Silent Language

Winning the battle for the English Language is always a challenge when you’re a conservative. The left understands, and wages without mercy, the war for the language.

And for the most part, the media reflects the left’s view of how language portrays things.

So it’s been interesting watching the media coverage of the raft of Gun Rights bills.  In a Twin Cities media that will refers to using ones’ carry permit as “packing heat” so frequently it’s beyond satirizable, there’ve been some improvements.

This past few weeks, a bill that would allow Minnesotans to join 39 other states in owning mufflers for their guns has been advancing though committee.

And it’s been interesting reading the headlines that local news organizations having been using for the story (in this case taken from online coverage); do they refer to gun mufflers with techical accuracy as “suppressors”, or with conspiratorial, theatrical scaremongering as “silencers”.

Here are some examples, with emphasis added by me:

So minor kudos to the Twin Cities media; at least as re the very basics of language, you’re coming around ever so slightly.

Now, if we could do something about using the term “packing heat”, like, ever…

Political Muzak

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

The Obama Administration says banning ammunition protects the right to keep and bear arms.

It’s as if their speech-writer is a computerized buzz-word generator.  Doesn’t make any sense, doesn’t have to, won’t fool anybody and isn’t intended to.  It’s just soothing white noise.

Joe Doakes

I’ve been observing this for the past few years – mostly from Obama, but the Minnesota DFL as adopted it as well:

  1. Say whatever rhetorically fits the narrative
  2. Don’t worry about your voter base – low-information, gullible people, many of them with advanced degrees – prodding into it too deeply.
  3. Worry even less about the media bothering you with it.

It’s brilliant, really, if sliding into petty dictatorship is what you’re after.

A Linguistic Proposal

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Homophobia started as urban slang for men who were afraid to look gay. “I can’t wear a purple necktie, I’ll look as if I’m gay.” That’s what homophobia meant.

Then it transformed into men who beat up gays to show they weren’t secretly attracted to them. ” I can prove I’m not secretly gay because I enjoy kicking gay men’s asses.” That’s what homophobia meant next.

Now homophobia is used to mean anybody who less than fully enthusiastic about any whim that strikes the GLBT movement. That’s what homophobia means now.

I’m not afraid of my clothing looking gay. I haven’t been in a fight since 5th grade. But I am tired of GLBT being shoved in my face to assuage 2% of the population’s narcissism.

I propose a new word, one that doesn’t translate as “fear” but “tired of hearing about it.” I propose homolassus, pronounced by adding Ho to Molasses.

Joe Doakes

We’ll run it past the OED…

“Adjective: Intense, Acute Or Keen, As Pleasure Or Pain.”

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

One reason I love reading Mark Steyn is he has a gift for choosing exactly the right word, or recognizing one when chosen by another.

The Pedestrian Crossing diamond isn’t enough, the government must add the diagonal arrow below. Because without it, motorists would panic, scanning the sky and ditches and rear-view mirror, saying “What? What? Pedestrian? Where? Where?” So road crews add the helpful diagonal arrow pointing at the crosswalk, to let motorists know where to look for pedestrians crossing the street – in the crosswalk.

“The lower sign is an exquisitely condescending touch. A nation whose citizenry is as stupid as those markers suggest they are, cannot survive. But, if we’re not that stupid, why aren’t we outraged?”

“Exquisitely condescending.” Yes. Precisely correct. We, the bureaucrats, are so clever and you, the driving public are so stupid, that we must add the diagonal arrow pointing to the crosswalk lest you mow down an entire class of schoolchildren on a field trip because the diamond sign wasn’t a sufficient hint.

Joe Doakes

i’ve always loved Steyn’s way with the word.

And “exquisitely…” Is one of the most wonderfully effective yet underused adjectives in the book.

A Vote That Also Matters

Time Magazine is stealing some of my material.  But it’s for the greater good, so I’ll let ‘em get away with it for now. 

Time apparently has started an annual “Which Word Should Be Banned” poll. 

And while I’ve never even heard of some of them, there’s one that I agree with wholeheartedly:

feminist: You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrityhad to statetheir position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.

Good lord.  No kidding. 

