Friday, July 17, 2009

Annals of Making Stuff Up

George Will adds to the stack of evidence discussed last week about the ideological use of language assertions:

“Bailout” is now both a noun and a verb, and FedEx characterizes what Congress might do for UPS as the “Brown Bailout.” But properly used, “bailout” denotes a rescue of an economic entity from financial distress.

True, or true-ish, enough. "Bailout" isn't a verb, but "bail out" is -- has been since the 17th century, to hear the OED tell it. (That's in the sense of bailing out the water; bailing out the boat is dated to 1840.) "Bailout," the noun, has a citation (as "bail-out") from 1939. So it's not untrue to say it's both noun and verb, but it's no truer now than at any point in the past 70 years.

What all this has to do with Will's point (should he have one) is more opaque. I'm going to categorize it as a sideswipe -- just an o-tempora-o-mores indicator tossed off in passing that the Language of Shakespeare has taken another hit below the waterline, and we know who we have to thank for that, don't we?

How does the Obama administration love organized labor? Let us count the ways it uses power to repay unions for helping to put it in power.

Yep. First the socialists took away your SUV, then they came for your primary care physician, then they came for your vocabulary. (I'm a bit baffled that a column purporting to be about the Obama administration spends so much time on what Congress is up to; I'm used to hearing "administration" to mean the executive.) What he's saying is that our thinking has been so warped by These People that it's showing up in language -- in language-myth terms, we've developed a new word for "snow."


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