we have a core group of drug users, the percentage of which never will go below a certain fixed number, we then appoint someone totally powerless to do anything about it, and admit to this farce by calling the poor fool a "czar". Feel free, folks. Throw a bit more garnish on his sports coat, devise a cunning emblem and a new flag, it's all the Marshall Potemkin of the legendary false front villages, forgetting that the real Potemkin was actually a highly competent and effective CEO, a man who unlike the present collection of czars did something with his tenure, and left a legacy. Don't blame Bill Bennett and Tom Ridge for leaving no legacy in the wake of their service; the roulette table was fixed to begin with. Another example of the political language using a word to describe something that in its actual operation is the polar opposite.

CURSE WORDS

Millions of children still traumatized over the Jackson Nipple Attack, we have the Federal Government monitoring bad words. But let us recall exactly what curse words are. Cursing is simply appropriating the right of God to damn and to bless. Consigning someone to Hell is cursing. It is a Sin because it is an Act of Presumption, the first sin of man in the Garden of Eden. Barnyard epithets are not curse words. Let's encode, using the first letter, then the number of letters remaining: F3, S3, C9, M11, C3, T3, and so on (I'd use Cutter Numbers, but only librarians would suss it out). So Dick Cheney is a c3-sucking, lying m11, while Dubya is a dry drunk p4 c3 serial business failure. None of this, spelt out is cursing per se. G-D, go to H, d-you are cursing. Mortals should not presume to send other mortals to Hell, nor assume they possess an authority greater than the Grace of God. Any mortal powers must follow the Office of the Keys anyway, as set forth by Dr. Luther

the dog that didn't bark

Colonel Ross still wore an expression which showed the poor opinion which he had formed of my companion's ability, but I saw by the Inspector's face that his attention had been keenly aroused.

"You consider that to be important?' he asked.

"Exceedingly so"

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?'

"To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."

"The dog did nothing in the night-time."

"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

What a delicious treat to see the Republicans kicked to the kerb in the Galloway performance this Tuesday. One wishes to ask Senator Coleman how his new asshole, torn out by the teeth of George, is working. This is the dog that doesn't bark in the night, proof to paid, for if the Republicans had anything on the man, they would have leaked it long ago. What a collection of glass-jawed sissies.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

On Our Current Commander in Chief

From Moon for the Misbegotten, stage description of T. Stedman Harder, the Standard Oil tycoon about to get eviscerated by the lumpen Hogans.

Harder is in his late thirties, but looks younger because his face is unmarked by worry, ambition, or any of the common hazards of life. No matter how long he lives, his four undergraduate years will always be for him the most significant in his life, and the moment of his highest achievement the time he was tapped for an exclusive Senior Society at the Ivy university to which his father had given millions. Since that day he has felt no need for further aspiring, no urge to do anything except settle down on his estate and live the life of a country gentleman, mildly interested in saddle horses and sports models of foreign automobiles. He is not the blatantly silly, playboy heir to millions whose antics make newspaper headlines. He doesn't drink much except when he attends his class reunion every year -- the most exciting episode of each year for him. He doesn't gieve wild parties, doesn't chase after musical-comedy cuties, is a mildly contented husband and father of three children. A not unpleasant man, affable, good-looking in an ordinary way, sunburnt and healthy. beginning to take on fat, he is simply immature, naturally lethargic, a bit stupid. Coddled from birth, everything arranged and made easy for him, deferred to because of his wealth, he usually has the self-confident attitude of acknowledged superiority, but assumes a supercilious, insecure air when dealing with people beyond his ken.

Italics and boldface my own choice...compare and contrast with the Yankee Peddler transmorgified into the Texan Terror, via his years as the Audie Murphy of the Texas Air National Guard, or whatever they called it back then.

