With all due respect, shun the nonbeliever

posted at 4:01 pm on May 5, 2012 by Libby Sternberg

Certain words and phrases have found their way into contemporary political discussion, showing up so often that they have virtually lost their meaning. I propose that the Obama Administration, by executive order, in an attempt to keep our national discourse clear and civil, mandate alternatives. My humble suggestions for several are below.

ORWELLIAN

This word refers, of course, to the dystopian literature of George Orwell, whose works of fiction painted devastating portraits of life under a totalitarian state. Often, however, the word is used simply as a synonym for any policy or state action the speaker finds generally repugnant.

Example: CBS’s Leslie Stahl said when questioning former Clandestine Service head Jose Rodriguez about enhanced interrogation techniques: “So sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation. I mean, this is Orwellian stuff. The United State doesn’t do that.”

Suggested alternative: Speakers cannot use the word “Orwellian” unless specifically citing a passage or example from an Orwell novel that corresponds to the circumstances mentioned, while also pointing out any contrasting circumstances that keep the usage from being a perfect analogy. If adopted, this rule would have meant Ms. Stahl saying something like this:

“So sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation. I mean, this is Orwellian stuff—in the sense that Winston Smith was tortured in the novel 1984 by O’Brien, except, of course, that O’Brien wasn’t trying to extract information from Winston on possible terror plots and suspects but was trying, instead, to simply ‘cure’ Winston of his ‘mental fallacies,’ and his success in this torture was achieved when O’Brien held up four fingers and got Winston to declare he was holding up five. The United State doesn’t do that.”

Notice how this new method enhances Ms. Stahl’s final comment – “The United States doesn’t do that.” No, Leslie, it doesn’t.

You have to admit that this new rule for the use of “Orwellian” would be both more interesting and instructive, providing many “teachable moments” for its users and listeners.

A similar technique could be adopted for the overused “McCarthyism” charge that is trotted out whenever politicos think they see overwrought accusations of disloyalty. Instead of citations to the record involving the communist-fighting Sen. Joseph McCarthy, however, I suggest that the word “McCarthyism” merely be followed by the simple statement: “Alger Hiss, however, was truly disloyal and proved as much by history.”  This will at least serve the purpose of instructing younger college graduates who have spent the past four years in the only remaining Alger-Hiss-supporting enclaves in America – that is, academe.

***

WITH ALL DUE RESPECT

This phrase is typically used in lieu of an insult during a debate rebuttal to elegantly mask the speaker’s disdain. Since random outbursts of “Jane, you ignorant slut” are frowned upon, why not combine insult and elegance by rummaging through the treasure trove of Shakespearean smack talk.

Example: Let’s say that President Obama claims, in a debate, that all our economic problems are still George Bush’s fault. Instead of Mitt Romney beginning his rebuttal with “With all due respect,” he could use these lines from Henry IV:

“You starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish! O for breath to utter what is like thee! You tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bowcase; you vile standing-tuck!”

And then, of course, he would go on to make his point: “Barack, the American people are tired of this blame game.”

Of course, if he favored brevity, Mr. Romney could always substitute this shorter line from the same play:

“I scorn you, scurvy companion.”

***

BUILD CONSENSUS, REACH ACROSS THE AISLE, BE BIPARTISAN

Politicians and pundits seem to use these phrases instead of the more truthful: why don’t they just chuck all their principles, get on board and agree with me, those scurvy companions?

My suggested alternative for the confusion created by these phrases is to force speakers to merely repeat, precisely as articulated in the amazingly moving video below (an excerpt from the elegant Charlie the Unicorn short here): Shun the nonbelievers, shun!

Just imagine it –Politico A, when saying something like, “We can’t seem to get those rapscallions across the aisle to build consensus,” would then have to turn to the camera and say, in this dramatic fashion:

There are many more examples, of course, of overused language in the political sphere. Stay tuned for updates throughout campaign season.

___

Libby Sternberg is a novelist.

This post was promoted from GreenRoom to HotAir.com.
To see the comments on the original post, look here.


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I like the cut of Libby’s jibe.

BKennedy on May 5, 2012 at 4:07 PM

With all due respect, can we reach across the aisle, build some consensus, with total bipartisanship towards not using this orwellian language.

msupertas on May 5, 2012 at 4:07 PM

LOL @ unicorns…

MooCowBang on May 5, 2012 at 4:07 PM

what the hell with the autofoward link to some advertiser?

Kaptain Amerika on May 5, 2012 at 4:08 PM

“There are many more examples, of course, of overused language in the political sphere.”

