John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/mcintyre/blog/ and now at www.baltimoresun.com/news/language-blog/.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Congress has a lot to learn
What has been lost in this largely pointless exchange — and distraction from the national issue of health care ostensibly under discussion — is the pathetic feebleness of Congressional invective. “Boo!” and “You lie!” in the legislative body where the puissant John Randolph of Roanoke once commented that a prominent figure “shines and stinks like a rotten mackerel by moonlight.” (It is thought that Mr. Randolph was referring to Henry Clay.)
At Language Log, they are celebrating the invective of Paul Keating, the former prime minister of Australia whose comments in Parliament identified his opponents as, among other things, harlots, blackguards, brain-damaged, dullards, fools and incompetents, perfumed gigolos, unrepresentative swill, and stunned mullets. A commenter added this picturesque item:
One of Paul Keating's best insults came when he was berating the leader of the Country Party, who came from a family of undertakers. He described him as a man who had ‘accrued his wealth by stealing the pennies from the eyes of the dead.’*
When will the Republic elect legislators who can meet this lofty standard?
*Iambic hexameter. Classy.