Look – “feminism” in the sense of supporting women’s legal and moral equality, hardly anyone argues with.  Certainly not me – which is one reason I’m the Twin Cities’ best feminist.  And take a moment and smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, because that battle’s been pretty much won (and like any battle, they’re all “pretty much”, rather than to an absolute numerical limit, won). 

But the term has become a cliche.

Pondering The Imponderable

I was at a comedy club a few weeks back.

A very angry – and not especially funny, while we’re on the subject – woman who, I kid you not, identified herself as having been a political science major, told a joke (I’ll be generous) about “science”.  She ended with something like “That’s called ‘science’.  Take that, creationists!”

But it started me thinking about the contempt that the left feels for creationists. 

Now, I’m not one of them – if you read the biblical creation story as allegory, there is no conflict between the Bible and the record that is captured in the physical science of the world around us. 

And I wanted to stand up and ask the “comedian” something.

“So if we have to choose between…

Someone who believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, and lives their life accordingly – whatever that means?  A belief for which there may be little empirical basis, and even less empirical impact outside the faith community?  Or…

Someone who believes that:

  • raising taxes during a recession helps the economy,
  • banning firearms for the law-abiding lowers violent crime
  • jacking up regulation on market economies will stop the climate from changing like it’s been doing for between 6,000 and 20,000,000,000 years
  • Unionizing daycare providers will alleviate the scarcity of daycare
  • Raising the minimum wage will alleviate poverty
  • Pouring a bottomless bucket of money into Public Education will ever give us a better-educated populace
  • Mandating increased healthcare services without increasing the supply of caregivers won’t raise the price of healthcare
  • “Racism” is harming black Americans more than the Public Education system, a toxic “urban culture”, fatherless families and voting for Democrats who want to keep them that way are
  • Giving terrorists a “save the date” card for leaving one of their homelands isn’t going to result in an epic surge of bloodshed
  • “Anti-Poverty” programs have alleviated poverty over the past fifty years
  • Barack Obama deserved that Nobel Peace Prize,

…which does more actual harm to the world?”

It wouldn’t have made a great “heckle”, unfortunately.

Heard In Passing

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

I overheard a woman talking on the cell phone, axing someone’s location.  At first, I thought she was ignorant, her question an abominable wrenching of the English Language.  Now I realize she was devolving the language to a simpler state, no doubt to economize on words and thereby save cell minutes.

She condensed an inquiry into an entire day’s events down to “Where You At?” followed by two modifiers for temporal variations: “Where You Bin?” and Where You Going?”


Joe Doakes

The funny part of language is that it is the ultimate free market. Left to its own devices, it evolves, usually in ways that make sense for its consumers.

That doesn’t always mean good things, of course.


Mark Steyn on hashtag diplomacy:

Plenty has been written about all the things that this photo…

…says about the United States today.  None of them good.

Steyn notes – as many have quoted – that it’s certainly not going to matter of inveighing Boko Haram (Nigerian for “So Long, Suckers!”) to “give the girls back”.  Someone’s going to have to either engage in some incredibly tough negotiation (the Bokos know they hold the cards), or take them back, if they can be found (and it’s likely they can’t).

But he brought up two other points – both of them tying the Boko Haram kidnappings to a story I wrote about last week, in which a California school issued an assignment asking students to present evidence that the Holocaust never happened.

Being unaware of the background details, I thought it might juuuuuust be possible it was a debate point, asking kids to step outside their comfort zone (waaaaay outside) to debate a point.

It wasn’t, of course (I’ll be adding the odd bit of emphasis) not, and my vestigial faith in the integrity of public school teachers is, as all-too-frequently, wasted:

That’s never a smart idea. The California schools superintendent who wanted his Eighth Graders to turn in essays arguing that the Holocaust didn’t happen is called Mohammad Z Islam. That’s why they got the assignment, not because they wanted to turn themselves into the Oxford Union. As Laura Rosen Cohen pointed out, there are all kinds of lively topics Mr Cooke might propose for our schools: Did Mohammed exist? What’s the deal with his nine-year-old bride? But in the real world even mild questioning of whether Islam is a “religion of peace” is beyond the pale, and across the Continent the Holocaust is disappearing from school curricula.

