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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

language and the war on terror

One of the things that irritates me is the misuse of the language, particularly by the press who are among its professionals and should be among its guardians

Two examples:

"to beg the question" is a term of logic that means to assume what you are trying to prove.  For example:  "those people" have a higher crime rate because they are more violent.

The press uses it to mean "to raise the question".

"to decimate" was a disciplinary practice used on the Roman legions.  If they fled in a battle, then they were lined up in some order and counted off.  Every tenth man was executed.

The press uses this to mean "to destroy".

The latter example may prove useful to the President.

During the 2012 campaign he and Biden loudly and frequently declared that they had decimated Al Queda.  (Notice the restraint - I did not say "brayed".)  On Oct. 21, 2012 I wrote here that the President's misrepresentation of what happened in Benghazi was probably motivated by a concern that it would make his middle eastern policy appear to be a failure because they had, in fact, not destroyed Al Queda.

Now it appears that Al Queda is far far from destroyed.  Perhaps Carney will soon explain that the President had never said that he had "destroyed" Al Queda, only that he had "decimated" them which everyone knows means killed about a tenth of them.


  1. I love these language insights. It took me a while to wrap my head around "Begs the question" though. Thanks.