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August 17, 2008

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just a style question for all you grammar mavens...

why does the author refer to McCain as "Mr. McCain", instead of "McCain" or "Sen. McCain" ? if you're going to use a title, shouldn't it be the most-prestigious (Sen.) ?

but — frustratingly — makes the reader draw the most important conclusions.

yeah, no foolin. Mr McCain was publicly itching to invade Iraq (and Iran, and Syria) almost a year before Bush was able to get to Iraq. and he still seems unconcerned about how stupid that position was.

he's not running for Bush's 3rd term; he thinks Bush was a lightweight.

it scares me, but McCain's making Bush look rational and honest.

"McCain is also a believer in the Tom Friedman motto 'you gotta bomb somebody to show people a lesson even if they had nothing to do with anything.'"

Putting in quotation marks something someone never said seems a questionable technique. I'm just guessing, but I suspect you wouldn't be happy if someone applied it to you.

why does the author refer to McCain as "Mr. McCain", instead of "McCain" or "Sen. McCain" ?
He's referred to by his title when introduced, but not in successive mentions, the antecedent having been sufficient. It's just a matter of a chosen style, not of grammar. It seems a reasonable choice. I don't have a copy of this any more (I only ever had the 1982 version, anyway), but it presumably specifies.

Cleek, Gary can chime in with something more thorough and accurate, but at least in relation to presidents, and at least in older usage, I think the rule/custom was to say "Mr. Bush" -- to keep it clear that the president of the U.S. was a citizen among citizens, not a king.... To be president was to have a particular job, not to have a title, as let's say hereditary nobility would.

In fact I get irritated nowdays because that usage has gone by the boards, and the prez is constantly referred to as "President So-and-So."

So maybe the same thing applie(s/d) to senators....

Or maybe this is all folklore, or the peculiar customs of Ohio in the 50's, along the lines of the way we can all attest to having been taught one thing or another (hands at sides, hand over heart, etc.) about the national anthem, or the pledge.....

*****

I see that Gary has in fact weighed in while I've been writing. I would just add that I'm curious about how much of this is usage-related (i.e. language and grammar) and how much is/was etiquette. I own an up-to-date Chicago Style Manual, which I could browse in if I wanted to spend this beautiful Sunday that way, but I don't own anything by Emily Post or even Miss Manners.....

;)

@Gary Farber

You're not wrong about quotations. Perhaps it would be easier to call McCain a believer in the Ledeen [Goldberg?] Doctrine: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."

(http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=YTFhZGQ4Y2IyZmNlY2QyNDkwZTlkZjFkYjZiNWY0YzU=)

It's actually even worse than the (hypothetical?) Friedman doctrine.

Why, it's almost as if McCain

I think I may have to forswear html tags when commenting via PDA, as there was more to that comment ... I noted that, referring back to Publius's anecdote, McCain of course was a bully and a reprobate at the Naval Academy, and in the way of these things was likely worse in high school, and that he was rewarded for it, so his continued adherence to the practice is unsurprising. And, of course, the same could be said for George W. And look were that's gotten us.

The pseudoquote of Friedman is a fairly close paraphrase of his famous suck on this

The link is to youtube and in the final few seconds Friedman helpfully explains that we could have hit Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, but we hit Iraq because we could.

yes - thanks donald. that's what i was referring to.

gary - using quotes in that matter has become common usage so long as it's obvious you're not presenting it as an actual quote. and i think it's 100% clear that i was doing that.

It's a shame that the media and the public still credits you with being "tough" on national security so long as you are willing to take an unrealistically belligerent posture on any given issue. It's particularly sad that McCain is allowed to play the Georgia incident so, since more than anything else in recent memory, Georgia is an example of the consequences of America writing checks its butt can't cash, so to speak.

What annoyed me about the Saddleback event was that McCain was allowed to completely duck the economics/taxation question. The same standard applies for his foreign policy rhetoric: the man is consistently allowed to ignore any questions of practical limitations, limitations on resources, contradictory objectives etc.

