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The Vocabula Review

 

Julian Burnside

Julian Burnside

President George W. Bush has never displayed much sensitivity for the nuances of language. Even its basic rules elude him. Consider a few of his famous blunders while speaking on public occasions, and try to imagine the qualities of his less-considered private discourse.

"More and more of our imports come from overseas."

"What I'm against is quotas. I'm against hard quotas, quotas that basically delineate based upon whatever. However they delineate, quotas, I think, vulcanize society."

"If you're sick and tired of the politics of cynicism and polls and principles, come and join this campaign."

"You teach a child to read and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test."

He speaks in semantic near-misses, and his grammar lurches from one rough approximation to the next.


Marylaine Block

Marylaine Block

I always told my son I made enough money to provide the three essentials of life: food, shelter, and books. But now that I do most of my work in the home my son has left, I realize that conversation is every bit as essential to life. Small talk and big are no longer built into the fabric of my days, a byproduct of the daily grind of work. I can't get them automatically from those who share my household — cats may be good listeners, but they don't laugh at my jokes and they're lousy conversationalists. Just as I have to go out on expeditions for groceries, I have to make deliberate expeditions in quest of the good talk I'm just as hungry for.


Richard Lederer

Richard Lederer

The great English etymologist Owen Barfield once wrote that "words may be made to disgorge the past that is bottled up inside of them, as coal and wine when we kindle or drink them yield up their bottled sunshine." When we uncap the sunshine that is stored inside the many words that relate to the Christmas season, we discover that the light that streams forth illuminates centuries of human history and customs.



The December issue of The Vocabula Review is due online December 16.


 

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