The Prick of Grammar: State of the Union

There was much to like about last night’s State of the Union Address, and it wasn’t all watching Joe Biden periodically try to make John Boehner lose his prim-mouthed composure in the background. There was the supremely metaphoric spectacle of congressmen in mixed seating trying to get their neighbors to participate in standing ovations. There was Shepard Smith’s on-air meltdown after Chris Wallace corrected him re the date of Bobby Jindal’s commentary (it was two years ago, not last year, and Wallace was not cool about it.) There was Paul Ryan’s response, which was like watching a retarded person recite a poem, and there was Michele Bachmann’s response, which was like watching the wind blow across a Coke bottle. For my money, though, the best part of SOTU was the President’s impassioned defense of the decision to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He segued cleanly from the war in Afghanistan to the universal support for our troops to their ethnic and religious diversity. “And yes, we know that some of them are gay,” he continued. “Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love.” It was a rad turn of phrase, but listening to it I was briefly distracted. That moment’s recognition of dissonance in a harmonious use of language is the subject of today’s possibly-never-recurring feature, in which we analyze the twinge that comes with an error in deliberate speech. I call it The Prick of Grammar, and it starts at 54:54 of the video after the jump.

Continue reading