C is for CRISIS

Literally, cross, meaning a point in the road where a path must be chosen. If the problem is intractable, or beyond the suasion of any human genius, then the thing is not a crisis. It may be a fatality, or an immemorial part of the human condition, but it is not a crisis. Again, this is another of those journalist words that need to be doled out sparingly. Let's say a journalist is mandated by law to use the word crisis only three times a year. The same can be said for the word tragedy. Child obesity is not a crisis. There's just a lot of fat little porkers trotting around. Eat less, exercise more is not much of a choice; it's just out there, manifest. Health care costs and coverage in a western democracy is not a crisis either; one can always forgo the state of the art medical procedure, or stop taking the yet-to-be withdrawn-from-the- marketplace pill . Get well or die, as the Greek philosopher said. Also, if we refuse to acknowledge we are stumbling along a certain path, or refuse to concede that the path has a perpetual fork in the road in front of our faces, then we cannot talk about the crisis. It's another word journalism has rendered meaningless. Might as well remain silent.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The F Word

I was once taught that the use of the word "fuck", "fucking" and such was a sign of being inarticulate. But there are some situations where no other word will do. Such as in the phrase:

inappropriate relationship
That's nine syllables folks. We're breaking a rule set down by Mr. George Carlin, from his melt down over the devolution of the perfectly usable and concise phrase "shell shock" to the long-winded phrase we use today. Anyway, to get back to my rant, "I am sorry if my inappropriate relationship offended anyone". The kicker, of course, being the IF - sort of a backhanded non-apology apology. IF means being offended is really YOUR problem, not mine, but IF you have to have an apology, here it is.
No one, especially a man, ever has an inappropriate realtionship. They fuck. There it is in a nutshell. A man has an influential job in the media. For the young and ambitiuous and hungry, aspiring youth, serving as an intern to a man of such influence is a valued job. The more powerful boss becomes in a sense a ward of the intern, his charge, in part, is to show some stewardship over the younger and less powerful charge. But occasionally, this power is abused when the man fucks the intern. To call this a relationship abuses the word and renders it meaningless. No Congressman has ever had an inappropriate relationship with a stenographer, either blond or blonde, or both at the same time, or seriatum. He......, well... you know. Why belabor the point?
If journalists can regularly mouth such obscenities as collateral damage, I think they can handle a very servicable word rooted in Middle English.
Good Lord! I have two more rants contained in this rant! The famous non-apology apology, and the word relationship.
Shout Out!!!
I need examples from the past ten years of famous non-apology apologies from public servants and entertainment darlings...maybe we can find a pattern.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Answer to an e-mail

Weirdly enough, "authority" is one of those words on my list, motivated from years of watching the morning segment of C-SPAN. Every third caller is an "authority", on Social Security, the Palestinian Issue, inherited IQ, the pine resin industry, what have you.


To me, an "authority" is one who has read under the direction of a tenured expert (another over-used word) and received some degree or certification stating that they have mastered their studies. Sitting on the couch watching every episode of the many varieties of "Law and Order" for five years will not make you an authority on the legal system. This is only done by attending one of the top five law schools in the nation, and then only after graduating with honors. Pouring poison on bugs in Texas, however successfully, does not make anyone an expert on the Constitution. I would use the word "maven", but even that word is misused.


I have a whole rant I will post later on the use of the word "authority" and "expert". It is related to my whole caffeine-stoked routine on the topic of C-SPAN morning callers, who include such characters as Rayon Ray, License Branch Lucile, and Ali Ali Akbar, More on my blog as I go along.


Thank you for your patience

The Acerbic Dane

C is for Conservative

Closely defined, one who wishes to conserve the present order of things, a straw boss dedicated to the continued feather bedding of his pals, often confused with the reactionary, who wishes to resurrect the spectres of a dead order, ghoulishly distorted through the prism of nostalgia (literally, sickness for one's home). So often used, conservative has been rendered meaningless for political discourse - like the word liberal or the word fascist. More later on the last two words. Weirdly enough, politics and political language is riven with fraud and coercion by its very nature, so when the honor among thieves falls apart, what is the fall-out to us?

addendum to previous posting


On the word commitment


Commitment has entered the New Age Tendency (Ironically, a tendency that infects the Bush Administration. And I'll justify the word irony on demand) towards Creative Visualization in the Body Politic. The thing is done because I verbalized my visualization of the thing being done. When the hundreth Red State Monkey does the same, then the thing is accomplished. We are committed - to talking about being committed. Let's now form another committee committed to make sure nothing is done to resolve the problem we are committed to -- doing nothing about.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Three Good New Books

Three books I have bought at Borders in the past two weeks: Junk English 2 by Ken Smith, 100 Words Almost Everyone Uses and Misues, and Death Sentences by Don Watson. The last is more an indictment on argle-bargle in Australian politics and Australian management stylings, but useful to this blog nevertheless. Especially on one of my man pet peeve words, the gnarly gremlin named commited.


