Thursday, January 10, 2013

First Pluck the Typo Out of Thine Own Eye

Someone who posts on Facebook under the moniker Being Liberal shared this image today, with the comment "Someone should tell this woman to read a dictionary." Of course liberals are in no position to cast the first stone on spelling; my favorite comment posted under it was "I love moran pics, TY."

More seriously, quite a few favorable commenters thought it ironic that anyone would tell Our President, a scholar of Constitutional law, to read the Constitution!  The irony backfires, though, since Obama has uttered some howlers about the Constitution and our system of government, such as that the Supreme Court can't or doesn't or wouldn't or never has overturned laws that were "passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."  I've encountered plenty of liberals, no less than conservatives, who simply made up stuff that they thought was or should be in the Constitution.  Even the notion that the Constitution is just a piece of paper, a relic of a simpler time written by colorful primitives who couldn't imagine the more complex problems a modern Empire faces, is bipartisan, even if the parties sometimes draw different conclusions from that idea.

But as far as language goes, the rot goes all the way back to the Founding Fathers.  I'm rereading Harvey Daniels's Famous Last Words (Southern Illinois University Press, 1984), and he quoted this critique of Thomas Jefferson's Notes on the State of Virginia from the London Review:
For shame, Mr. Jefferson!  Why, after trampling upon the honour of our country and representing it as little better than a land of barbarism -- why, we say, perpetually trample also upon the very grammar of our language, and make that appear as Gothic as, from your description, our manners are rude? -- Freely, good sir, will we forgive all your attacks, impotent as they are illiberal, upon our character, but for the future spare -- O spare, we beseech you, our mother tongue! [46]
Daniels explains: "This particular outburst, it is worth noting, resulted from the discovery in Jefferson's text of the verb to belittle."  Well, no wonder!


P.S. I AM NOT AWARE OF ALL INTERNET CONVENTIONS.  I've been informed that "moran" is "the accepted neologism for an indignant protester with a misspelled sign."  Oh, the shame of it.