That’s the problem. There’s no point winning an Oxford debate if the other side win everything else.

And he notes that modern eighth-graders rarely know what the Holocaust is, much less how to have an Oxford Union-style debate on the subject.

And of course…:

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

And it’s be hard to argue that the good guys are winning the present.

A Public Good

To: Daniela Hernandez, Dartmouth PC natterer
From: Mitch Berg, campesino ingobernable
Re: Nuestra dva sprache

Ms. Hernandez,

Language is the supremely public good.

Nobody owns it. Even the French discovered that the full weight of national power can go so far in governing how people use your language.

Now, you’re the woman who’s been nattering at the supremely gullible administration at Dartmouth (“the poster child for the higher-ed bubble”) about peoples’ use of Spanish terms like Fiesta.

Since you’re only getting a degree from Dartmouth, I’ll explain this slowly:  people adopt works from other languages, usually (not necessarily always) because the word works better than the local word.

So you have ever, even once, sat in your sauna drinking rooibos tea from an itsy-bitsy bamboo demitasse listening to the music blare from the frat, you can thank the Finns, Hungarians, South Africans Afrikaans speakers, the Dutch, French, the Dutch again, and Latin.  Or stop oppressing them.  Your choice. 

And since, like all the words above, your fellow PC indoctrinees students are using “Fiesta” to mean roughly exactly what it means in Spanish, I suggest you relax.  Or contact your ombudsman…

…oops. Norwegian.

That is all.


A Critique

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is walking through the garden store looking for organic potato seeds.  He spots Avery LIBRELLE, over in the tomato section.  BERG turns and tries to quietly leave, but LIBRELLE turns and sees him.

LIBRELLE:  Merg!  (Hurries over toward BERG)

BERG:  Oh – uh, hi, Avery.  What’s up?

LIBRELLE:  I read your stupid piece yesterday about the supposed decline of logic

BERG:  Yeah? 

LIBRELLE:  The first thing I thought was “It’s only Berg.  Who cares what he has to say?”

BERG: In other words, the ad hominem…

LIBRELLE: Oh, shush with all your Greek words.  It lowered my self-esteem for a bit – until I realized something; an argument can be fallacious but still be logical!

BERG:  Er…sorta.  You can use logic to persuade people of something that’s not true.  I mean, that’s basic rhetoric.  But the problem is in the audience’s ignorance, or the lack of information they have, or…

LIBRELLE:  Exactly!  Logic is one of those things lawyers use to hide the truth.  Anyway - what I do is, at the beginning of an argument, I ask “What is the truth”.

BERG:  Er…OK.  So before the debate starts, you find out….what…

LIBRELLE:  I find out whatthe truthis.  And then I run with that. 

BERG:  OK…so you just ask “what is the truth, here?”

LIBRELLE:  Yep!  Because the truth of something isn’t related to how well it’s argued!

BERG:  So you figure “I’ll just go straight for the truth”.

LIBRELLE:  Yep.  Truth is truth, whether people or know or discuss it or not. 

BERG:  Huh.  And so how do you find what is “the truth”?  Say we’re on a jury, and the prosecution has their version of what happened, and the defense has a different version of what happened.  Do you just ask the judge “what is “the truth” here?”

LIBRELLE:  Well, empirical evidence helps.

BERG:  OK, now we’re onto something!  Where does “empirical evidence” come from?

LIBRELLE:  Western Thought!  And modern western thinking started when thinkers became willing to consider the illogical!

BERG:  Good lord – the process of getting “empirical evidence” is called “the scientific method”, and it is built on classical logic!   And then when your evidence leads you to a conclusion, you have to convince others that your conclusion is valid!  And logic is how you build a valid argument that focuses on fact!

LIBRELLE:  Just like Johnny Cochrane did! 

BERG:  Er, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” was part logic, part rhetoric.  It was closer to marketing than classical logic…

LIBRELLE:  I demolished you with that!

BERG:  Look – logic is how we convince ourselves, and others, what the truth is.  For example, if I’m trying to convince you that “Stand your Ground” laws make sense, I would show you, logically, how such laws are immediately correlated with drops in unjustifiable homicide…

LIBRELLE:  …and then I call you racist!  Because I read something in the Daily Kos that said so!

