Monday, December 04, 2006

Little Lord Fauntleroy Will

Subject: Little Lord Fauntleroy Will's Webb Attack

Lord Fauntleroy Hisses Webb Catcall
Pundit Lord Fauntleroy George Will hissed at Senator Jim Webb because Lord George claims Webb desecrated the English language and acted boor to Mr. Bush (“Already Too Busy for Civility” 10/30/06).

In Uriah Heep show of cringing fair play before baring his claws, Will admits that “in his novels and his political commentary, Webb has been a writer of genuine distinction, using language with care and precision.”

Webb’s exchange with the president that inflamed Will occurred “When Bush asked Webb about his Marine son in Iraq: "`How's your boy?’" Webb replied, "`I'd like to get them [sic (Will’s addition)] out of Iraq.’" When the president pressed, "`How's your boy?’" Webb replied, "`That's between me and my boy.’"

Will condemned Webb’s “patent disrespect” to the president for Webb’s swat at Bush’s breezy reference to Webb’s “boy.” Webb’s boy and other sons risk their lives in Bush’s War, waged to iron out oedipal kinks in the dauphin’s relationship with his father.
Which is more boorish: lying a country into a war that kills and maims thousands of American soldiers and Iraqi civilians or Webb’s swat at Bush’s condescending banter about Webb’s son’s Iraq service, coming from a draft dodger who didn’t serve in his own war but hid out in the National Guard?

As soi-disant guardian of the purity of language, Lord George then complains that “just days after winning an election,” Webb “was turning out slapdash prose that would be rejected by a reasonably demanding high school teacher.”

Since I am such teacher, having taught 28 years of college freshman-sophomore English, I assume command from here on in Will’s complaints about Webb’s “slap-dash prose.” I begin by red-penning Will’s feeble passive verb in the foregoing sentence.

Will’s first swipe at Webb’s writing is the feline “sic” inserted in “I’d like to get them [sic] out of Iraq.” Will preens grammar erudition by pinpointing Webb’s pronoun-antecedent agreement error: Webb's referring to “boy,’ singular, with “them,” plural. Will’s grammar bomblet ranks dud because Webb is talking, not writing. Unless a person falls into gross solecisms in speech, such fugitive lapses in grammar as pronoun-antecedent agreement pass muster in that context.

However, if a person makes a pronoun-antecedent error in writing, he deserves nailing. Teacher stands adamant on this point.
Will condemns an error that he himself makes unwittingly. Will has a pronoun-antecedent error in the first sentence of his homily: “That was certainly swift.” Will’s demonstrative pronoun “that’ points back to empty space. It altogether lacks antecedent. Teacher’s red pen marks the blooper.

Lord Will delivers diatribe against two adverbs that Senator Webb used in a piece in the Wall Street Journal: “literally” and “infinitely.” He fixates on what he claims is Webb’s not knowing what the adverbs mean and quotes Alice in Wonderland about assigning words arbitrary meaning. “Words have meanings that not even senators can alter,” bugles Will.

However, Teacher points out that the chief problem doesn’t involve adverbs’ meaning but the plethora of them: Will’s, not Webb’s.

Most people used a small jewel in freshman English: Strunk & White. It condemns superfluous adverbs. While Will castigates Webb’s two adverbs, he piles them up himself: “unfortunately,” “certainly” twice, “particularly,” “suddenly,” “incessantly,” “reasonably,” “only” twice, “actually” three times, “quickly,” “especially,” “newly,” “incessantly,” “insufficiently.”

Superfluous adverbs bestrew Will’s prose hey nonny nonny.
Will’s glut of adverbs make Mr. Strunk and Mr. White roll over in their graves.

Then there are Lord Will’s problems with commas: he overuses them. In “…asked a civil and caring question, as one parent to another,” the comma after “question” ranks redundant. “As one parent to another” is a restrictive adverbial prepositional phrase. My blog has featured Mr. Will’s abuse of commas before and will do so again.

Despite Will’s calculated pose of young pundit blade adorned with perpetual bow tie and blow-dried Fauntleroy hair, the pundit is no longer young. Thus, his use of youthful slang argot— out-of-date slang such as “earth to Webb” or “make waves”—makes him look like an old guy who’s trying to pass for a young guy.

Nothing ranks more ridiculous than a fellow long in the tooth's resorting to slang to disguise geezerdom in his Viagra years. Will should abandon dated jive talk as he approaches King Lear country. This pathetic practice of invoking moss-grown slang makes young people roll their eyes and snicker behind Will’s back.

As to Will’s accusations that Webb admires “his new grandeur,” is one of those leaders who are “insufferably full of themselves,” and comes off a “pompous poseur,” one yields to Lord Fauntleroy Will’s expertise in those areas. George Will swamps all competition for pompous poseur on the written page.

Questionable is Will’s fear that Webb “already has become what Washington did not need another of, a subtraction from the city's civility and clear speaking.” A measure of Washington’s civility is the slurs Will throws at Webb in this pouting piece. To gauge the “clear speaking” of Washington, Will should read Frank Rich’s recent “Has He Started Talking to the Walls?” on Bush’s gutting language of meaning. Bush has used the bully pulpit to convert language into Kafka-speak in Washington and on trips abroad. His abuse of language links with his destruction of Iraq. Webb has little room to gut language of meaning after Bush’s depredations.

Reasonably demanding Teacher will see Master Will in her office after class.

lee drury de cesare
Madeira Beach, FL 33708 727-398-4142

C: Senator Webb


Blogger Matt said...

>Will’s glut of adverbs make Mr. Strunk and Mr. White roll over in their graves. <

glut - singular
make - plural

Wonderful, Teacher! Strunk and White Rule 9: The number of the subject determines the number of the verb.

9:22 PM  
Blogger twinkobie said...

The guy's right on "glut" agreement. I let an intervening prepositional phrase trip me up. lee

9:41 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

If a journalist did it, you'd ridicule them, Lee.

5:56 AM  

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