Monday, October 24, 2011

“It depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

President Clinton  acutely and relevantly spoke this truth, as the curs were baying at his traces.  
It went right over the head of most, and excited mere japery in the many.

Let us examine another example, of the relevance of tense.  Since this is a logico-linguistic exercise, rather than a religious polemic, assume  for the sake of argument  than everything asserted in the book to be discussed  is true.   Nothing hangs on this; our focus is the spin of the linguistics.

Browsing in the library, I happened upon the following title, by one Thomas Craughwell (2006):

Saints Behaving Badly

This title certainly catches the eye.  From a marketing standpoint, it is brilliant.  But then comes the subtitle:

The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men and Devil Worshippers  who Became Saints

In other words:  We have not to do with saints who, while saints or as saints, did these terrible things; quite the contrary.   The subject treats of men and women who, in their original fallen state, did these dreadful things;  yet who, by God’s grace, were redeemed -- even these ! -- and later achieved sainthood. 
The natural implication of the actual title is that those so-called “saints” are a buncha hypocrites and goddam phonies, not nearly in the classy class of you’n me, as we sit here with our whore, in the bar, gambling on imaginary horses.  The subtitle has at least the honesty and decency  to take away what the title implies.

In all likelihood, the author is innocent of any ill-intention, the slimy title having been presumably imposed by sulphurous marketing-types (you know them from Dilbert, with their little horns and hooves)  over his strenuous objections.  

[Footnote:  Although  “Buffy” and “Angel”  are not remotely -- overtly -- Christian shows,  still the theme of redemption -- of difficult redemption -- of Spike and Angel, strikes a chord among any who have knelt and accepted the bread.]

[‘Nother footnote:  For a sternly beautiful portrait of a pre-Saint  behaving… well, not badly perhaps, but not as the Chamber of Commerce might wish him to behave,  cf. Chesterton’s biography -- succinct and to the point -- of St. Francis.]

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