BERG:  Er… (slowly backing away) I hadn’t thought of it that way… (notices that LIBRELLE has started chewing on a tomato start.  BERG slowly turns and walks away .


(AUTHOR NOTE:  While the names and flow have been changed, the conversation above actually happened with a liberal on Twitter.  Yes, it did.  Remember; the left are the smart ones).

Attention, World

To:  The English-Speaking World
From: Mitch Berg, Angry Language Purist
Re:  Lunchtime Frenzy of Anger

Dear World:


It’s pronounced “Sha-POTE-lay”.

Not “Sha-POLE-tay”.

See to this at once or suffer the consequences.  Flaming, shrapnel-laden consequences.

That is all.

The Left’s War On The Western Intellect

One never needs to look far for a Berg’s Seventh Law violation.  But this one may be the big daddy of them all.

For all the left’s bargling about how smart they are and how stupid the teabagging wingnuts are, it’s the left that’s waging a war against the intellectual traditions that made the West a great, and – by world historical standards – free, prosperous and enlightened place.

The Late, Great Debate:  I did debate team for one year, and speech team for two in high school.  And with all due respect to the debaters in my social circle – including John Hinderaker, a national college debate champ – there was no question about it; debate team was the lesser set of skills.  The best “debaters” merely honed their ability to rattle off, auctioneer-style, factoids in a coherent-sounding case; oratorical style and even audible legibility didn’t make the cut as priorities.  Debaters tended to make lousy “forensics” speakers.

But debate teaches a vital skill – indeed, perhaps one of Western Civilization’s most vital skills; classical logic.  A good debater knows how to contruct a logical argument, quickly, steering clear of glaring logical fallacies which will, of course, cost them points with literate judges.

Or rather, they knew it.

John Hinderaker relates the story of the decline and fall of collegiate debate, where teams are now winning “debate” tournaments while ignoring the stated topic and swerving into their own personal polemics, often in “slam poetry” and hip-hop styles and, dumber still, declaring the idea of “logic” and “structure” to be racist:

The assertion that “the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students” is puzzling. By “privileged,” the writer apparently means that these are the people who have been good at it. Historically, most college students have of course been white and middle-class, but so what?

“Collegiate debate” has turned into the MinnPost comment section!

I’m tempted to declare that the structure, rules and equipment of the NFL are ageist, classist and ableist, and play using only a shotgun and a hockey stick; why should those privileged with athletic talent and lack of years have all the fun and money?

Well, no – I won’t.  Because I’m not an idiot.

The underlying message from the academy (and hip hop forms notwithstanding, the end of collegiate debate is a battle between academic points of view, not tastes in music) is that logic and structure – the building blocks of western philosophy, “liberal” government, modern science, and indeed every Western intellectual tradition worth preserving – are matters of racist “privilege”.

Would we have had a small-”l” liberal government, ann Enlightenment, a Renaissance, math and science as we know it, a legal system remotely worth having, and any common intellectual tradition without classical logic?

Happy To Be An Intellectual Midget For A Better Minnesota!:  Of course, it’s more than just a national thing; the Minnesota Left has been doing its best to make politics and public life in Minnesota  dumber, coarser, nastier thing.

Bill Glahn dials this tendency in as remorselessly as a sniper:

As the 2014 election campaign heats up, a drearily familiar pattern is repeating itself. Flush with big dollars from out-of-state donors, Democrat-front group Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) is attacking Republican candidates under the theme Wrong for Minnesota…Back in the dim mists of time—when dinosaurs still trod upon the earth—I was taught that arguing against the person (ad hominem) rather than what the person was saying, defied the laws of logic.

When I was in debate in high school, and moreso when arguing points in college, leading with the ad hominem was a good way to have your thesis sent to the showers.

I was taught in classical Greek rhetoric that a message that relied exclusively on raw emotion (pathos)—rather than reason (logos) or an appeal to values (ethos)—was considered the lowest form of communication.
Ad hominem and pathos are the only form of expressions ABM is capable of. The reason why ABM relies on these tactics is because they work. The object is not to engage in debate, but to end debate by surpressing voter turnout. ABM is not trying to convince you that you should vote for Democrats, they are trying to convince you that no Republican possesses the personal character worthy of your vote.