Let me be clear…

Seven Percent Solution on May 5, 2012 at 4:13 PM

Libby has a good flavor/approach to this

Drunk Report on May 5, 2012 at 4:14 PM

“There are many more examples, of course, of overused language in the political sphere.”

“The fact of the matter is…”

BierManVA on May 5, 2012 at 4:15 PM

Orwellian unicorns. Shun them!!!

Fallon on May 5, 2012 at 4:16 PM

With all due respect, can we reach across the aisle, build some consensus, with total bipartisanship towards not using this orwellian language.

msupertas on May 5, 2012 at 4:07 PM

Heh.

Weight of Glory on May 5, 2012 at 4:16 PM

My pet peeves:

1) The use of “sea change” to mean “change” as opposed to the difference between the description and the thing described.

2) Literally used metaphorically.

3) The use of terms like “spiritual,” “metaphorical” and “psychological” to mean “non-real and therefore meaningless”. I would point out I have the same beef with that usage of “myth” or “mythological” but realize it is already too well-worn to be be dropped.

4) Impactful. This word is so dumb. It sounds like the invention of precocious six-year-old.

5) Proactive. So redundant it is re-redundant!

6) “Concerning” used instead of “disconcerting”

7) “Mystical” or “mystic” used to describe the paranormal or those having knowledge of the paranormal.

New words I would like to add to the discourse:

1) Lokian. For Obama politics. We want to be ruled.

StubbleSpark on May 5, 2012 at 4:21 PM

I prefer the classics when it comes to debate retorts…
(language warning via My Cousin Vinny)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4KR1zVqizo

Twark_Main on May 5, 2012 at 4:21 PM

“At the end of the day. . ..” I cringe every time I hear someone say this.

totherightofthem on May 5, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Candy Mountain! Candy Mountain! You fill me with sugary sweet goodness!

thebrokenrattle on May 5, 2012 at 4:28 PM

Those unicorns sound as if they’re from South Park.

Olo_Burrows on May 5, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Sadly, Obama can only read his TOTUS to 214 captives\

Pics.

Key West Reader on May 5, 2012 at 4:37 PM

At the end of the day. . ..” I cringe every time I hear someone say this.

totherightofthem on May 5, 2012 at 4:28 PM

It’s gone the way of “that being said” corporate speak.

Key West Reader on May 5, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Speaking of lies, the One who’s produced nothing but sausages made of Orwell, Machiavelli, Pinocchio and Muenchhausen

I’m asking you to keep believing in me

Schadenfreude on May 5, 2012 at 4:40 PM

“Forward comrades”

“Always Forward, comrade”

Obama stole his slogan from the Chinese communists.

Schadenfreude on May 5, 2012 at 4:42 PM

“At the end of the day” s/b banned.

Schadenfreude on May 5, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Obama’s 2012 Theme Song

Heh. Liberal/Marxism Fail.

Key West Reader on May 5, 2012 at 4:44 PM

Make no mistake, those unicorns have a “creep factor” of +12.

:)

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on May 5, 2012 at 4:45 PM

Let me be clear!

I don’t have scurvy

…and I’m not your ‘companion’, pal.”

FlatFoot on May 5, 2012 at 4:49 PM

” . . . his success in this torture was achieved when O’Brien held up four fingers and got Winston to declare he was holding up five. The United State doesn’t do that.”

You mean like when the government says that unemployment creates jobs, or that you have to spend to get out of debt? Naw, the United States doesn’t do that — just this freaky, whacked out communist/socialist administration.

RobertMN on May 5, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Make Stephen King repeat the word persiflage with a mouthful of tapioca until he stops using it.

profitsbeard on May 5, 2012 at 4:53 PM

Kid and friends.

Key West Reader on May 5, 2012 at 4:58 PM

“Forward comrades”

“Always Forward, comrade”

Obama stole his slogan from the Chinese communists.

Schadenfreude on May 5, 2012 at 4:42 PM

There’s music for that. (Linked for the Pat Metheny music, not for the– weirdly enough– Chinese home movie.)

de rigueur on May 5, 2012 at 5:02 PM

1) The use of “sea change” to mean “change” as opposed to the difference between the description and the thing described.

StubbleSpark

I’m not sure where you’re getting that etymology but:

“Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes,
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a [b]sea-change[/b],
into something rich and strange,
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
Ding-dong.” – The Tempest.

chimney sweep on May 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM

chimney sweep on May 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM

That’s how I learned it. Something along the lines of a complete metamorphosis. Literally.

de rigueur on May 5, 2012 at 5:08 PM

I don’t know, but I love that she used Charlie the Unicorn to emphasize her point!

varnson on May 5, 2012 at 5:10 PM

chimney sweep on May 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM

This was the song that my great grandmother sung as she left east Germany.

