Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mr. Talk's Language Lounge

I started this blog to be generally snarky about education and the people who run it, but lately it has taken an odd turn. It seems every other post is about some language goof made by a prominent politician. First, I had to give Mayor Bloomberg a lesson on hyperbole. Then it was Sarah Palin's turn to learn the mechanics of a complete sentence. Finally, I had to revisit my lesson on hyperbole to show Mayor Bloomberg how it differed from a euphemism.

And the beat goes on. As I noted four days ago, Mayor Bloomberg compared the state senate to Hitler when he said, "If you remember Neville Chamberlain, no matter how many times you said yes, that's the starting point for the next round." Showing their characteristic lightning reflexes, some state senators finally responded, demanding that the mayor apologize for his comment. Senator Carl Kruger, briefly emerging from his coma, said "We are not Nazis! We are legislators!"

Stu Loeser, speaking for the mayor, said, "It wasn't an analogy at all -- the mayor was talking about endless negotiations in general....The former prime minister's name is now synonymous in the American lexicon with appeasement and endless negotiations."

Here's where Mr. Talk's Language Lounge comes to the rescue. We can only hope that Mikey is reading.

According to Webster's online, an analogy is an "inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects they will probably agree in others."

So, had the mayor said something like "If you remember Neville Chamberlain, if I keep on buying Girl Scout cookies, those Scouts will end up invading Poland" it wouldn't be an analogy. Not much of one, anyway, because the Scouts do not have the power to invade Poland. At least I don't think they do. (I plan on buying a few boxes, just to be on the safe side.)

What the mayor did imply was that if he acted like Chamberlain the state senate would act like Hitler. Unlike Girl Scouts, state senators do have political power. And that, Mr. Mayor, is an analogy.

(The idea that compromise equals appeasement is beyond the scope of this post and can only be truly understood by billionaires.)


NYC Educator said...

I don't think appeasement is well-understood at all. I believe a lot of the right-wing talking heads called conversation appeasement during the presidential campaign. And it seems the mayor is taking a page from their book, and would very much like to squelch conversation utterly. Didn't he say the time for discussion is over?

Mr. Talk said...

As my old logic professor used to say, the first person to invoke Hitler in a debate loses.

I don't recall Bloomberg ever setting aside a time for conversation, so I'm not sure how it can be over if it never began.