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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Proper Way To Apologize

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 18, 2012

We all make mistakes, but apologizing is always difficult. That difficulty (and because many people apologize when they’re not truly sorry for their actions) is why there are so many conditional apologies issued.

That’s something I’ve talked about before here (I’m Sorry If I Offended Anyone) and in my book (Literally, the Best Language Book Ever).

To review, when you put a condition on the apology, you’re attempting to shift the responsibility from you (the person who did the offensive thing) to the person who was hurt by your actions because it’s now up to them to decide whether they were hurt. Don’t apologize that way.

Apologize the way actress Lisa Chan did after appearing in a political ad that was extremely disrespectful to her own culture:

I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.

She might not be proud of the ad she participated in (for Republican Pete Hoekstra), but she can be very proud of how she took responsibility for her action.

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Deliberately Misleading Language

Posted by languageandgrammar on May 26, 2011

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

This is as much a political opinion piece as it is a language piece, but when has that stopped me before? If hearing political views that may not match yours (even though they should) is offensive to you, then please go to my completely non-political post about dates being printed on eggs–Jobs I’d Hate to Have.

Teleconference Town Hall?

I had never heard of a telephone town hall with a U.S. Congressman, but some automatic calling system invited me to participate in one with my (I use the term “my” loosely since he doesn’t represent my point of view very well) representative, Glenn Thompson.

I immediately jumped on the opportunity to listen and ask a question (details on that below), but I was struck by the deliberately misleading language he used during one of the poll questions during the meeting.

Yes Means No, and No Means Yes

The lack of support (and downright anger from many) for Paul Ryan’s budget plan to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system that would basically destroy the program that has worked for the past 40-plus years has resulted in nearly all politicians backing away from supporting the plan.

People like Medicare the way it is; they don’t want their elderly family members having to shop for insurance on the open market with a government voucher that is only going to cover a portion of the cost that the plan used to. It’s simple: When people know the details of the plan, they don’t like it.

The political response, of course, is to muddy the waters so that people are confused about what’s really going on, which is what Thompson did with his poll question. (The following is not a direct quote; it’s a paraphrase since I wasn’t thinking that I’d be writing about it today.)

  • A recently issued report (I don’t remember the name) states that Medicare will be insolvent by 2020.  Do  you support reforming Medicare so that we can meet our commitments? (If so, press 1). Or, do you believe that the program should not be reformed? (If so, press 2).

First of all, we could argue about what state Medicare is going to be in by 2020; it (and Social Security) is not nearly the deficit-causing problem that Republicans like to make it out to be. The financial burden placed on Americans is NOTHING compared to the burden of the Bush tax cuts. That’s right. The Bush tax cuts have been a tremendous burden on all of us–all of us except the rich. Re-instate the taxes to Clinton-era levels, and the Medicare/Social Security “problem” would be solved.

Regardless, national polls indicate that a high percentage (70-80%) of Americans support no cuts in benefits to Medicare. Therefore, the question was framed in such a way that a vote to reform Medicare (which is a Republican code word for cut) seemed like it was a vote for keeping benefits the same as they currently are (meeting our commitment) while a vote for not reforming Medicare seemed to indicate that we couldn’t meet our commitment.

In other words, Thompson deliberately worded the question so that he could say he has support for cutting reforming Medicare when he doesn’t.

No means yes, and yes means no. We all used to call that a lie, and I still do.

Tax Question

Unfortunately (for me, not Mr. Thompson), time ran out before I could ask my question. I was, however, given the opportunity to leave a voice mail question (monologue/question).

Approximately 80% of the population agrees that we should raise taxes on millionaires and large corporations in order to help reduce the deficit, but all I ever hear is “Washington has a spending problem.” Washington also has a very serious revenue problem. The rich and large corporations pay less tax now than they did in 1980!! Do you support having the rich pay their fair share, or do you only support cuts–cuts to education, cuts to Social Security, cuts Medicare, etc.?

Oh, and please don’t insult me by telling me about trickle down economics. We’ve done that for nearly 30 years, and it doesn’t work.

Congressman Glenn “the rich pay too many taxes” Thompson or one of his staff promised to get back to all questioners. When he does, I’ll post his response on the blog.

