If Linguistic Suicide Were Reality …

… W was dead a long time ago. I admired George Lakoff when I studied linguistics in the late 1970’s. Apparently, I still do.

Staying the Course Right Over a Cliff

The Bush administration has finally been caught in its own language trap.

“That is not a stay-the-course policy,” Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, declared on Monday.

The first rule of using negatives is that negating a frame activates the frame. If you tell someone not to think of an elephant, he’ll think of an elephant. When Richard Nixon said, “I am not a crook” during Watergate, the nation thought of him as a crook.

“Listen, we’ve never been stay the course, George,” President Bush told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News a day earlier. Saying that just reminds us of all the times he said “stay the course.”

What the president is discovering is that it’s not so easy to rewrite linguistic history. The laws of language are hard to defy.

Read the rest of it here.

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