Oh my wow.
Donald’s Friedman video.

It’s so one thing to understand at a remove that someone is a far-too-full-of-himself ass; but pompous just doesn’t do it.
First I was struck by his intellectual presumption; confident of possessing the keys to the kingdom of insightful history, while standing many miles out of sight of the gate.
But that could have been taken for granted; what completely surprised me was the pastoral, sacerdotal, ‘humanely’ hierophantic manner of dispensing his great wisdom.

He’s spent a lot of time, by the sound of it, with Evangelical teachers. His way of speaking? Channeling Pat Robertson compassionately telling troubled people to listen up or go to Hell. Same quiet confidence, same carefully measured speech, same dreadful proud perversity.

(Were Gary to ask for a cite, I’d have to admit I haven’t seen Robertson on TV for thirty years, so I could have the wrong name there. R.C. Sproul got a mention here recently, and his style of speaking is very like Friedman’s though having no idea of Sproul’s politics I’d prefer to think his motivating thoughts are the polar opposite of this garbage.)

@JanieM: Style rules are for consistency within publications when writing about people; etiquette rules come into play when the person is present and being addressed.

My understanding is the same as yours -- that political figures are referred to by the highest office they've held, with the exception of former presidents for the very reasons you cited. Former presidents are addressed by the title for the highest office other than president that they've held.

So "Governor" for Clinton and Carter; "Ambassador" for George H.W. Bush.

Ah: Miss Manners clarifies. The highest-previous-title is an option; the citizen's title of 'Mr.' is the other. 'President' is not.

I only wish that the Democrats were willing to provide more of an alternative.

Just before reading this post, I watched George McGovern on C-SPAN, appearing as part of a recent Adlai Stevenson Center panel on how we choose presidents, bemoaning the fact that neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton dared discuss our bloated military budget, whose vast scale they both support.

So long as we throw $500 billion (or more) per year at the military-industrial complex, we will practice some variation of the McCain doctrine.

To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

Nell, thanks for that link, and the clarification about style/etiquette.

I thought that something like this applied to a current president too, and not just former. I haven't found anything definitive, but http://www.ehow.com/how_11185_address-president.html>here's something related.

Maybe I'll search more later. This is one of the few days we've had this summer with uninterrupted sunshine ... so outside is where I should be.

This reminds me of advice a friend’s older brother had given him when he got to high school. He advised him to just pick someone in the lunchroom the first day and beat him up to show off to the upperclassmen and to avoid getting picked on.

That's also a common tactic to not get beat up in prison. Unfortunately, foreign policy is a little bit more complex than a scene from Oz.

Unfortunately, the accurate perception by voters that Bush has made the U.S. much weaker will be to McCain's benefit, since he advocates "strength" that will be accomplished miraculously simply by shooting our national mouth off.
Americans will always select the candidate who appeals to their ego and requires nothing from them. This was as true of "government as good as its people" Jimmy Carter as it is for McCain.

"First I was struck by his intellectual presumption; confident of possessing the keys to the kingdom of insightful history, while standing many miles out of sight of the gate.
But that could have been taken for granted; what completely surprised me was the pastoral, sacerdotal, ‘humanely’ hierophantic manner of dispensing his great wisdom."

IMO, that's been Friedman's style ever since the 90's, and though others differ, I think one can see an inkling of this arrogance even back in the 80's, when he was generally worth reading. He seems to like laying down the law, whether it is to antiglobalization protestors or recalcitrant Arabs.

"gary - using quotes in that matter has become common usage so long as it's obvious you're not presenting it as an actual quote."

For what it's worth, which isn't much, sf fandom has for fifty years or so had the usage tradition of the quasi-quote, for just that, a paraphrase, which is a quotation mark with a hyphen struck over it.

I'm not sure what you mean here by "common usage," unless you mean misusage, but since you clearly see nothing wrong with doing that, I'll take that as noted. I'm unaware of any style guide whatever that doesn't strictly prohibit putting in quotation marks anything that isn't a quotation. It's commonly regarded therefore as "lying."