Geez, I hope it’s not about trickle down economics. The blog might lose its status as a family blog.

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“Correlate” Retirement Age with Life Expectancy

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 14, 2011

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Republican lawmakers who want to extend the number of years that you need to work before getting your social security benefits are afraid to say that they’re raising your retirement age.

Instead, they’re going to “correlate your retirement age with life expectancy.”

Knowing that you’ve been properly correlated will certainly make you feel a lot better when you’re trudging off to work at age 67, won’t it?

Doublespeak–a politician’s best friend.

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Come On, Dictionary

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 22, 2010

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

When you heard that refudiate, Sarah Palin’s mistaken combination of refute and repudiate, was made one of the New Oxford American Dictionary’s words of the year, I’m sure that the first thing you thought about was the rant that languageandgrammar.com was going to write.

We chose, instead, to allow Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live to do our work for us since he did such a great job last weekend.

The second thing you probably thought of was how ridiculous the choice was. Seriously, refudiate? Come on, dictionary. It was two words slapped together by mistake by a politician, and by politician, I mean someone who prefers money to politics since Ms. Palin left her elected post 18 months early in order to earn more money.

I think that the reason to make a clear error a “word” of the year in this instance is because of the person who made the error and because of the interest it would generate for Oxford dictionary. Media and Web attention is often more important than substance for many.

Hmmmm…maybe Sarah and the Oxford Dictionary have a lot in common.

Wait! That’s right. I promised to let Mr. Meyers rant for us….

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What Did the Pot Call the Kettle?

Posted by languageandgrammar on September 13, 2009

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure that I’ll say it again:  We all make mistakes, so we at languageandgrammar.com don’t usually play the gotcha game when we see a mistake; however, there are instances when language and grammar mistakes are a little too funny/ironic/disturbing to pass up.

All of the political signs shown here come from a community.livejournal.com site, linked here and linked from the images. These aren’t our images (believe me, they’re not!), so we want to make sure that proper credit is given. Follow the link for even more examples.

What Did the Pot Call the Kettle?


I can almost hear “Prowd too be an Amaricen” playing in the background.

Honk for BETTER-ER Spelling


I hope that they didn’t take that poor kid out of school for this–some more learnin’ are needed.

Boycott Third-Grade English Class


I also have to wonder who would possibly think a hyphen would be needed—-and he looks so darn proud of his sign.

I could show more, but I’m getting too disturbed…


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Political Theater

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 9, 2009

Maybe I’ve been following the news too closely lately, but I am tired of hearing every event in Washington, D.C., being described as political theater.

When President Obama tries to get a bill passed and republicans fight him, it’s called political theater. When democrats talk about the need for universal health care and republicans complain about spending, it’s called political theater. When republicans talk about the need to lower taxes during this crisis and democrats counter by saying that’s how we got into this mess, it’s called political theater.

It’s not political theater; it’s politics. Sadly, much of politics, by nature, is theater. Politics is often dramatic performance after dramatic performance, often by players that we’ve been watching on the stage for years or even decades. The performers are often more interested in  how they look rather than the quality of the script, which are policies that will set the path for the country for decades or generations to follow. Instead of the dramatic performance being for a rapt audience in an auditorium, it’s for an apathetic country that spreads from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Politics is not theater, and we’d be better served if we focused less on theater and more on policy.


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Symbols of Patriotism, Obama Address to Congress

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 26, 2009

With all due respect to EF Hutton, when President Obama speaks, people listen–well, most people. I didn’t listen to the entire Obama address to Congress; however, I heard an important part of the speech–one that made a fascinating statement about our language and symbols of patriotism.

Surprisingly, perhaps, this post is not about Obama’s much-heralded oratory skills. It’s about how viewers reacted to statements about patriotism.

MSNBC included a real-time gauge of reactions to Obama’s speech by both McCain (remember him–he’s the old, grouchy guy that used to be on tv all the time) and Obama voters. It was displayed in the form of a red line for people who voted for McCain and a blue line for people who voted for Obama. The lines would immediately rise and fall to indicate approval or disapproval.

