Thursday, December 01, 2011

Language Matters

Frank Luntz met with the Republican Governors Association this week to give them advice on how to use language to frame arguments, especially now that the Occupy movement has widened the frame of political discourse in this country. Yahoo News was there and they gathered a list of ten key talking points presented by Luntz. You can click on the previous sentence for more details, but know that if you hear a GOP governor saying "I get it" to the Occupiers, or using the words "Job Creators", "Hardworking Taxpayers" or "Taking from the Rich" (while avoiding the words "Capitalism," "Compromise," "Sacrifice," and "Taxing the Rich"), you'll know that they've been schooled by Luntz.
We need to have a few rules of our own.  Being in no way comprehensive, here are a tiny fraction of my pet politico-linguistic peeves:

1)  "War" on anything other than another nation upon which we have issued a formal declaration of war. The Style Guide requires that the "War on Terror" and "War on Drugs" must be placed in quotation marks and preceded by the words "so-called".
2) "Obamacare".  Show me the piece of legislation with this name and I'll start using this word.  Until then, if I hear this perjorative moniker for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 being used, I'll know that the person using it is a Republican partisan or one of their linguistically-lazy stooges in the press.
3) "Democrat" as an adjective. If you hear anyone say "the Democrat Senate" or "that Democrat bill" or "the Democrat liberal rat from Taxachusetts," then you are listening to a student of Luntz speaking (or someone who has only a rudimentary understanding of  English grammar).  The adjective form is "Democratic," whether you are talking about the Party or the form of government.
4) "Job Creators". The correct term is "The Rich" or "The 1%", i.e., those to whom all the benefits of GOP tax policies have flowed since the Reagan era. In the Republican Style Guide any person who makes up part of the scum that floats to the top of the cup is given this title, even if their coupon clipping and hedge-fund managing has never created a single job.  In the Style Guide, "Job Creators" (as with so-called "wars" on things or tactics) must be placed in quotes and preceded by "so-called" modifier.
5) Don't even get me started on the so-called "Death Tax." Maybe the Democrats should follow the Holy Founding Fathers' lead and double or triple the Estate Tax with a new name, The Patriotic Aristocracy Eradication Act.
Do you have a "favorite" Republican twist of speech?
Maybe this "Language Matters" heading needs to become a recurring feature here at, because I know I have some of these linguistic manipulations annoying me every day (watching a single GOP debate generally brings dozens of them to the surface).

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