I quote

To say we are committed to something does not mean we believe it (if we did, why not say so?) or that we will do it (if we will, why not do so?). Commitment is a standard weasel word, a weed that spread with the fashion for mission statements, new management theories, and sports psychology.

and later

Churchill did not talk about commitment, and Lincoln got through the Gettysburg Address without it. At the heart of commitment, there is deceit, including self-deceit. But, as with all weeds, commitment's main offense is to the landscape. It is the ugliness of it and the ubiquity. It might not fool us, but it does depress us.

Civic-Civil-Civility, still in the letter C

The direct roots of these three words refer to belonging to a city, and loving the city to exclusion of the tempting charms of all other cities; the purpose of this love to keep good order within the city walls. The opposite of this inate tendency rooted in being a human being is cosmopolitanism, I guess (I'm going to need to suss out these notions in the coming weeks). And there can be no sense of true civility without the recognition that there is a thing outside our walls called barbarism. Now, barbarism is a judgement word, a violation of a set of Pecksniffian Grundyisms mistakenly labelled tolerance (I'll rant about this word when I reach the letter T). I'll leave it to those who crank out the word tolerance so freely why one should tolerate barbarism.


Anyway, this is all part of that weird Mobius strip type of argument where we are told that one can never sit in judgement on the other, without explaining that this anti-judgement degree is a judgement in of itself.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

GIMMEE A ... B

bureaucrat bureaucracy
We've had this tool since at least the beginning of the Late Ubiad period in Sumer area, let's say 5400 B.C. (NO! I refuse to use BCE, the acronym being an affectation). We will always have bureaucracy, the only question being whether we will send our appeal to a government bureaucracy of a corporate bureaucracy, the latter recently outsourced to Bangalore. (Her name is Urmila 'Mar'todkar, but when she answers the phone number listed by your credit card company, she announces her her name is Brandi). It is political cant to inveigh against this bugaboo - literally bureaucracy is from the French meaning rule from out of an office.
Once again, who is easier to appeal to? the company bureaucrat or the government bureaucrat? Bureaucrats are like another group we affect to hate, attorneys. They exist because we want their services. If you hate bureaucrats and lawyers, stop asking for government hand-outs and stop suing everyone at the drop of a basecap cap worn backwards.

Gimme a C -- is for CANT

From the book of Fowler

cant insincere or parrotlike appeal to principles, religious, moral, political, or scientific, that the speaker does not believe in or act upon, or does not understand...on my own, parahphrasing Fowler, please do not confuse with jargon, lingo, slang, or argot

Examples that come to mind---

cycle of violence
senseless tragedy
man's inhumanity to man

One can shorthand these phrases with acronyms, respectively COV, ST, and MITM

So often used they no longer have meaning, trotted out when one either has nothing to say or deep down doesn't really care. When I see a massacre in an African nation between tribes, I have more respect for the racist who doesn't really care and says, in their ignorance, Them people is animals anyways, than the Pecksniffian who bemoans MITM, or We must work to stop the COV and then does nothing.

JAMES 2:14-20


Cant is the doling out of thin gruel, the offer of grace on the cheap, begging for a free pass, a ruse to avoid the hard work of seriously addressing an issue.
Favorite cant phrases? Gimmee a posting, please...