It’s in one of the books I inherited in a trunk. Older people saved a whole lotta shit. I’m glad they did.

Key West Reader on May 5, 2012 at 5:11 PM

My pet peeves:

2) Literally used metaphorically.

StubbleSpark on May 5, 2012 at 4:21 PM

Indeed. Most of the uses of that words are metaphorical.

itsnotaboutme on May 5, 2012 at 5:12 PM

I hope they don’t come for “the Trunks”

Key West Reader on May 5, 2012 at 5:13 PM

“There are many more examples, of course, of overused language in the political sphere.”

Let me be clear…

Seven Percent Solution on May 5, 2012 at 4:13 PM

The only people that stand out to me as overusing that phrase are Obama and Nixon, two noted truth tellers to power. Although, my memory says Nixon said “Let me make one thing perfectly clear” or sometimes “crystal clear”. That is so exceedingly different I don’t know why it occured to me to make the comparison.

Fenris on May 5, 2012 at 5:13 PM

Can we also shout the words “WHO SAYS?” when Obama says, “Some say…” I am getting just tired of that overused crutch/phrase in his speeches.

MunDane68 on May 5, 2012 at 5:16 PM

Can we also shout the words “WHO SAYS?” when Obama says, “Some say…” I am getting just tired of that overused crutch/phrase in his speeches.

MunDane68 on May 5, 2012 at 5:16 PM

And “all the experts agree”. Bullpiss they do.

Fenris on May 5, 2012 at 5:18 PM

LOL, very good piece.

Mitt be start brushing up his Shakespeare, that’s all I can say.

Jocon307 on May 5, 2012 at 5:18 PM

It’s gone the way of “that being said” corporate speak.

Key West Reader on May 5, 2012 at 4:38 PM

Ever play with this? http://www.businessbuzzwordbingo.com/

our IT or HR people never saw the humor…

teejk on May 5, 2012 at 5:21 PM

Only the invisible pink unicorn circling Epsilon Eridani really exists.

Annar on May 5, 2012 at 5:29 PM

Since random outbursts of “Jane, you ignorant slut” are frowned upon

I didn’t realize it was unacceptable! maybe explains why I stopped getting invited to those stupid meetings that had the good donuts…

teejk on May 5, 2012 at 5:31 PM

“Not to belabor the point…”

…then proceeds to belabor the point.

:)

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on May 5, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Every time The One says “Let me be clear” it means one of two things. Either what he is about to say is a lie or he thinks the idiots out there in flyover country were to stupid to understand the brilliant point he’s made twenty times already.

Boogeyman on May 5, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Obligatory

The Schaef on May 5, 2012 at 5:51 PM

The one that drives me to start regrowing hair upon this long balded pate, is the media’s overuse of, “as we speak.” Don’t they get it yet, we aren’t speaking -only they are.

Don L on May 5, 2012 at 6:00 PM

Two great sources for much, much more of this (And one of them is authentically Orwellian…)

George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

Also, just out this week, is Jonah Goldberg’s excellent The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. Orwell will just take you a few minutes, and reward every one of them. Goldberg will take you longer, and be very enjoyable and rewarding, too.

brambo_42 on May 5, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Brilliant!

Now, on with you ….. and come forth with abundance

bubbafromkc on May 5, 2012 at 6:12 PM

There are many more examples, of course, of overused language in the political sphere.

The word theory is so overused no one knows WTF it means any more.
‘Scientists’ hawking their propaganda & lies use this word the most.

Badger40 on May 5, 2012 at 6:15 PM

If only Romney had the stones to tell Obama: “I fart in your general direction!”

infidel4life on May 5, 2012 at 6:27 PM

“Are you busy?”

“No, I was sitting in my office, just waiting for you”.

Schadenfreude on May 5, 2012 at 6:28 PM

I clicked on this thread because there was a pretty picture of unicorns.

TigerPaw on May 5, 2012 at 6:43 PM

Weirdest bumper sticker I’ve yet to see here in Austin (the capital of weird bumper stickers) was buried amidst a fairly typical collage of Truther and Ron Paul noise, and read “Bush/Orwell ’04″ Had I any doubt this was one confused individual, that pretty much settled the case…

Blacklake on May 5, 2012 at 6:49 PM

I like Obama’s standard straw man intro and outro.

