Politicians Taxing The English Language

Chalk up another one for the forces of Englessh – the process whereby words take on an ever narrower meaning.

Latest exhibit, from Frank Bruni’s Sunday New York Times column about Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform:

Moments earlier, when he had asked a server about the breakfast options and was directed to a menu right in front of him, he proclaimed, “Oh, it’s written down! Unlike the Gang of Six proposal.” He was against that — it included revenue — and wasn’t about to miss a chance to say so, even this oddly incongruent opportunity.

It included revenue, which has been reduced to meaning “taxes.” It’s something beyond shorthand – more like shrinkhand – similar to “healthcare” meaning healthcare reform.

And it’s not just politicians employing Englessh. TV meteorologists routinely say “we’ll have some weather arriving on Thursday.” No – we always have weather. You Dopplernauts just don’t think good weather counts.

There are other examples, although the hardworking staff can’t think of any right now. Suggestions, splendid readers?

Meanwhile, we’ll try to get Englessh added to the list of infractions we think should be subject to a SYNtax – a fine for misuse of the English language.  At a quarter a pop, that could wipe out the deficit in no time.

Of course, that would involve revenue, so don’t hold your breath.

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8 Responses to Politicians Taxing The English Language

  1. Michael Pahre says:

    Actually, you could make a case that Grover Norquist means exactly what he said when he said he opposed the bill because it had any “revenue [sic]” in it.

    Remember that he wants to reduce the size of government so much that he could then drown it in the bathtub? That means no revenues — no government whatsoever! — after it was drowned by Norquist.

  2. Curmudgeon says:

    Drowning the Massachusetts legislature is not that bad an idea.

  3. B. Day says:

    Many people have been recently quoted in the media as saying “played a factor.” What they meant was of course “played a role” or “was a factor.” I believe this started in the world of sports with players and coaches, but even sportscasters and sportswriters have picked up this poorly constructed ball and run with it. How’s that for a metaphor? Don’t answer that.

    Also, politicians have been talking about social security so much that a lot of them have started shortening it to “sosecurity,” I suppose because it gives them time to get another word in edgewise.

  4. Liz says:

    Ooh, fun game! A good example with no grumpy political/cultural associations is “undertaker” which used to mean entrepreneur, as in “one who undertakes” x task. Over time it became exclusively associated with “funeral undertaker,” perhaps because of the stigma surrounding that profession, and eventually “funeral” was dropped, so now we just have undertakers.

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