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Give me a B

BASED ON...
A term out of Hollywood meaning "fictional" or "made up". In entertainment industries, based on refers an on-screen depiction of a historical event or person having an only passing reference to what actually occured or what actually was. To critique a film I've never seen, The Aviator, Juan Trippe was not some cigar-chomping oaf, but a visionary who made air travel a commerical business, a truly revolutionary character, who did more to change the way we live now than all the Abbie Hoffmans and Reverend Sloan Coffins. He was guilty of what we all secretly admire but enviously disdain; to wit, he had his shit together. But American discourse is largely based on false dichotomies in the service of the narcissism of small differences, just watch the WWF if you think I am wrong. One character is all white and light, hence any opponent is all blackness and sulphur. So when an event gets the Hollywood treatment, nuance goes out the window in service of the stupidity of the audience (Allow me to rant one day about the most evil movie to come out of Hollywood. No, not Birth of a Nation. Forrest Gump.) All this references the fact that this nation as a nation was grounded largely in a Christian heresy that the devil was a powerful God co-equal with the God of Light. It perks up in our culture all the time.
Anyway, for a later rant, Juan Trippe is on my short list of truly revolutionary figures of the 20th Century, none of which are the Betty Friedans or Norman Thomases. More likely suspects are the inventors, advance men, and debt salesmen who made this all possible. Willis Haviland Carrier did more to change the face of the nation than anyone else. Want to fight the power, my young fellow Leftists? Get a degree in engineering.

Thanks to Spizzerinctum for the definition of the word

DEGRINGOLADE
Meaning Rapid Deterioration, as in Standards...
More on this rant later...

Monday, May 02, 2005

Give me an A

ANECDOTAL

To wit, a short narrative without developed characters or a plot. Journalists use it in place of "apocryphal" for some reason. It is used to suggest that evidence for or against is flimsy. (Charges that the chemical plant caused birth defects are at this point anecdotal - meaning undeniable but prove it in court, we own the judge). Actually, most of the decisions we make on a daily basis are grounded on the anecdotal, absent the ideal of perfect information. One of the most misused words in journalism after "ironically".

QUIZ

If anyone can give me the exact source of this Faulkner quote...then you have...my undying gratitude...

And what is the full quote? I've been racking my brains on this one. It refers to the death of Ahab, I believe.

There's a death for a man, now; none of your patient pasturage for little grazing beasts you can't... If there be grief, then let it be but...

Time for a Rant

I think I am entitled to at least one caffeine induced rant this morning...

So I will vent on the word...



ANNIVERSARY
First, there are only two measurements of this, the 25th and the 50th. Any other number is just begging for attention. There has never been a 30th anniversary of anything. All other numbers are just Baby Boomer Nonsense. Baby Boomers have this need to trumpet their significance, and these weird anniversaries of 30-35-40 are an example of the silly trend.
Second, anniversaries only count for marriages, high school graduation (anyone can graduate from college; high school alone requires gritty endurance), epic battles, a few Supreme Court decisions, and one or two inaugurations of truly epochal civic engineering projects. That's it. There never has been, nor never will be, an anniversary of the recording of "Louie, Louie" by the Kingsmen. Such an event does not exist, except on cable VH1. And I am willing nto defend this in public.
Beware! When we overuse words we gut them of meaning.
Stay tuned for the "C"s, I am really going to vent on the word "Classic/Classical". Hint, it involves the use of the word before the phrase "Will and Grace"

A is for...

ALLY

One of the most misused word in political language. Ally does not mean friend, nor does it mean tributary. It means two or more who share a like self-interest on a very limited topic, or at least in the same heavily vested outcome. A classic example of common purpose in the preening interest of self-love. Both France and the United States believe in a steady reliable supply of electricity for their citizens, they just differ on the voltage. The difference does not make one "anti-electricity". There's no obligation outside of good manners to learn the others language, but still, it's a good idea to bring an adapter when visiting.

