Archive for April 17th, 2009

Tortured Logic

April 17, 2009

Via Sullivan, somebody named Jeff Emmanuel writes:

Co-opting the word “torture” to include methods far less offensive than the majority of interrogation techniques I underwent in military SERE training isn’t a victory for moralists and humanitarians in any form; rather, it’s an Orwellian perversion of a word that once had meaning by those who have spent the last eight years on constant lookout for some greviance to hold against a president whose mere existence they resented.

The sad fact is, by co-opting the word “torture” and using it to describe activities going on at Gitmo, Bagram, and elsewhere, these faux-humanitarians have left us with no word to use to describe those activities which used to be classified as torture, like beheading captives on video, hanging people from meat hooks, drilling out eyeballs, using electric current to cause severe pain and physical damage, and cutting off limbs.

He’s right.  In fact, I think he’s inadvertently stumbled onto a huge problem with English usage.

People have coöpted the word “baseball” to describe what 6-year-olds do on Saturday afternoons on tiny fields under very little pressure and without pay.  These Orwellian faux-baseball fans have left us no word to describe the activities that Babe Ruth, Sandy Koufax, Hank Aaron, etc., engaged in.

Other people have coöpted the word “fraud” to describe a guy who burns down his own liquor store to collect the insurance.  These conscienceless coöpters have left us no word to describe what Charles Ponzi, Michael Milken, Bernie Ebbers, and Bernie Madoff did.  Why are such language perverters allowed to breathe the clean air of freedom?

Still others — oh! their perfidy slits my soul like a razor! — have coöpted the word “war” to describe what our great country did off the Barbary Coast during the Jefferson administration, against the Mormons in Utah in 1848, in Cuba and the Philippines under McKinley, in Grenada under Reagan.  How, then, shall we ever speak — nay, even conceive, as language is the stuff of thought — of such cataclysms as the American Civil ___, World ___ II, or the Vietnam ___?

No, Jeff Emmanuel, you have barely scratched the surface!  (And if we call it a “surface,” how then shall we speak of the outermost layers of the Earth or the Moon?  Surely they can no longer be mere “surfaces.”)

Or take “imbecile.”  Can I continue — and retain my manhood — to refer to Jessica Simpson and Rod Blagojevich as “imbeciles” while Jeff Emmanuel roams the earth?

Oh! Orwellian tangle!  Oh! coöpted perversion!  From hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee!

Kmiec on Colbert

April 17, 2009

You can find last night’s episode of The Colbert Report featuring Doug Kmiec HERE.