Friday, March 25, 2011

Let’s nip this one in the bud

Donald Rumsfeld popularized the syntactic quirk of framing a simple statement in the form of a question which one answers oneself:  “Is the cat on the mat?  Yes, definitely.”   Initially this may have been a rhetorical move to drown genuine pointed questions from reporters in a bog of pseudo-questions, along the lines of:
Reporter:  “Why did you refuse to supply up-armored Humvees to the troops?”
Rummy:  “Were mistakes made? Certainly.  By Democrats, by Republicans, by liberals, by the media in general.  Is the war effort producing results?  Yes, daily.”

But eventually it became a linguistic tic -- one quite in keeping with the self-absorbed life of potentates dwelling in a bubble.   The public failed to fight back with withering and unrelenting scorn, and now the virus has spread among the population at large.

Now here is a new bleb that has appeared upon the body politic -- perhaps it is not yet too late to lance it.  I refer to the phrase,   “Well, again, …”
Presumably this phrase first reared its ugly rump in Congressional testimony.  There, indeed, “questions” get “asked” over and over again, not to elicit an answer, but to grandstand.  So the person giving testimony naturally tires of repeating himself, and might legitimately use that phrase.   But it has spread far outside that context.
As:   Robert Siegel of  NPR just now interviewed some twerp from the White House about our attack on Libya.  Opening greetings were exchanged;  Siegel asked a question;  and the gormless dwarf answered:  “Well, again, ….”.    Obviously there was no possibility of a legitimate use here;  the NPR audience was being introduced to this pygmy for the first time.   The troll went on to use the bastard phrase several further times in the course of the interview:  and it was interesting to note, that these weasel words usually introduced an evasion.   Thus they serve something of the function of Rumsfeld’s fake self-questions:   to scatter tinsel in the air and confuse the radar, in the pretense that we are all just going over old ground, the reporter’s question was uninteresting, the listener might just as well tune out.

We hereby heap scorn upon that wretched shrunken munchkin and all his ilk.   Perhaps this changeling “Well, again….” may yet be strangled in the cradle, with its own umbilical cord.

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