Another day, another misnegation

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Thomas Friedman, "'Trump's Going to Get Re-elected, Isn't He?'", NYT 7/16/2019 [emphasis added]:

I'm struck at how many people have come up to me recently and said, "Trump's going to get re-elected, isn't he?" And in each case, when I drilled down to ask why, I bumped into the Democratic presidential debates in June. I think a lot of Americans were shocked by some of the things they heard there. I was. […]

But I'm disturbed that so few of the Democratic candidates don't also talk about growing the pie, let alone celebrating American entrepreneurs and risk-takers.

These two variously-disnegated versions would mean what he wants to say:

I'm disturbed that so few of the Democratic candidates talk about growing the pie

But I'm disturbed that so many of the Democratic candidates don't talk about growing the pie

It may help to take his disturbance out of the picture:

Few of the candidates talk about growing the pie

Many of the candidates don't talk about growing the pie

And in the simplified form, what Mr. Friedman's blend actually means is clearer:

Few of the candidates don't talk about growing the pie

The obligatory screenshot:

[h/t Julian Hook]

 



6 Comments

  1. KeithB said,

    July 18, 2019 @ 8:55 am

    I thought it was "Make the pie higher".

  2. Benjamin E Orsatti said,

    July 19, 2019 @ 6:58 am

    Misnegation aside, can't we all agree that when you've sufficiently overworked your metaphor, it may be time to move on to a different one?

    Pies are delicious. The can be eaten, cut, allocated, even launched for comic relief.

    But they can't be "grown" (unless they start growing pie in petri dishes, like they do for meat now, but that thought makes me sad, so I'll thrust it back into unconsciousness for the time being).

    Here's the predicament the writer finds himself in: He's already begun the metaphor of "redividing the pie", meaning reallocating money among Americans. But he also wants to talk about increasing the net amount of money to be allocated to all Americans, howsoever those monies may be allocated, but it's here where the pie analogy comes off as half-baked (sorry! sorry!).

    What the writer needs is a new metaphor — one that can withstand both subdivision _and_ expansion (and, perhaps also contraction). I'm not sure that there is one readily available. One could say "putting more pies in the oven", "using a 10", rather than a 7" pie pan", etc. but those are both rather clunky.

    Perhaps the artifice of metaphor has to be abandoned completely. Why not say, instead, "allocating wealth" for "slicing the pie" and "augmenting available wealth" for "growing the pie"?

    In conclusion, strawberry rhubarb is a fine pie.

  3. Benjamin E Orsatti said,

    July 19, 2019 @ 7:16 am

    …also, KeithB is right, at least until 2005, in any event (https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=grow_INF+_DET_+pie%2C+pie%3D%3Ehigh_INF&year_start=1976&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=0&share=&direct_url=t3%3B%2Cgrow_INF%20_DET_%20pie%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bgrow%20_DET_%20pie%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bgrowing%20_DET_%20pie%3B%2Cc0%3B.t3%3B%2Cpie%3D%3Ehigh_INF%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs0%3B%3Bpie%3D%3Ehigh%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bpie%3D%3Ehigher%3B%2Cc0#t3%3B%2Cgrow_INF%20_DET_%20pie%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs1%3B%3Bgrow%20_DET_%20pie%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bgrowing%20_DET_%20pie%3B%2Cc0%3B.t3%3B%2Cpie%3D%3Ehigh_INF%3B%2Cc0%3B%2Cs1%3B%3Bpie%3D%3Ehigh%3B%2Cc0%3B%3Bpie%3D%3Ehigher%3B%2Cc0)

    But isn't that just as clumsy as "growing pie"?

  4. Carol F Saller said,

    July 19, 2019 @ 10:20 am

    "Growing the pie" is fine (once you commit to the cliche). People know it's the "growing the economy" usage, not the "growing corn" usage.

  5. Benjamin E Orsatti said,

    July 19, 2019 @ 10:59 am

    @ Carol F Saller

    Well, I clicked on your link, and am compelled to concede that your style credentials dwarf those of this humble lawyer.

    I'll just have to get over myself and my peevery (I never quite got over the dual Greek-Latin derivation of "auto-mobile").

    It's like they say, you can lead a gift horse to water, but don't count its teeth before they're hatched.

  6. Ray said,

    July 19, 2019 @ 6:35 pm

    what's cool is that this sentence reveals friedman's actual, subconscious, "I'm pretending to be shocked but I'm really not" political leanings while playing the part of a neutral observer who, like the nyt, desperately needs to keep readers on the hook:

    "But I'm not surprised (and that should disturb you! like it does me! right? I'm disturbed!) that so few of the Democratic candidates don't also talk about growing the pie, let alone celebrating American entrepreneurs and risk-takers."

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