Lots of people engage in practices in writing that no copyeditor or professional publication would ever condone, to be sure.

I'd be curious to know if you can point to any law journal that would let you get away with that practice. I'd be similarly curious if you'd feel it was legitimate in teaching materials, and if law schools also feel that making up quotes and putting them in quotation marks is a legitimate technique. Similarly, if any judges smile at it. Similarly, any legitimizing authority of any sort.

If not, I'm not clear why you'd think that degrading the language and clarity of language is a good way to serve blogs and blogging and their readers.

Me, I just think it's plain tacky, as it's simply misrepresenting people. I'm strongly tempted to do it to you, and see if you don't agree, but at the moment my feeling that it's tacky is sufficient to let me control that impulse. But do you really want to lend approval to people just making up their own versions of what they think you said, and claiming you said it by putting it in quotation marks, leaving you unable to object except by way of being blatantly hypocritical? Your call. I don't see how anyone who approves of the technique could ever claim any legitimate grounds for objecting to anyone doing it to them.

As a separate issue, I think attributing to someone an offhand remark in an oral interview that isn't a part of their considerable body of written work, or expressly given, and calling it their "motto," is a rather slimey technique, but this sort of thing is popular online these years when discussing Designated Hate Figures in an echo chamber. Indeed, it can get roars of approval.

(Mind, none of my strong opinions on these practices in any way mean I Don't Like You, publius; I'm just taking a different view of these usages/practices; I strongly dislike that which is anti-clarifying, and verging on or crossing over into misrepresentation, and that's all; I think you can do far better. I hope that I'm coming across here as disagreeing, without being in any way disagreeable; if not, I apologize.)

(Nor does it mean I defend Friedman in the slightest from what he said, or from a lot of dumbass stuff he wrote in recent years.)

"He’s spent a lot of time, by the sound of it, with Evangelical teachers."

Friedman is Jewish.

"Ah: Miss Manners clarifies. The highest-previous-title is an option; the citizen's title of 'Mr.' is the other. 'President' is not."

I have to say that Miss Manners prescription -- and here we're talking about how people are orally addressed, not a matter of writing usage -- goes against actual observable common practice. In point of fact, ex-holders of offices are generally addressed by the title of their former office. But no one would ever accuse Ms. Manners of being descriptive, rather than prescriptive, after all.

"He seems to like laying down the law, whether it is to antiglobalization protestors or recalcitrant Arabs."

I thoroughly agree with that criticism of Friedman (and with many others), Donald.

Gary: In point of fact, ex-holders of offices are generally addressed by the title of their former office.

Descriptively or prescriptively, I was talking only about former holders of the office of President of the U.S.

The incorrect address probably is often used; Judith Martin's column alludes to the fact that the founders' approach to the presidential office and title strikes many modern Americans as disrespectful. We seem to want a king (or queen, someday).

The only time I've ever been at a function where a former president was in attendance, he was addressed as "Governor Carter." But that was at a military school, where protocol's better known and taken more seriously.

Picking up on the style question, each newspaper has its own set of rules, so to speak -- usually in the form of a style book or booklet.

Of course, you use a person's formal title -- Senator, Dr., Ambassador -- in the first reference, then most publications would simply use the subjects last name: i.e, Bush, McCain, Obama.

The New York Times and a few other newspapers choose to be formal and use Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama on ensuing references. If I ever made The Times, they'd use Mr. Gott on the second reference even for me.

I've always thought this style was pretentious and a way of announcing, "You are reading the New York Times." But their newspaper, their choice.

Most newspapers have taken to using "Mr." -- whether you are famous or not -- throughout an entire obituary, no doubt as a respect thing.

I agree w/ publius about the use of quotation marks being accepted in this type of instance, using them for emphasis or as a way of bringing attention to a phrase.

"Descriptively or prescriptively, I was talking only about former holders of the office of President of the U.S."

Descriptively, former Presidents are referred to in just about all public situations as "President [X]." But prescriptively you're entirely correct.