“There are those who would … This I reject”

forest on May 5, 2012 at 6:50 PM

meme
app
jumped the shark

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on May 5, 2012 at 6:57 PM

You could write a book about this. In fact, Jonah Goldberg just did. You win arguments with truth and logic. But too many liberals never let you get to those. That’s why there won’t be any debates, or too few to matter. If I were the NRC, I’d just run clips of Obama misstating things and correct them. If he tells students he wants to give them better loan rates, point out that federally funded loans have caused higher tuition, and more shoddy education. And it doesn’t matter what their loan rate is, if they can’t find a job, move out of their parents’ home, or afford their own health insurance.

flataffect on May 5, 2012 at 6:59 PM

jumped the shark

Ladysmith CulchaVulcha on May 5, 2012 at 6:57 PM

I propose replacing “jumped the shark” with “ate the dog”.

forest on May 5, 2012 at 7:01 PM

“To be perfectly honest…” — here comes a big lie.
“Where the rubber meets the road…” — this thing will never be real, don’t worry.
“Decimated” — 10% off.
“The 99%” — a small gang of thugs.
“Virtually…” — not.

Kenosha Kid on May 5, 2012 at 7:12 PM

My pet peeves:

“I don’t mean to interrupt…”;

“Eviscerated…” – unless someone was actually disemboweled;

Any comparisons to Nazis or the Soviet Gulag;

“That’s like McCarthyism”

rcpjr on May 5, 2012 at 7:29 PM

Shun the unbeliever, Part II:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GEStsLJZhzo

TeresainFortWorth on May 5, 2012 at 7:35 PM

“There are many more examples, of course, of overused language in the political sphere.”

Pay their fair share…

Seven Percent Solution on May 5, 2012 at 7:54 PM

Democrats are Orwellian in the sense that they want to shoot elephants, metaphorically speaking.

How’s that?

malclave on May 5, 2012 at 8:18 PM

If someone could play a full court basketball game (or engage in some other equally strenuous activity) ten minutes after the “enhanced interrogation”, with undiminished performance, and without needing even a Band-aid or Bactine, it wasn’t “torture”.

By this simple criteria water boarding is not torture.

farsighted on May 5, 2012 at 9:03 PM

Oh, God, could you PLEASE ADD THIS ONE:

“AT THE END OF THE DAY…”

So that, anyone who uses that trite phrase, has to dictate at what time the “end of the day” occurs, PRECISELY?!

I’m SO sick of hearing it. Do people comprehend how utterly vacuous they sound using it?

mountainaires on May 5, 2012 at 9:27 PM

forest on May 5, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I concur.

bahahaha, I crack myself up!

mountainaires on May 5, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Instead of Mitt Romney beginning his rebuttal with “With all due respect,” he could use these lines from Henry IV:

“You starveling, you elf-skin, you dried neat’s tongue, you bull’s pizzle, you stock-fish! O for breath to utter what is like thee! You tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bowcase; you vile standing-tuck!”

These lines might actually add an entertaining touch to those boooorrrinnnggg presidential debates, or at the very least, wake up a few people and make them sit up and take notice, if but for a moment.

What happened to Machiavellian or Draconian? I haven’t heard anyone use those tired terms lately.

stukinIL4now on May 6, 2012 at 12:09 AM

In corporate usage, “at the end of the day” replaced “in the final analysis” when that phrase lost all pretense of meaning. In business, there is NEVER a final analysis.

Freelancer on May 6, 2012 at 12:11 AM

Ahhhh! Excellent.

You starveling, you elf-skin, you…

That’s racist. Except if you’re an elf.

curved space on May 6, 2012 at 7:23 AM

I’ve related the story here once or twice about my kid. She received a kidney donated by a woman I served with. In the process of screening this great American and coordinating for the operation, my kid asked me one day to come check out a video on her computer. It was this one. So, they share Charlie as an inside joke.

hawkdriver on May 6, 2012 at 8:10 AM

I’m not generally racist, but man do I hate elf-skins.

Kevin M on May 6, 2012 at 9:09 AM

forest on May 5, 2012 at 7:01 PM

I concur.

bahahaha, I crack myself up!

mountainaires on May 5, 2012 at 9:29 PM

I don’t. I think it’s pure doggerel.

swinia sutki on May 7, 2012 at 6:43 AM

what the hell with the autofoward link to some advertiser?

Kaptain Amerika on May 5, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Sorry, I blame people like me.

See I use FireFox, and NoScript, and AdBlock… so I never see ads, they just don’t show up unless I try to turn them on (and that is difficult).

So since they can’t get reasonable pay from decent advertisers, they have to go for the spam-popup advertisers that work on hijacking your system.

Of course it was those type of advertisers and spammers that convinced me to use NoScript and AdBlock for Firefox… so maybe I’ve got the Chicken and the Egg backward there.

The world may never know.

gekkobear on May 7, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Oh, God, could you PLEASE ADD THIS ONE:

“AT THE END OF THE DAY…”

When it’s all been said and done…

stevehorth on May 8, 2012 at 9:37 AM