Linguifying outrage

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Linguification is still alive and well. In a Morning Edition interview on NPR today Rob Chametzky heard Condoleezza Rice saying, "To mention Robert Mugabe in the same sentence with the President of the United States is an outrage." No it isn't.

To ruin a whole country that used to be prosperous, and plunder its remaining resources and steal its elections and beat and kill political opponents to keep your corrupt ass in power even as your starving people face epidemics, that is an outrage. Mentioning the President of the United States in the same sentence with the name of a corrupt old tyrant who will soon be an ex-tyrant is not an outrage.

Interestingly, as Jeff Burkholder first pointed out to me, there never was a sentence with both names in it. This is unusually weird. Here's the relevant part of the interview (thanks to Jonathan Lundell):

Interviewer: A lot of this — Guantanamo, all these issues — you start hearing from people, bad actors in the world, people like Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, he brings up these issues at the United Nations General Assembly floor. And I wonder if you think some of this made it more difficult for you as the secretary of state to talk about human rights.

Dr. Rice:No, of course not. Robert Mugabe — to mention Robert Mugabe in the same sentence with the president of the United States is an outrage. And Robert Mugabe is simply trying to cover the fact that he's taken a country, which was once one of the jewels of Africa, made it into a center of starvation and now of rampant disease that threatens its neighbors. And no, we shouldn't fall prey to any kind of moral relativism here. We ought to call it as we see it.

So if we take the linguification at face value, Dr Rice was protesting about something that had not happened. Further evidence that what is developing here is a kind of meta-cliché. Dr. Rice was picking up on the suggestion that perhaps a Secretary of State who represents a nation run by George W. Bush is not as well placed to criticize the evil old wrecker of Zimbabwe as a representative of a nation run by someone better respected and liked overseas; and of course she bristles at the implied juxtaposition. Linguification is a sort of depiction of moral or other analogical juxtaposition in terms of linguistic juxtaposition. "In the same sentence with" is used as a surrogate for "in the same league with" or something like that.

I feel that linguification is a dysfunctional device, and it irritates me; but past experience has shown that not many people agree with me on that point.

I am naturally disappointed about this lack of fawning subservience to my every preference and whim. And in order to dull the hurt of seeing that people do not share my peeve, I find it helps to keep comments closed. So comments are closed.

It's your own fault. If only you agreed with me I would let you comment. You have done this to yourselves.

And don't call me unfair. Don't even mention my name in the same sentence with that adjective.

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