Civics meets syntax

Even before the 2012 election process begins in earnest in a few days, I already have indigestion.

It used to be that this Beltway baby salivated at the onset of an election year, and all the intellectual and ideological meat it served up. I don’t know anyone who’s hungry any more, except maybe television stations with ad time to sell.

I count myself among those who have lost their appetite from the shallow rhetoric and competitive sparring—and I suspect that’s just about everyone.

However, my particular beef has to do with (surprise!) language. Perhaps my ear is too acutely attuned to misuses, but I’m aurally assaulted day after day, not just by the candidates but those who cover them. Considering the fact that we’re in this for the long haul, I’d like to see us clear a few things up:

“Congress and the Senate” is incorrect. “Congress” and “the House” are not one and the same. Congress is composed of both parts of our bicameral system–the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Congress did not “adjourn” in December. A Congress adjourns just once, at the end of a two-year Congress. Members “recessed” until 2012, when the second year of the 112th Congress begins.

“Re-doubling” is re-dundant. According to some news outlets, the primary season has this or that candidate “re-doubling his efforts” in this or that state. Unless the pol is quadrupling his efforts, this is incorrect.

“We” is not the candidate. Candidates of both parties are equally guilty of the relatively recent practice of pluralizing themselves in speech. If the United States were governed by a monarchy, this might be a “royal we,” but we are not.

Have you noticed this? The candidate refers to himself, or occasionally, herself, as “we.” I can assume “we” refers to his campaign team, his administration, his volunteers. He’s being nice. He’s being inclusive. “We” is fine when he refers specifically to the campaign team.

But to say “We are the candidate who will [reduce the deficit, reform Social Security, insert the promise of your choice]” is not just incorrect, but absurd. It makes me wonder if pluralizing the pronoun is a scheme intended to spread the blame when the electoral matter later hits the fan.

Come to think if it, I might just vote for whoever refers to himself as “I.” (Just as long as he doesn’t use it as an objective pronoun.)

9 Comments

Filed under All Things Wordish, News, Politics

9 responses to “Civics meets syntax

  1. Emily

    Line of the day, “when the electoral matter later hits the fan.”

  2. William Greene

    Alas, the only “I” candidates are BHO and the Donald. You would be torn between the two, no doubt ; ]

  3. dave

    I think it was Mark Twain who said something to the effect that the only people who can legitimately say “we” when they mean “I” are royalty, editors, and people with tapeworm.

  4. Jo Turner

    Perhaps the use of “we” allows him/her to blame screw-ups on the invisible others?

  5. Don’t go looking for anything proper, grammar or otherwise, when it comes to politics.

  6. Ok, I see vocabulary. I see pronoun use. Where’s the syntax? Your title promises something about syntax. It demand I.

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