Dick Cheney, call your office

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The office of US Vice President Richard Cheney has said that Russia's aggression against Georgia in South Ossetia "must not go unanswered". That and the mention of "serious consequences" sounds like another war. But no, it turns out otherwise (see the Associated Press):

Asked to explain Cheney's phrase "must not go unanswered," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said, "It means it must not stand."

I wish these people would just check with the Language Log 24/7 Semantic Inquiries desk before they talk to the press on linguistic topics. Here I sit, at two thirty in the morning at the Language Log offices in Philadelphia (I have been assigned the night shift again), and the phone has not rung in more than five hours. You are completely wrong, Mr Johndroe: "must not go unanswered" does not mean "must not stand." What on earth gets into the members of the current administration when they are asked semantic questions that relate to justifying war? Why are they so often driven into semantic incoherence? Call Language Log for a chat about this, Mr Johndroe. Your call will not go unanswered.

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