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Words, April 24



“Richard Land, chief lobbyist for the Southern Baptist Convention, recently sparked controversy for calling U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) a ‘schmuck' during a speech. … In Yiddish, ‘schmuck' literally means a reference to ‘male genitalia.' ” That's the literal meaning, all right, but schmuck is also commonly used to mean “jerk,” and Land said that was the only meaning he knew at the time he made the speech. He issued a short statement after the controversy broke out:

“In reviewing these criticisms, I have learned some consider the word crude, if not obscene. … If I had known that, I would never have used the word.” 

I'm willing to accept a plea of ignorance from Land — on this, and other issues — but some of his fellow Baptists are not. Robert Parham of the Baptist Center for Ethics wrote:

“When a Baptist preacher slurs a senator of Jewish faith with such a degrading word in a lecture to theology students, he discloses a hostility towards Jews and may communicate that using Yiddish insults against those of the Jewish faith is acceptable for ministers.” 

Whether Land did or didn't know the original meaning of schmuck, he knew that it was an insult and he intended it as such. Did he choose this particular insult because the target was Jewish, or would he have used the same word on Sen. Mark Pryor in similar circumstances? In other words, is there a touch of anti-Semitism here? Only Land knows for sure.  

What offended Land was Schumer's sharp questioning of John G. Roberts after Roberts was nominated to be chief justice of the United States. More dutiful than schmucky, some would say. 

Gratuitous plurals are being put into play (“behaviors”), while necessary plurals are omitted. 

“A referral by a federal judge prompted an investigation of Sullivan's representation in a bankruptcy involving John and Mary Parks … Sullivan listed assets for the Parks that they did not own … Sullivan did not keep the Parks properly informed … The judge canceled the contract between the Parks and Sullivan.” If one is Parks, two are Parkses.



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