See also here.

"We seem to want a king (or queen, someday)."

We should probably have a penguin.

"Most newspapers have taken to using 'Mr.' -- whether you are famous or not -- throughout an entire obituary, no doubt as a respect thing."

Or, you know, a more appropriate choice.

By all means let's have a penguin.

But expect a lot of pressure on the chief of staff...

... or the vice president.

"... or the vice president."

A walrus, no doubt.

oh, btw...

McCain's also a plagiarist.

All of the comments referring to that NYTimes articles seem to think it was critical of McCain's approach to foreign policy. I read it as a wholehearted endorsement of his uncomprehending belligerence, while giving McCain the added benefit of claiming that 9/11 transformed him from a calm, coolheaded warrior prince into the lionhearted Henry he is today, renewed with the noble purpose of keeping us poor little Americans safe.

"In short, his is a world of good versus evil, where threatening and using force is always necessary, and where wildly diverse countries are lumped together as evil 'autocracies.'"

After eight years of George Bush thinking like this, I thought the country had had enough of this good-versus-evil, everything-is-black-or-white thinking and, on the whole, I think it has.

Or maybe it hasn't: I don't think Americans are too good at taking a nuanced view in world politics.

One thing is for sure: McCain scored high with this approach at the Rick Warren form. But I guess that was to be expected in audience full of Evangelican Christians.

"McCain's also a plagiarist."

Maybe, but that sure doesn't show it. Plagiarism is a very specific thing, as anyone who teaches, or works in publishing, or with the written word, knows. It consists of using a sufficient number of actual words that reproduce in close enough form the same set of words used by another.

Period, end of story.

Use of a concept is not plagiarism in any way.

Morever, the idea that Christians have only had one case in history of someone drawing a cross on the ground is... unconvincing.

To be clear, if you want to accuse McCain of stealing the notion of meeting an enemy who drew a cross on the ground, fine. But that's not what plagiarism is.

Personally, I'd suggest sticking to proveable charges. His policies and flubs and everything else seem more than sufficient than to go with something so flimsy, and how the hell can you prove it never happened to him? You can't, so what's the point?

Post up on this topic.

FWIW, this is what I love about Gary.

Maybe, but that sure doesn't show it. Plagiarism is a very specific thing, as anyone who teaches, or works in publishing, or with the written word, knows. It consists of using a sufficient number of actual words that reproduce in close enough form the same set of words used by another.

everyone who was confused abotu what i wrote, raise your hand.

Morever, the idea that Christians have only had one case in history of someone drawing a cross on the ground is... unconvincing.

winning an election is not about cleanly executing a series of logical proofs.

"everyone who was confused abotu what i wrote, raise your hand."

In light of subsequent discussion, and everyone else's addressing the topic, that'll be no one. If you can find anyone whose only knowledge of what you said was what you said, that query will be relevant.

There's nothing terrible about using sloppy language, but being clear is better, and saves pointless future discussion clarifying.

There's nothing terrible about using sloppy language,

whew!

but being clear is better, and saves pointless future discussion clarifying.

since nobody was confused, there was no need to clarify anything. for example, there was no need to provide the definition of a word whose use confused not a soul.

Personally, I'd suggest sticking to proveable charges. His policies and flubs and everything else seem more than sufficient than to go with something so flimsy, and how the hell can you prove it never happened to him? You can't, so what's the point?

In 2004, we had flimsy bullshit on one side, and provable charges on the other side. Who won? In 2008, McCain's lately switched to schoolyard taunting while Obama keeps talking about policy. Who's rising in the polls and who's falling?

Honestly, I'm having a really hard time believing that an even vaguely honorable campaign can win any more on the presidential level. Which also makes me wonder if any of this is worth it.

Aargh, my apologies for the profanity. I'm getting really upset.

Plagiarism is a very specific thing, as anyone who teaches, or works in publishing, or with the written word, knows. It consists of using a sufficient number of actual words that reproduce in close enough form the same set of words used by another.

Period, end of story.

Use of a concept is not plagiarism in any way.

