Monday, January 29, 2018

Letters, Columns, Pejorative Nouns Instead of Adjectives and Hoisting by Petards

Two Letters

Here is a letter I provided to the local Democratic group to which I belong for its members’ use in writing to publications.  Followers of this blog are free to use it if they wish.

"Republicans throughout the country are fearful of facing the truth about President Trump.  Doing so might lose them the support of the millions of gullible voters enchanted by the orange-maned real estate developer and promoter who has brought the tactics and ethics of a lower order to the White House. 

As Special Prosecutor Mueller’s investigation gets closer and closer to questioning the echoes in the Oval Office of Trump’s long business relationships with Russians and the possibility of his obstruction of justice in attempting to hamper that investigation, the President is starting to panic.  That’s why Trump’s congressional supporters are working overtime to discredit Mueller’s staff and his investigative arm, the FBI, and the President himself and his acolytes continue to challenge the veracity of what the media (except Fox News, Trump’s house organ) sees as the truth and reports it honestly.

It is only a question of time before Republicans start to abandon the unqualified promoter they put into the White House.  Abraham Lincoln (or some other nineteenth century savant) is supposed to have said, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”  It is now time for Republicans to start to apply that maxim to the President."

And here is another letter, one that I’ve just sent to the Palm Beach Post myself, hoping they might publish it.

"If Mitch McConnell is a man of his word, and I believe he is, the Senate will eventually consider and pass legislation legitimizing the status of the “Dreamers.” But such legislation will not pass muster in the House, so long as the President and the “Freedom Caucus" oppose it.  There is only one solution and that is the election of a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate in 2018. Hopefully they will begin to right the wrongs perpetrated by the present administration and the Congress."

Two Columnists

Providing links to provocative columns saves me the trouble of writing stuff for the blog.  I really am quite lazy. Originally, I used to "copy and paste" entire columns into the blog but I have been told that violates copyright laws.  So now I am content to briefly describe a column, or even  quote a bit from it, but only provide the entire text for you if you click on a link I provide.  Please click on these links when I turn the “opinionating” over to the pros like the two whose columns you can link to by reading further!!

First, we have the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson (to clear the air, Gerson, raised as an Evangelical Christian, is a Republican, unlike some other often-quoted columnists) eviscerating the evangelical movement for becoming “active participants in the moral deregulation of our political life.”  Read the entire column BY CLICKING HERE .

And then, the Post’s Catherine Rampell
places the blame on the government’s brief shutdown, and the government’s ills, where it belongs … on Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell.  CLICK HERE TO READ IT . Note Rampell’s hinting at the relationship of where these two leaders are taking Congress to a possible turnaround in the markets.  Not good news for the economy.

Jew Businessmen” and the “Democrat Party

Briefly, the word “pejorative” implies contempt or disapproval. It is descriptive of something derogatory.  A classic example is describing a “Jewish businessman” as a “Jew businessman.”  Both describe the religious faith or background of the businessman, but using the noun form instead of the adjectival form makes clear the prejudices of those using the expression. Such usage is pejorative. 

                                             Shylock in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

There certainly are other instances where this distinction comes into play, but the one that most often comes into mind whenever I hear it is when the “Democratic Party” is referred to as the “Democrat Party.”  If someone were to complain about this (which I am doing, I suppose), they might be accused of being overly sensitive or even paranoid.  But the intent to be derogatory is there.  It might not be so strong as calling a Jewish businessman a Jew businessman, but it still is there. That’s what using a noun instead of an adjective accomplishes.

Insofar as I can determine, the use of the word “Democrat Party” originated with Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen  who unsucessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1940.  Since then, many other Republicans have used it full well knowing that it would be unlikely that Democrats would make an issue of it, at the risk of appearing petty, if not silly.  So they continue to get away with it.

You won’t find Democrats referring to their party as the Democrat Party.  They should not.  Only Republicans do.  Media outlets with a rightward orientation use it as well. They are comfortable in doing so because they don’t want to associate the adjective “democratic” which is of itself unobjectionable (if not complimentary) with the “Democratic” party. Consciously or not, they prefer the noun “Democrat” which is less complimentary to the ear than "Democratic."  It is hard to consider things which are "democratic" to be sinister, while things that are "Democrat" can arouse such suspicion.

Not to belabor the issue, recall that the party that opposed the Federalists in our nation’s early history was the “Democratic Republican” party, not the “Democrat Republican” party.  Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have had it any other way. This stuff is subtle, but it is something of which we should be aware.

I could go a bit further down this path, but choose to let your thoughts find that route.  Start by looking at the pejorative language our nation’s White Nationalists use. 

Hoisted by One's Own Petard

The expression “hoist by his own petard” refers to someone being killed or hurt in the course of their attempting to do something bad to someone else.  An example might be a bomb maker who is killed when a bomb they were constructing for use in killing others blows up in their hands. “Hoist” implies being thrown into the air.  A “petard” was a small explosive device used centuries ago to breach an enemy’s fortifications.

In Shakespeare’s great play, Hamlet says, “For ‘tis the sport to have the engineer hoist with his own petar … But I will delve one yard below their mines (like land mines?) and blow them to the moon.”  (The word “engineer” in this case refers figuratively to a military artilleryman.) Hamlet is referring to his suspicions about his college buddies, Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern, who may be out to do him ill, and to whom he is wise, and upon whom he will ultimately enjoy finding a way of turning the tables.  

Hamlet replaces the letter ordering his execution carried by these two with one ordering them to be executed, in effect "hoisting" them by their "own petards," the fatal letter.   

And of course, later in the play, the poisoned sword tip which King Claudius intended to cause Hamlet's death became the cause of his own when he was wounded by that same poisoned sword, "hoisting" him too "by his own petard."

Read all about this in Hamlet’s brief speech closing Act III, Scene IV of the play.  Incidentally, Shakespeare was always the punster.  In those days, some contend, “petar” (the word Shakespeare oddly uses instead of the actual work “petard”) was slang for “fart.”  So read the expression as meaning “blown away by one’s own fart,” if you wish.  That probably drew a laugh when Hamlet was performed in the Globe Theatre in 1600.

Let me point out that this is one of the few items appearing in this blog which does not deal with President Trump.  Or does it?

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