Not a Biggie

Allusions and the Appositive Phrase

Not a big thing to have an aneurism over, but let's refer to the Great Barzun and his quibble over the Appositive Phrase, as in:

Achilles, the Greek hero
Oh yeah, Mr. Writer, thanks for clearing that up.
Now one is tempted to rant about the dearth of cultural literacy where a reporter feels the need to clear up just which Achilles he is writing about for the public (Whew! I thought he meant Moe Achilles, the famed hat blocker from Maxwell Street). But really, cultural literacy is a constant and you can Google till the cows do whatever cows do nowadays (in the huge corporate farms they never leave the barn, so you cannot say they "come home" anymore) on how students are just as ignorant on culture and politics now as they were in the 1950's. And if one wants to play the game of obscure allusions there is always John Leonard, or vox populi, Richard Lewis to use as touchstones. And there is Brewer's classic reference work on Phrase and Fable if one really wants to hunt out the more obscure allusions.
By the way, is this true? Is the term the hoi polloi redundant, as hoi means the? Any British poet raised on Greek please write me.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Misued Word:

Let's start with the letter A

as in the word:
AGENDA
Everyone has an agenda, from the moment they wake in the morning to the second before they drop off into slumber. Do you intend to shave the stubble off your pasty face? Whether you do on not, that is an agenda. Misused word, as in the case of the phrase "homosexual agenda". This means the quaint desire not to have rednecks beat you to death with tire irons behind the Tastee Freez based on how you choose to exercise your prostate gland. Additionally, an internist correctly assayes your medical problem, with a solution, but charges for the service. The fact that the doctor is pursuing a monetary agenda of profit for this service does in no way effect the quality of either the diagnosis or the prognosis. A meaningless word. A demand for mere dignity is not an agenda as the way detractors wish to misuse the word. See also the utterly meaningless phrase, partisan motive.

Where I am coming from...

I thought I would post of list of writers I admire. First, the Brit essayists, Gibbon, Hunt, Macauley, Lamb, Hazlitt and DeQuincy, and earlier, Addison and Steele. Later, such writers as Auden, Crane, H.W. Fowler, Robert Graves, Murray Kempton, George Orwell. Living, keeping the flame alive, such writers as Jacques Barzun, Vivian Gornick, Christopher Hitchins, Michael Ignatieff, John Leonard, and Joe Queenan. More on how I made these choices later.

Also I will keep a list of truly bad writers. To check for truly bad writing and poor logic, the New Republic is required reading. You will never find a guide to poorer logic and more noxious question begging than this magazine. Read and weep, and unlearn. Also, the columns of Thomas Freidman, who reminds me of the quip by Salvador Dali that he was not a great artist because he was so good but only because all other artists were so bad.

HELP WANTED

Insecure writers, to exhibit their Ivy League college degrees or peripatic CVs, enjoy dropping foreign phrases, forgetting that some words do not literally translate. Example: the term amore propore. One can translate this phrase to mean self love. This phrase is soon confused with a completely native Americanism, self esteem, one on those phrases that makes this writer wish to reach for the proverbial revolver. Also, the phrase Guerre au rabais, which actually means somethig like "war done on the cheap". So this HELP WANTED post is actually a "shout out" for foreign readers to provide their own little phrases of political cant and argot to create an online political dictionary. Such as semaine prochaine (I hope I have spelt this correctly), referring to the off-putting of decision-making under the tricolor. More on the use of foreign phrases later.

Statement of Intent

This is Day One of yet another blog. The purpose of this blog is to keep a check on the sloppy use of words and poor reasoning. It will be a Hall of Shame for the misuse of words. The categories include the over-use of words that strip a good word of any meaning (as in the case of ironic or tragedy), the use of cant or argot in politics (see weaponize or actionable), the twisting of good words that turn a complement into a pejorative (see the words liberal and socialist and intellectual), the use of what I call scientisms, where a word from a branch of the hard sciences is used incorrectly in the political sphere (see the words critical mass or sea change). Caveat: this writer, a man of the left, still prefers the dictionary that is proscriptive rather than descriptive. Hence, I would only use the word fiancé, to refer to a love partner who has pledged to marry at a certifiable date in the future; the word does not refer to an erstwhile cohabitant. This blog will hence be chock full of personal gripes, pet peeves, and Grundyisms.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. Thus sayeth Mr. Blair, Eric not Tony.

We seek to fight the good fight to preserve the currency of the English language, which like all currencies is not immune to the Greshamite tendency for bad coin to drive out the good. Good language is merely the watchful eye, the harsh bite on clenched teeth on the sovereign, assessing the true value, seeking an honest exchange for honest value.