A petard is an explosive charge, not a flagpole

The president sits comfortably on a little box he found.

People sometimes asks me why Combat! blog is not more popular. These people are themselves nerds, consumed by questions of esoteric knowledge while carefree personal trainers make their spouses feel attractive and fun. They have no sense of the common reader’s interest, whereas I, who operate without illusions but with Google analytics, know this blog will never be widely read. All sorts of interesting things that the general public wants to know about are happening on the internet, from Kardashians to one weird trick that cuts belly fat. But I can’t stop thinking about this quote from former White House aide Ronald Klaine, in this Times story on President Trump’s lackluster first 100 days:

“If Trump finds himself hoisted on the 100-day test, it is a petard that he erected for himself.”

First of all, way to avoid the natural conclusion of this sentence, “…a petard of his own erection.” That would probably be too good for this world. But I must find fault with Klaine’s locution anyway, because he has made a common mistake. A petard is not erected. A petard is a small explosive charge used to blast a hole in a wall or door. Recondite knowledge after the jump.

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Can we talk about this Chelsea Clinton headline in WaPo?

Chelsea Clinton during her R-rated comedy tour “Blue State”

Chelsea Clinton was a featured guest at Variety’s Power of Women Luncheon in New York on Friday. Presumably, she reminded the women in attendance that they could do anything they set their minds to if they worked hard, stood up for their beliefs, and were the daughters of former US presidents. Let us not pretend that C. Clinton has achieved anything. There is nothing wrong with her, but she’s not inspiring. She’s a child of privilege who has held various sinecures. Normally I wouldn’t be a jerk about that, but she’s been all over the news lately, sometimes with rumors she will run for Congress. Let’s not do that, you guys. Let’s not make nepotism a more powerful force in American politics than it already is. And above all, let us not pretend that Chelsea Clinton has been persecuted or otherwise treated unfairly. I direct you to this headline in the Washington Post: An SNL star made an awkward Hillary joke at a luncheon. Chelsea Clinton went high. Props to Stubble for the link. It captures at least three bad narratives currently at large in American public discourse. Close reading after the jump.

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United issues statement after dragging passenger off overbooked flight

A seemingly unconscious passenger is dragged off UA flight 3411.

It’s a good thing United Airlines recently changed its slogan from “fly the friendly skies” to “get knocked unconscious and dragged off the plane,” or they might be vulnerable to ribbing. Last night, passengers on flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville were asked to volunteer f0r a later flight so that four members of another United flight crew could take their seats. Two passengers volunteered and received $800 vouchers. The airline randomly selected another passenger for removal: a man who said he was as a physician scheduled to see patients in Louisville the next day and refused. Eventually, security officers pulled the man screaming from his seat, apparently knocking him unconscious before dragging his limp body down the aisle. Seriously. Here’s a statement from United:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.

Classic use of the passive voice here: The flight “was overbooked,” so law enforcement “was asked” to manhandle one of United’s customers. By whom we cannot know—probably the same disembodied forces that created the “overbook situation.” But perhaps the most thrilling part of this statement is its bold new use of the words “volunteer” and “voluntarily.” Close reading and fairly disturbing video after the jump.

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Kids! Can you find everything wrong with this tweet from the president?

A freak of nature that simultaneously fascinates and repels, and a caterpillar

Remember when Franklin Roosevelt entranced the nation with his fireside chats? Me neither, but I’m told it was nice. I bet our grandparents did not feel the same apprehension, gathering around the radio, that I feel opening Twitter each morning. I wonder what the president will say today, I think, unlocking my phone with the same demeanor a daylight alcoholic brings to unscrewing a bottle. Here’s what the leader of the free world tweeted today to 27 million followers, including me:

Kombat! kids: Can you find everything that’s wrong with this tweet? Just use a marker to circle the errors right on the screen. It doesn’t matter. None of this matters. Close reading after the jump.

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Close Reading: Trump’s “not” joke

Remember a few months ago when we said Combat! blog wasn’t going to be about politics anymore? That was before a cartoon character got elected president. Not the good kind of cartoon character, either—Donald Trump is like a character in one of those nineties cartoons where everyone is bored and sarcastic. He’s the guy who doesn’t move the plot forward but says what we’re all thinking, i.e. what a marketing team thinks children are thinking. In that vein, the President of the United States executed a “not” joke on Twitter yesterday:

 


Although he does not play the “not” joke strictly according to Hoyle, this tweet is a significant achievement. He manages to make “not!” into a Trumpian exclamation. But there’s a lot of other stuff going on, too, and that’s why this tweet is the subject of today’s Close Reading.

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