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"Manuscripts don't burn"
- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Don't Fnordget to Vote

If it all possible please read this before the election, especially if you are a conservative.  It's magnificent and quite the opposite of condescending.

That being said, I usually try not to inject politics in this blog (hey, nobody's perfect) and I even had another blog back in 2010 that was strictly about politics, but that ceased to be relevant very quickly, so I deleted it.  However, all that being said, this IS a blog about language, and there is a language subject related to the election which I wanted to hit on before it curdles like old milk on Wednesday.

Loyal readers will probably recall my post on Weasel Words earlier this year.  (If not, feel free to refresh yourself on the topic.)  Now, on that subject, I noticed something during the presidential candidates debates that I didn't hear any of the pundits mention, which is fine because, as you know, pundits are obsessed only with important policy details and not the meaningless minutia and fine points of semantics that we linguists fret over.

Long story short it was this: Mitt Romney never used the terms "Massachusetts" or "Mormon Church" during the debates.  He talked about both subjects in the abstract frequently, but he only ever used the terms "my state" and "my church."  For a long time I didn't notice this simple but elegant finessing of language, but about halfway through the second debate, after I realized it, I couldn't stop noticing it.  It was like I could suddenly see the fnords.

And as the debates continued, I had to smile at the genius of it.  Anyone who follows politics knows that Mitt Romney was the governor of Massachusetts and was a bishop in the Church of Latter Day Saints, usually called the Mormon Church.  So for those of us who already know that, we weren't consciously thinking to ourselves, "gosh, I wonder if he's talking about Texas and Zoroastrianism."  We just glazed over it and automatically made the associates in our minds. 

But then I thought to myself, someone who doesn't follow politics might not know that, and probably wouldn't think about it either.  They would probably just think, "oh, yeah, his church and his state, he was probably governor of some red state and belongs to some mainline Protestant church."  Except, you wouldn't actively think that, in fact, you would probably just assume he's the same as you, in instances when you might say, "my state" or "my church."  The point is, no one who was watching the debate suddenly realized Romney was a Mormon or the former governor of Massachusetts if he or she didn't ALREADY know that.  At least, not to hear Romney speak.

What I found clever about all this is that Mitt Romney's two biggest hurdles in appealing to his conservative base and, presumably, right-leaning independents, is that he was governor of the bluest of the blue states and belongs to a church that Evangelicals downright fear.  And he avoided addressing either of those albatrosses around his neck using a simple rhetorical trick:

Weasel words

Linguistics.  What subject can't they illuminate?

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