Friday, December 01, 2006

The (Vastly Diminished) Areas of George Will's Expertise

You hear all the time that, "9-11 changed everything." But if today's column from George Will is any indication, many more buildings need to explode into charnel-house dust before we can be spared frivolous, didactic bullroar masquerading as Deep Thought. The backdrop of the unfolding Iraq catastrophe and the imminent cut-and-run order coming from the Baker-Hamilton panel notwithstanding, Mr. Will decided this was a good time to waste precious column inches of a national newspaper critiquing grammar. And adults paid him to write it. Never forget that.

The catalyst for the article was the rather testy exchange that occurred between President Bush and newly-elected Senator Jim Webb (who, if I'm not mistaken, is not one of Bush's underlings) after Bush saw fit to ask the Senator an unmistakeably cheap-minded question about his son. Of course, Will wants to paint Webb as the "boor" in that exchange, but he can't get away with that without bowdlerizing Bush's remarks. Fully aware of his own intellectual dishonesty, Will writes, "When the president again asked 'How's your boy?'"--but that's not what the President asks and Will knows it. The President actually said: "I didn?t ask you that, I asked how he?s doing," and, as a general rule, anytime anyone uses a sneering phrase like "I didn't ask you that," they are doing one thing and one thing only--spoiling for a fight. So, in reality, 'twas Bush that was the boor.

But that's neither here nor there. The exchange itself isn't enough to feed the column, so WIll takes Webb to task on any number of grammatical slights. It's all so precious and didactic, but it makes one wonder: Where the fuck was Will when Webb's opponent, George Allen, was appropriating another Senator's bill wholesale, and passing it off as his own idea on the strength of a single changed word--"will" to "shall." How come such willy-nilly shilly-shallying escaped the Nation's Grammatical Scold's attention? You'd think that Will would at least have SOME vested interest in that nonsense, seeing as how the spurned word was his own LAST NAME.

You just can't get through Will's piece without having the thought: "Jeezum crow, this man is calling Webb a pompous poseur? Pot kettle black much?" And, yeah, begrudgingly, I'll say again that the misapplied use of the word "literally"
really cheeses me off, but I'm so taking off points for using the two-dollar word "acculturated."

Seriously. An op-ed column about grammar on a day like today. When America's problems have grown so slight that our major socio-political concern is whether the Geneva Conventions will allow us to forcibly sodomize a stacked pyramid of dangling participles, we can dilly dally on the pages of major newspapers to our heart's content. In the meantime, fold your arms, George, you write like a pedant.


i_moonbat said...

In the first 15 hours of reader reaction to Will's toxic piece, the ratio of unfavorable to favorable posters was 18 to 1. (I counted.) There are close to 1500 comments at this time, and they're still coming in. Seeing that pompous idiot Will get his ass kicked like this is an exhilarating experience: highly recommended!!

Tristrami said...

Where was Conan the Grammarian when our reanimated corpse of a Veep instructed Leahy to "go f*** himself" on the senate floor? Who exactly was the "boor" in that exchange? I suppose that smirking zombie androids *do* get a pass on taste and civility.

Rusty said...

Ok, the editorial was dumb. However, I take issue with any human being who misuses the words "infinitely" or, God forbid, "literally." Big pet peeves of mine.

The Senator-elect is a professional writer. He should have known better.

Gabriel Fry said...

Whither the praise of "straight-talk" and "plain-dealing" now? Wherefore art though, oh gratuitous lauds of President Bush's honest, no-guff conversational idiom? Could it be that the Cowboy of New Haven must needs have his delicate sensibilities protected from the crude, earthy demeanor of an ACTUAL soldier?

Perhaps the hair-trigger dudgeon of Mr. Will would not be so lofty if Mr. Webb had given the President the answer he deserved, something along the lines of "He's on the ground in Iraq, dutifully executing your failed policies, asshat, how the fuck do you think he's doing?"

Mayhaps old Will "not-Safire-or-Buckley" should have taken into account (while appending his snide little "sic" to the exchange) that the president's ridiculous fake Texas accent may have caused Mr. Webb to think he said "How's your boys" (note the plural), meaning his fellow Marines, and responded accordingly?