And it works.  A potential candidate for higher office talked with me about ABM’s efforts last year; this person wanted very much to run for an office that would be up for election this year, but couldn’t; while they have the political savvy, experience and record to do the job, ABM would make their personal life – things unrelated to politics, of course – a living hell.  And so a good candidate opted out of the race – leaving that bit more room for an inferior Democrat.

To add insult to injury?  The same media full of Lori Sturdevants and Keri Millers that snivel about the “vitriol” and “anger” in politics, are utterly silent about the Alliance’s crimes against logic:

Should a Republican whisper about the health of our current governor or the temperament of our junior senator, they are immediately shouted down by local media.

Either because of personal relationships or broad sympathy with the aims of ABM, these tactics are never questioned by local media. ABM’s increasingly fantastic and desperate claims against Republicans are never subjected to the “fact-check” apparatus.

And why is that?

Why has MPR, especially their “Fact-Check” operation, “Poligraph”, never systematically looked into ABM’s propaganda?  Catherine Richert?  Mike Mulcahy?  Tom Scheck? Anyone?

Lines Must Be Drawn

To:  The Powers That Be
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  The Future Of Our Civilization

Dear Powers,

Since I, myself, don’t much care if they legalize marijuana – and believe it would actually solve some social problems, beyond its medicinal purposes – the idea of a pot vending machine doesn’t especially faze me.

However, any marijuana legalization, to succeed, must include a provision allowing anyone using the term “Budtender” to refer to Chiba be killed with flaming grease.

That is all.

It’s Donor Season!

Not to joke about the death of young Anand Baskanan, a Long Island transplant who came to Minnesota to work at 3M, and brought his passion for very fast racing motorcyles with him…

…to I394 this past weekend, where he apparently dumped it while racing at 100-120mph one night.  Baskanan died at the scene.  My condolences to his friends and family.

Continue reading

They All Mean The Same Thing Eventually, Don’t They?

 Remember:  the reason the mainstream media is better than all of us bumptious alt-media people is that they have layers and layers of gatekeepers. 

Now, don’t get me wrong; I read h this AP piece in the Strib, about United Airlines cracking down on people hauling refrigerator-sized “carry-on” bags onto their flights, and went “yay”. 

But this sentence here stuck in my craw:

It has nothing to do with revenue, [United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson] said, adding that one non-complaint bag takes up the same space as two complaint ones.

One suspects a bag that generates no “complaints” would take up much less than half the space of two bags that generate complaints. 

Unless the word they were looking for was “compliant”.   Which is a whole different word – indeed, geometrically opposite in this context. 

English in America today: I’m afraid a generation of hasty online spelling means were loosing the standard’s of are language. 

Layers.  Of Gatekeepers.

Duckspeak, Part CXXVIII

Death Panels don’t exist Death Panels always existed, citizen.  And They are a wonderful thing!

(Note to anyone who’s ever worked in health insurance: you know that Death Panels have existed for decades.  It’s called “Care Management”, and HMOs have been doing them since the seventies or eighties. And while the linked article relates to Canada, Obamacare is no different.  I present this mainly as an academic exercise, so you can see if your lefty friends start changing the spin they put out…)

Sowell: “Train!”

So sue me – my dad was a speech teacher.  So I get frustrated at the complete inability of too many Republicans to not only state any message at all, but state is in a way the resonates with people who don’t live and breathe politics for a living.

And so does Thomas Sowell, who is frustrated by the fact that the GOP leadership seems to think the mission is to convince the Beltway:

When Speaker Boehner today goes around talking about the “CR,” that is just more of the same thinking — or lack of thinking. Policy wonks inside the Beltway know that he is talking about the “continuing resolution” that authorizes the existing level of government spending to continue, pending a new budget agreement.

But, believe it or not, there are lots of citizens and voters outside the Beltway. And what is believed by those people whom too many Republicans are talking past can decide not only the outcome of this crisis but the fate of the nation for generations to come.

