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Words, May 21



Crime and Consequence:

From the Boston Globe — “In an interview on WBUR's ‘On Point,' former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was explaining his skepticism about hate-crime laws when he used a surprising new verb. ‘The fact that you strike someone and violently attack them is what you should consequence in the criminal justice system,' he said.”

Huckabee was using “consequence” to mean “punish,” apparently. The Globe's writer said he'd never heard that before. I haven't either, but others tell me they have, though rarely. Our former governor, now a Fox News commentator, is blazing trails in usage, it seems, or in right-wing-media usage, at least.

Conservatives generally do a better job than liberals of framing issues in language that supports their position. The Huckabaughs call the inheritance tax a “death tax,” as though everyone had to pay it, not just a tiny group of the very richest people. Hate-crime laws become “thought-crime laws,” though no such law prohibits anyone from thinking up as much hate as he wants, only from acting on it. No doctor had ever heard of “partial-birth abortion” before anti-abortion activists started using it. “Pro-life” and “pro-choice” are both dishonest, but “pro-life” is the more persuasive coinage. Plodding liberals can't match the conservatives' glibness.


Paul Murray of Little Rock writes, “If you're going to talk about Heisenberg's Principle of Uncertainty [May 7], you really should mention Schroedinger's cat.”

Some doors are best left unopened, by columnists or cats.


Goldilocks and the Four Bearers was a good story:

“Old anecdotes gave present circumstances heft, scope, interest, and instruction. In so many ways you were your forebearers, and the storyteller taught you whom to hate or emulate … ”


Iris Rhizome writes, “Is Mike Huckabee commentating or simply commenting?” The Cambridge Guide to English Usage says: “Those who commentate usually do so to earn a living, providing continuous commentary on events as official media representatives. Anyone can comment, i.e. make ad hoc remarks about something.”    


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