For those of you who don't read comments - or in any case don't scroll through the whole damn blog every day looking for fresh comments - there's been an interesting, meandering discussion going on here.

When the Crabster suggested I check out Big Brass Blog, we started talking about language, and the distortion of words to mean their opposite. High on my Orwell Was Right list: pro-life, partial-birth abortion, no child left behind, the patriot act, the defense of marriage act. (Please read all with ironic quotes.) This government is all about the manipulation of words until they have no meaning, or mean their opposite. Freedom. Liberation. Security.

Then there my perennial faves. Family values. Pussy as an insult. Balls as a synonym for courage. (Sorry guys, I just find that hilarious.) Forcible rape. Ethnic cleansing.

A librarian among us, the feisty and witty G, remembered another one:
I like "Collateral Damage" best. Possibly the feel-good terminology of the century. Used for justification of the deaths of innocents (in other words, a loophole in Geneva).

Remember the support America had from the Iraqi citizen population when it first arrived under the pretense of dispensing Saddam (WMD issues aside)? Amazing how that support disappears when your unnecessary aerial bombing campaign kills the families of those who support you. Don't forget, women and children are the bulk of the Iraqi casualty list since the invasion. But it's OK: the GOV says they're just collateral damage. [Tell that to the families of 9/11 victims, Junior].
G also says: "RE The Media Add to your Reading List: "A War Against Truth", Paul William Roberts. Brilliant first-hand account of the Iraq invasion and Iraqi history by a journalist who was there. A must-read for all."

Right now, G the Library Bitch (reclaimed word?) is helping an American reader pose as a Canadian. She's made a list, and is soliciting your comments and additions. Please help!

And perhaps "dear reader Julia B," the American who wants to act Canadian, will stop by wmtc to tell us how it went.

P.S. G: You do all say "a-boot". We hear it, ever so slightly, in everyone from Peter Jennings to Alex Trebec to Joni Mitchell. It appears to be the last of the accent to go, long after the speaker "sounds American". Hey folks, am I right?


Crabbi said...

Hmm...how about the Clear Skies Initiative? And ownership society, social security reform, compassionate conservatives?

L, I know you're not a big Lakoff fan, but I thought I provide this link because the Rockridge Institute has a lot to say about Orwellian language. BTW, I haven't forgotten about my Lakoff post. I still have to get Moral Politics back from my coworker. I appreciated your insights on Lakoff and want to respond intelligently. I'll come back to that, though. We crabs do tend to meander.

Compassionate conservative and family values are my all-time "favorites." I have a special fondness for the latter because it's such a classic and calls to mind Dan Quayle's condemnation of a sitcom character back in '92. What can I say? Maybe some of us just forgot to get married. Oops! Sorry about the memory lapse and the moral decay and shit.

You are totally right about the "o" thing! I have a Canadian friend who says she doesn't do it, but she does.

G, I like your list - especially CANWE. Comfy clothes are good...

laura k said...

Clear Skies - that's a good one. As Lewis Black says, We're clearing the skies - of birds!

I know Lakoff's work has done a lot to highlight these language issues, which is terrific, so important.

Anonymous said...

Oh, all right ... all my American friends say that. Guess we get so used to it we just don't hear it.

Then again, could be worse.

If I find myself saying y'all, my world will cease to have meaning.

Because it's all a-boot the enunciation, eh? That and a nice flannel shirt for the winter. Got left off the list.

Rognar said...

You'll also have to learn to pronounce "sorry" differently. Many Canadians pronounce it like "sore-ee". Americans say it more like "sahr-ee", as in "sari".

Anonymous said...

Mollie to Rob:

It's the short "o" every time that gives the Canucks away.

It's a sound that Americans just don't make, in any region. The "o" in words like "hockey" and "sorry" and "cops"... well, I can pick out a Canadian short "o" right away.

Oot and aboot is fixable, but the short "o" never dies.

laura k said...

Damn, I wish I could do that short o! I try to say "hockey" and sound like a Canadian, but I can't do it (not yet, anyway). Hockey seems the perfect word to practice with.

Even "aboot", when I say, comes out sounding like I'm talking about footwear, and that's not quite it.

I'll have to enroll in the Total Immersion language program - called Immigration.

Anonymous said...

Got a satellite? Start watching CBC.

No satellite? How about highspeed internet - can watch the CBC newscasts online. Just need broadband and RealPlayer.

If you want to learn how to speak Canuck, this is the best way to do it. Plus it's good, decent news coverage that doesn't work as an arm of the State. My friends in Michigan watch only Canadian news now - they feel they only get half the story from CNN (aka White House News Corp, as they call it).

PS The short "o" is indeed the biggest obstacle to speaking Canuck, although you're from NY, so you might be okay in getting it down. If you say it "hackey" you give yourself away ... go for something closer to "hawkey" keeping the "aw" short in speech and you've got it.

laura k said...

I watch CBC news on cable every evening. I'm addicted to it. Still can't get that o down, tho.

New Yorkers don't say hackey, that sounds (maybe) midwest. We say hahckey. It's the ah from "open up and say ah".

OK, I'll try hawkey.

Rognar said...

There are many here in western Canada who would debate whether or not the CBC is a mouthpiece for the government (or more accurately, the Liberal government). It probably seems more objective to you because it has a leftwing bias. Of course, by US standards, all our mass media has a leftwing bias.

laura k said...

It's not that it feels unbiased to me, and it very well may be the Liberal government speaking. I know I couldn't judge that.

I like it because it's so much more substantial than American news. Like the BBC, it's just more heavyweight, more serious.

Also, I'm trying to be in touch with Canada and Canadian issues. CBC is my only opportunity to do that via TV.

Rognar said...

I think one of the reasons Canada consistently rates as one of the best places in the world to live is because almost nothing newsworthy ever happens here. The amount of mileage that has arisen from the sponsorship scandal is evidence of that. The Liberals lost their Parliamentary majority over a rather modest corruption scandal and the inquiry into the scandal is still front page news months later. In the US, something like this would scarcely get noticed amongst all the Scott Peterson/Michael Jackson/Terri Schiavo reports and it certainly wouldn't be newsworthy for months. If you like your news bland and relevent, you're coming to the right place.

Anonymous said...

Rob, you make a decent point regarding the newsworthiness of Canadian events. It's easier to relax in a place where nothing ever happens, as opposed to feeling you have to look over your shoulder in other parts of the world. We're fortunate that way.

On the CBC, I do know where you are coming from, but as a public broadcaster the CBC is actually tied to all parties and mandated to represent all of Canada. When you're run by tax dollars, you tend to listen to, and support, your entire public as they can shut you down. A private corp like CTV or Canwest, they don't have to worry as much about that as citizens of Canada don't pay into their operating budgets. I'd be worrying about them turning into CNN before CBC, based on the operating setup of private vs public.