You might think that the stakes are high enough for Republicans to put in some serious time trying to clarify their message. 

As the great economist Alfred Marshall once said, facts do not speak for themselves. If we are waiting for the Republicans to do the speaking, the country is in big trouble.

The Dems – at least the party as a whole – get it:

Democrats, by contrast, are all talk. They could sell refrigerators to Eskimos before Republicans could sell them blankets.

What they “get” is the first cousin of the old saying, “repeat a big lie often enough and people will believe it”:  

Indeed, Democrats sold Barack Obama to the American public, which is an even more amazing feat, considering his complete lack of relevant experience and questionable (at best) loyalty to the values and institutions of this country.

The Democrats have obviously given a lot of attention to articulation, including coordinated articulation among their members. Some years ago, Senator Chuck Schumer was recorded, apparently without his knowledge, telling fellow Democrats to keep using the word “extremist” when discussing Republicans.

Even earlier, when George W. Bush first ran for President, the word that suddenly began appearing everywhere was “gravitas” — as in the endlessly repeated charge that Bush lacked “gravitas.” People who had never used that word before suddenly began using it all the time.

Today, the Democrats’ buzzword is “clean” — as in the endlessly repeated statement that Republicans in the House of Representatives should send a “clean” bill to the Senate. Anything less than a blank check is not considered a “clean” bill.

The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the responsibility to originate all spending bills, based on what they think should and should not be funded. But the word “clean” is now apparently supposed to override the Constitution.

In the battle for the low-information voter, who leaves the last buzz phrase in the voter’s ear before polling time is the winner.

And Republicans just don’t do buzz-phrases well.

And in a perfect world, where voters and taxpayers paid attention and had, as P.J. O’Rourke put it, “the infinite good sense to give a s**t”, we wouldn’t have to.

That is why I get so impatient with conservative pundits who talk and write about politics like everyone is a member of the Center of the American Experiment.  Lots of good, smart people with conservative inclinations but “independent” politics aren’t.

This Is What Hatred Of Democracy Looks Like

If you had “within minutes” as your entry in the  ”When will the Democrats blame their Colorado rebuke on GOP perfidy pool, you’re a winner.

Democrat National Committee chair Fran Drescher Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is blaming the crushing rebuke at the polls on “Vote Suppression”. 

“The recall elections in Colorado were defined by the vast array of obstacles that special interests threw in the way of voters for the purpose of reversing the will of the legislature and the people. This was voter suppression, pure and simple,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

This has been part of the extremist Democrat playbook since 2000; things that go well for them are signs that democracy works; reverses, on the other hand, are signs that democracy is rotten to the core. 

It’s a play for the low-information voter that still gets their information from CNN – and giving her extremist special interest base an “out” for having been humiliated by Real Americans even after outspending them 3:1.

Linguistic Hit List, Part VI

To:  The World
From: Mitch Berg
Re:  This Say I


This is in re the phrase “What Say You?”.  It’s been popping up a lot in conversation over this past few years. 

What say me?  Me say “It’s a linguistic anachronism that’s become a pretentious cliche”, that’s what me say.

Me say kill with fire.

That is all.


(SCENE:  A lecture room at an esteemed university.  As 30-odd students take their seats and set up their laptops, Professor Evelyn MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS welcomes an older man, Avram COHEYN – a frail 80-something man with thin white hair covered by a Yarmulke.  COHEYN sits on a chair next to the professor’s podium.

MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS:  Class?  (Din gradually subsides).  I’d like to welcome Mr. Avram Coheyn to the class.  He’s a native of Poznan – do I have that right? (COHEYN smiles and nods), and he’ll be talking with us about his experiences in the Holocaust.  I’d like  you to give him your undivided attention, and come up with some good questions for him at the end of his talk.  Mr. Coheyn? 

(Class applauds politely as COHEYN rises)

COHEYN (speaks with faint Polish-Yiddish accent):  Thank you, Professor Munchenberg-Scroggins.  And to all of you, also, my thanks.  I am Avram Coheyn.  In Sosnowiec, Poland I was born, in 1929.  And from 1941 through 1945, in a variety of concentration camps I was kept.  By the Nazis…

(Corey KRETINOWSKI, a 21-year-old political science major, leaps to his feet).

