Tuesday, July 18, 2006

On the Docket: Two Presidents

I'm swamped with completing various moving-related tasks, as well as preparing the final print of my dissertation. I've been reading Language Log quite a bit these days (and have some notes on "notes to self" to send Benjamin Zimmer), and think they've got the right idea over there, to have a steady rotation of different posters . . . While I'm still flying solo here, and running into some turbulence, I present in brief what I'd like to be writing about, and hope to, when I get the chance:

¶ Do you reckon that Laura has a swear jar for Dubya? (Maybe it pays for her secret smoking habit.) As with so many things these days, I'm of many minds on the stir. That is, who gives a shit if the president says shit, so long as the Middle East is still burning? The story, of course, lies in the President's hypocrisy (as Salon reports, Bush's erstwhile media-mom, Karen Hughes, once claimed she had never heard the President swear), and the administration-wide disconnect between speech and action, policy and reality. Really, wouldn't many of us appreciate more candor, even of the four-lettered variety?

Meanwhile, as said-Zimmer notes in his notes on the shit, U.S. news outlets are having tortured bowel movements as to how they should report the story -- that is, the word -- itself. Recall I mused recently on this topic in relation to Italian soccer player's words to Zidane, and objected myself to a recent sub-hedder in Slate, which I did not reprint. Isn't it odd that words themselves should impede our reporting on them?

¶ Jack Rosenthal, President of the NYTimes Foundation, subbed for William Safire this week in Safire's Times Mag column "On Language," the same week we're getting more information about Valerie Plame (from Robert Novak, however, not Judith Miller). Any takers on a connection between Rosenthal's Sunday musings on language and the late trials and tribs of the Gray Lady? Rosenthal's lede word: insolation.

I've been meaning to start a series of responses to Safire, whose practice of philology I find pretty objectionable, but perhaps it's apt if we start with the President. Where does the buck stop?

For now, however, back to packing and editing.

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