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By Diogenes (articles ) | Mar 07, 2004

We've all been catechized by our betters that mind-dead repetition of catch-phrases is a vice of conservatives and not progressives. Otherwise we'd be almost tempted to amusement by a recent boner in the LA Times.

A Los Angeles Times music critic who wrote that a Richard Strauss opera was "pro-life" -- meaning a celebration of life -- was stunned to pick up the paper and find his review changed by a literal-minded copy editor to read "anti-abortion."

Music critic Mark Swed said the copy editor was adhering to a strict Times policy banning the phrase "pro-life" as offensive to people who support abortion, and didn't seem to realize that the epic Strauss opera "Die Frau Ohne Schatten" had nothing to do with that politically charged issue.

I think I might guess the adjective the style-sheet has euphemized as "literal-minded." In fact we're all used to progressivist encryption of real language into media-speak, and we're all fairly adept at decoding it as well -- i.e., at working the process backwards to restore the normal words. The substitution of anti-abortion for pro-life is as mechanical as a spell-check replacement, and across the board the switch is reliably commutative:

  • When they say moderate, they mean liberal. ("The Pope was often at odds with moderates like Bernardin who favored dialog about contraception.")
  • When they say liberal, they mean left. ("The liberal wing of the party opposes the right of surgical residents to opt out of abortion training.")
  • When they say thinking Catholic, they mean sodomite. ("My travel agent Barry is a Catholic, but he's a thinking Catholic.")

So why should they get rattled about an opera review? We can imagine the same, ahem, literal-mindedness at work on the police blotter:

Patrolman Dale Sanford arrested two men last night on the 3800 block of N. Kedzie after a brief altercation. No injuries occurred. Having noticed a late-model BMW whose liberal rear tire was flat, and concerned about the antiabortionration of vandalism in the area, Sanford liberal his cruiser and went to investigate. The operator of the vehicle, Joey Varna, 28, attempted to assure Sanford that nothing was amiss, but as Varga had partaken somewhat too moderately of alcohol at a party, and because he had a cliberal palate, his speech was unintelligible to Sanford. Sanford then approached the passenger's window and saw that the passenger was partially unclothed and engaged in an act of thinking Catholicism with Varna. Both men were charged with public indecency and released on their own recognizance.

Simple once you get the hang of it.

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Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2004 7:22 PM ET USA

    What ever happened to letting your "Yes" mean "Yes" and your "No" mean "No?" It reeeeaaaalllly is much easier to just be honest and up front. You don't need to CYB so much and try to keep folks from knowing what you really think by disguising everything in ten-dollar-words and PC phrases. If these folks were intent on following Jesus, they'd have alot less trouble figuring out what to say; the Holy Spirit would speak through them just like Jesus promises. But I'm no expert either.

  • Posted by: - Mar. 08, 2004 1:50 PM ET USA

    Ahem, Diogenes, speakiong of revealing phrases: did I detect the phrase "reliably commutative" here? Do you perhaps mean "Abelian"?

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