KRETINOWSKI:  Godwin’s Law!  

COHEYN: (Stops, puzzled).

KRETINOWSKI:  Godwin’s Law!  He mentioned Nazis!  (MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS shifts uncomfortably in her seat)

COHEYN:  Er – what is this “Godwin’s Law” of which you speak?  Of this I have not heard…

(Jane PLATT-WANCKER, a severe-looking 22 year old anthropology major, rises): “It’s a law on the internet or something.  When you mention the Nazis  you get banned”

(Ian BIMMLER, a 21 year old Victimology Studies major in a “Che” T-Shirt):  It’s the law that says when an argument goes along, there’s going to be someone who wrecks it with a Nazi reference”

KRETINOWSKI:  So, dude, your argument is shut down because you mentioned the Nazis.

COHEYN:  Er…what?

(Stacy KREEFELD, a 21 year old Womyn’s Studies major with a “Question Authority” button on her Mao cap):  I think it means that your argument is done.

KRETINOWSKI:  Whenever you mention Nazis, everyone gets to tune you out because mentioning Nazis means you don’t have an argument!

(A few students clap, while a few others look on, confused, and others stare blankly at their desktops)

(Bree EPSTEIN, a 20 year old Sociology major, speaks up):  Mr. Coheyn, I don’t mean to lecture, but perhaps you should try to tell your story without any references to Nazis.  It might make your argument better.

COHEYN:  An argument?  What is this, argument?  I’m telling my story!  When I was 13 year old, my family and I were rousted from our home in Poznan, and force-marched through the cold to the railyard, and packed onto trains by the Nazis…

(KRETINOWSKI, KREEFELD and BIMMLER simultaneously yell): Godwin’s Law!  Godwin’s Law!


KREEFELD:  You keep mentioning Nazis!  Godwins Law says that means whatever you’re saying is invalid!

COHEYN:  What?  What is this madness?  Do you mean that saying the name of the…(catches himself)…National Socialist German Workers’ Party (a few students trade puzzled looks) means I get you crazy kids yelling “Godwin whatsis” at me?  This do I have right?

(A few students nod). 

COHEYN:  When I was 15, I escaped from a concentration camp.  A year in the woods I spent, fighting with the Partisans, fighting so that what we went through, my children and their children and my childrens children freynde would never forget – and now, to me you say I can’t say “Nazi”…

(Several students): “Godwin’s Law!”  (A few titters of juvenile mirth follow)

COHEYN: …without your verkachte yapping?  Distinguished professor Munchenberg-Scroggins, for this you have to say what?

MUNCHENBERG-SCROGGINS (Looks up from iPhone):  I can see both sides, here. 

BIMMLER (Shouts):  This is what democracy looks like!

(A few students clap and cheer). 

COHEYN:  What?  Millions died, my family along with – and because of some stupid internet rule, their names I can not mention? 

(Students fidget, looking amongst themselves)

COHEYN:  Because from what happened there are probably some things we can learn!  That there are things we, today, can learn about that ordeal, do you not see?  Huh?

(More fidgeting)

COHEYN:  With this I am finished! 

(COHEYN stomps from the room, as the shadows and sun form, completely at random, a series of shapes on the window that read “While invoking Nazis can be lazy rhetoric, lazy invocations of “Godwin’s Law” are, if anything, a bigger hurdle to effective communication, in that they give the invoker an unearned sense of intellectual accomplishment” before disappearing. )


Conversations I Hope I Hear Someday

WOMAN:  You’re “mansplaining”. 

GUY: Huh?

WOMAN: “Mansplaining”.  When a guys gives a condescending and inaccurate explanation that the assumption that I’m entirely ignorant on the subject matter or topic.

GUY:  You are utterly ignorant of the subject matter and topic.  Our discussion has shown you haven’t the foggiest clue about the subject.  90 degrees removed from literacy.

WOMAN: You’re doing it again.  You’re mansplaining.

GUY: You’re being a whineanist.  You need to unisexshushupandlearnsomething.