Glad to know you're okay with my 3-volume novel about a heroic halfling's quest to destroy a ring of power by throwing it in a volcano,Ruler of the Rings. It's quite a change from my last effort,The Elderly Man and the Ocean, which focused on swordfishing . . .

Matt: In 2004, we had flimsy bullsh*t on one side, and provable charges on the other side. Who won?

Kerry, probably. Didn't you know?

Of course Bush got into the White House. But it doesn't seem to have had anything to do with his ability to get people to vote for him.

Honestly, I'm having a really hard time believing that an even vaguely honorable campaign can win any more on the presidential level.

You shouldn't. Gore won in 2000: Bush got into the White House. What data we have on the 2004 election says Kerry most likely won - but a torrent of "errors" all favouring Bush handed the White House back to him for another 4 years. Nothing honorable about either victory.


He advised him to just pick someone in the lunchroom the first day and beat him up to show off to the upperclassmen and to avoid getting picked on.

This touches on something that I find very weird.

On 9/11 we were attacked by 19 guys with box cutters and a pretty clever plan. They were part of a terrorist organization that had, at most, an active membership numbering in the tens of thousands. That organization was hosted by one of the poorest, most backward nations on earth, that itself was suffering from the effects of a generation of intense civil war.

We were not the scrappy underdog, trying to summon up the pluck and grit to fight off our bullying opponent. We were not only the biggest guy on the block, we were the biggest, by an order of magnitude, of a group of nations each of whom is militarily more capable, by orders of magnitude, than any of the nations anyone thought should be thrown up against the wall after 9/11.

The proper "schoolyard" analogy would be Chuck Norris wading into a junior high school cafeteria at lunchtime to kick a few 12 year old asses, just to show he wasn't going to be pushed around. That'd show them, wouldn't it?

There IS NO MILITARY SOLUTION to the problem of 19 guys with box cutters and a couple of credit cards. "Kicking ass" because it makes you feel better is criminal behavior, both for people and nations. Especially when you are, far and away, the biggest guy on the block.

Shorter John McCain/Thomas Friedman/Bill Kristol/gung-ho character of your choice:

"Where is the kaboom?
There was supposed to be an earth-shattering kaboom!".

Thanks -

"Glad to know you're okay with my 3-volume novel about a heroic halfling's quest to destroy a ring of power by throwing it in a volcano,Ruler of the Rings."

Writing a lot of gawdawful lousy hackwork that is straight imitation, and competely derivative, is quite common, sure. And that's just looking at what gets into print, let alone at the zillions of slush manuscripts you guys never get to see.

See, say, Terry Brooks' The Sword of Shannara, or Eragon, or a zillion other examples of horrible swipes from Tolkien. Hell, Harry Potter didn't exactly start as a miracle of originality, to say the least.

I don't care for derivative crap, but it's not plagiarism. Similarly, I don't care for stealing, but stealing isn't murder.

If, in fact, you write something completely derivative, as you suggest, you can submit it all over, and you might even, if some editor thinks it has sufficient appeal, get it published. You won't get rejected for plagiarizing, as opposed to being derivative and crappy, unless you lift actual sentences.

This really isn't a contestable point.

Words have meanings. They don't mean something vaguely in the neighborhood of what they mean.

But, to be sure, keen attention to this fact is what makes the difference between a good writer and a lousy one, and a careful reader and a careless one, and such attention isn't common. If it was, everyone could be a professional writer.

Words have meanings. They don't mean something vaguely in the neighborhood of what they mean.

Now that's certainly debatable.

novakant wrote: Now that's certainly debatable.

Truer words and all that.... Try taking a linguistics class on semantics sometime and see if you (the general you, not novakant) come out of it with even the vaguest idea what the word "meaning" means.

If my linguistics books weren't all packed up in the attic (sigh), I would quote a passage I loved in a Chomsky essay about what the word "London" means to individual speakers.

Having said that, I am going to tiptoe back out of this debate and try very hard not to tiptoe back in...

;)

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