Monday, October 27, 2008

No Sleep 'til Wordsmith

I don't often find myself agreeing with Safire, but when he's right, he's right -- the "proof of the pudding" is in the eating, truly a difference with an actual distinction.

Other things that rub my anal-retentive nub:
  • Saying that you "could" care less. Really, could you? I mean, so could I. So could anyone. What makes you so special? Doesn't matter what the subject is. We could all care less. Fucking duh. But if the expression has any meaning, which it doesn't, then you could not care less, right?

    Eh, fuck it. I could care less.

  • Having your cake and eating it too. How is that accomplished? Doesn't eating your cake and still having it make more logical sense or what? In what other way are you "having" this abstract cake? In the conjugal sense? That would certainly explain the existence of Twinkies.

  • "From whence". This is redundant construction; "whence" itself means "from where" or "from when". It's funny that some of the people who lapse into such usage are exactly the sort of folks who should have encountered Strunk & White at some point in their professional writing careers.

As for the rest of Safire's scrying of the rhetorical frottage of McCain and Palin, characterizing their endless vamping as "verbal tics" is at once too kind and insufficient. Watching their speeches is about as entertaining as listening to alley cats mate on a backyard fence; reading the transcripts is different but not much better. McCain seems to benefit a bit from reading his piffle rather than listening to it, being tethered to his toneless, cadence-free delivery.

Palin, on the other hand, gathers steam and gall in her delivery as she pounces from one crowd of halfwits to the next. Transcripts are inadequate in capturing her snideness and sarcasm, her smirking glee as she parks lie after shrill lie into the cheap seats.

The fact that all they've been able to attract at most of these things is career yahoos such as Hank Williams Jr. and Elisabeth Hasselbeck is, I suppose, something of a relief. Professional wrestlers and NASCAR drivers seem to be few and far between at these rallies, surely a cultural barometer of that particular base.

All of which points to something that even Safire would have to concede. This past weekend featured much speculation over Palin becoming a "diva", and perhaps looking ahead already to 2012. More than a few professional leg-humpers made the usual rounds to encourage such speculation.

If Palin really is the best they've got to offer next time around, then their party is well and truly dead from the standpoint of ideological legitimacy, and their Wills and Krauthammers and Safires will have to do some real soul-searching. It would seal the notion that they are no longer the party of Lincoln, nor even of Schwarzenegger, but rather the satrapy of cartoon characters directly descended from Tom DeLay.

There has to be more to their would-be philosophical underpinnings than giving Rich Lowry a boner. Palin's future -- and the country's -- would be better served by letting her ply her trade at one of the indistinguishable poliporn glory holes that litter the abandoned rest stops of the basic cable spectrum.


Joe Blow said...

good to see your posts again....

daver said...

I predict that after Archie/Dingbat are run over on Nov. 4, Whackjob's ethereal political 'future' will immediately evaporate and blow away.

I wish intrade had found a way to make a 'market' that allowed you to bet on that before the election....

Marius said...

You forgot "I could give a fuck" and "a whole nother."

Man, I hate people who say that.

Tehanu said...

I never give Safire any credit. Even when he's right about something, he manages to suck all the life out of it, and half the time he's wrong anyway. Every week I pray that he'll retire because his "On Language" column is SO FUCKING BORING!

I don't entirely agree with you about "I could care less", because it's sarcasm, as opposed to the original, "I couldn't care less," which is straightforward. It's a betise, but nobody misunderstands it.

Oh, and Steven Pinker explains profanity and how "I don't give a fuck" mutated out of "I don't give a damn" when blasphemy stopped impressing people -- check out his wonderful book "The Stuff of Thought."

Heywood J. said...

Well, nobody misunderstands when someone says "nucular" either, but that doesn't make it any less nonsensical or annoying.

I agree on the sarcasm bit. Occasionally when speaking to people, just to fuck with them a little, I'll throw out "whole nother" or some such quasi-folkism -- or better yet, "ax" instead of "ask". That always gets a bemused look.

Safire is indeed mining a rather dull molehill in his dotage, but it seems to suit him, and it's mildly interesting when he tries to tie it to a contemporaneous political phenomenon. Of course, he's got exactly the wrong end of the stick when it comes to McPalin's grotesque rhetorical manipulations.

McCain says "my friends" and Palin says any number of fresh-off-the-turnip-truck Mayberryisms the way seventh-graders say "like" and "y'know". It's a canned hunt for a language columnist lazing through elementary schtick.

Safire, who knows better, could have done some truly comprehensive digging by sizing up their ritualistically abusive sophistries against the straightforward ground rules laid by Orwell in Politics and the English Language.

thedevilzone said...

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