Thursday, April 17, 2008

Missing the Point

Here is an interesting bit of a story from the BBC:

Washington diary: On misspeaking
By Matt Frei, BBC News, Washington

A medieval Bible scholar scrutinizing [sic] parchment documents, or a philologist grappling with the language of the Dead Sea Scrolls would feel at home in the current election campaign.

Who else would be prepared to agonise [sic] over the true meanings of a few words, the way the candidates, their surrogates or the ringside observers of my profession are?

The last time I came across this degree of semantic scrutiny was at Oxford University, where jealous academics took special glee in gouging each other's eyes out over a few misused words.

The tribe of Obama is currently battling the tribe of Clinton over the exact meaning of the word "bitter". [sic]

The failure of the Brits to spell and punctuate correctly notwithstanding, the words political candidates speak are important. Yes, anyone can goof up once in a while, but words have meaning, which is the entire point of using them. And when a candidate trips over their words, or when those words belie something contradictory, or even sinister, we had better pay attention.

True enough that today’s political atmosphere is focused on the minute aspects of campaign rhetoric, but that is due to the nature of the Democrat contest to see who the party’s nominee will be, and not some sinister plot by Republicans. No doubt the Republicans would be proud to have designed this mud bath, but the truth is, they had nothing to do with it. Hillary stretches the truth about Bosnia, and Obama can’t explain his questionable relationships. No vast right-wing conspiracy here.

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