When I first tuned in, both lines indicated high approval, with the blue line (not surprisingly) slightly higher than the red line. I was startled when the lines temporarily switched places during a part about everyone loving the country and wanting it to succeed. Both numbers were still indicative of high approval, but the McCain voters reacted with slightly more approval than the Obama voters. I didn’t remember exactly what was said, so I reviewed the transcript today.

“There are surely times in the future when we will part ways, but I also know that every American sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed.”

I’d like to think that the slight decrease in approval among Obama voters (and slight increase in approval among McCain voters) was a Democratic party reaction to Obama using the wrong tense–it should have been “there will surely be times” instead of “there are surely times,” but the likelihood of that is as great as the likelihood that we’ll stop referring to problems as “issues” starting tomorrow.

Maybe it was a reaction to statement of political disagreement (“we will part ways”), but I doubt it. If that had been the case, then both sides would’ve reacted more negatively; however, the scale seemed to have indicated that McCain voters liked the line more than the preceding part of the speech, while Obama voters liked it less than the preceding part.

That leaves me to draw one conclusion:  It was a reaction to how we have politicized the language of patriotism in this country.

Republicans have laid claims on linguistic symbols of patriotism, such as “loving the country,” to the point that Democrats react somewhat negatively toward the words, while Republicans react favorably. Democrats are not reacting negatively toward the sentiment (Republicans do not love the country more than Democrats–please), but there is some slight negative connotation associated with the words that the Republicans use to represent themselves–Republican branding, if you will. Obama voters would most likely have had the reaction to the Republican staples of  God, freedom, flags, and family values had they been mentioned.

It’s sad because Obama is correct–Democrats and Republicans alike do love the country and want it to succeed, but to some small degree, Democrats feel that “loving the country” is a Republican line.

For those interested, I wrote about the symbolism of patriotism about a year ago.


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Political Pundits

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 17, 2009

Being a political pundit must be a great job. That has to be the case with being able to provide opinion, mainly critical, without having the responsibility to do any better—especially when it’s done on national television or in a syndicated newspaper column.

Even though it might be clear that I don’t have the most respect for the position, I do believe that we should say and spell the word correctly. It’s pundit, not pundint, no matter how many times you hear the one with the extra n. I’ve heard politicians say it (including now-former President George W. Bush and one-time VP candidate Sarah Palin), as well as some of the pundits, themselves.


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Credit Crunch

Posted by languageandgrammar on December 8, 2008

The economy is a very serious problem now, but I’m going to talk about a much less serious problem—our obsessive use of the term credit crunch.

Credit crunch is everywhere. During car commercials (local or national), I hear that you shouldn’t let the credit crunch keep you from buying a car.  On the local news, I hear about how the credit crunch is hurting small business owners. On the national news, I hear about how the credit crunch is affecting the economy. On the street, I hear people talking about bailouts and the credit crunch.

I have on question:  Does anyone know what credit crunch means? It’s hard to imagine that a very complicated national problem that has world-wide economic implications—a problem that the greatest economic minds on the globe are debating how to address—can be reduced to a two-word term that says it all–credit crunch. Somehow, that’s what we’ve done.

Speaking for myself, I’d prefer hearing a little more detail about the problem and what the potential solutions are rather than yet another mindless catch phrase.


Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Complete Lack of Tolerance for Tolerance

Posted by languageandgrammar on October 30, 2008

Tolerate means to allow or to permit, and a person has no more right to allow or to permit another person (or group of people) to be different from himself or herself than I have to permit or to allow you to do what you’re doing right now.

I know that tolerance of others is considered a good thing, especially in political circles; however, tolerance is different–much different–from acceptance. If you decide to tolerate a person because of that person’s gender, sexuality, race, religious beliefs, or anything else, then you are doing so with the assumption that you have the right to establish some sort of random standard on what is acceptable—that the person somehow falls short of what he or she should be but that you are generously making allowances. You don’t, and you shouldn’t claim that right–unless you want others to make a claim on accepting–or not accepting–you based on your gender, sexuality, race, religious beliefs, or anything else and on their standards of what you should be.

Tolerance implies superiority.

Accept people for who they are–don’t tolerate anyone.

–Paul and Sherry

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Sherry’s Grammar List

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