Why Minutiae Might Not Matter

Everyone knows that words matter. All it takes is a simple turn of phrase or a well-placed capitalization to make a point. In reading Penn Jillette’s new book, God, No! and Other Signs You May Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (book review coming Friday), Penn makes his atheism apparent not only by stating it several times throughout the book (and constantly name-dropping Hitchens and Dawkins), but also by refusing to capitalize the words “god,” “lord,” and “savior” when referring to Christianity.

It’s undeniable fact that words can be used for good or evil. It’s also an undeniable fact that, for the most part, people are reading into an agenda or argument that really isn’t there.

I was referred to an article on the Huffington Post where Sean Hannity ridicules President Obama’s intelligence because he mispronounced a word three times in a recent speech, pronouncing “corpsman” as “corpseman.”

I’m a firm believer of “things happen.” Sometimes you know how words are said but not how they’re spelled. I’ll freely admit that I had never seen the word “indictment” until I reached college, and felt like an idiot when I asked the person next to me what an “in-dickt-ment” was. I had used the word several times in conversation, and have heard it whenever the news was on in the background, but I had never seen the word. Obama probably had a similar situation. I’m not saying he did, I’m not saying he didn’t, but at this point, anything is possible.

I found another instance of this sort of nitpicking while browsing through the Fox Nation Twitter feed. It brought me to a tweet with proof that Obama can’t write. The link leads to an article from the American Thinker, which accessed a letter from 1990 that Obama wrote for the Harvard Law Record. Jack Cashill, author of the article, says that the letter is “classic Obama: patronizing, dishonest, syntactically muddled, and grammatically challenged.”

Common sense would lead me to think that the article is poorly worded and rambling, with many spelling and grammatical errors, indicating that Obama wrote this letter in a drunken rage, and probably used the word “poopyheads” a few times in reference to critics of whatever he was writing about. But it’s much worse than that. To quote the article:

In the very first sentence Obama leads with his signature failing, one on full display in his earlier published work: his inability to make subject and predicate agree.

“Since the merits of the Law Review’s selection policy has been the subject of commentary for the last three issues,” wrote Obama, “I’d like to take the time to clarify exactly how our selection process works.”

If Obama were as smart as a fifth-grader, he would know, of course, that “merits … have.” Were there such a thing as a literary Darwin Award, Obama could have won it on this on one sentence alone.

Really? A common grammatical error? That’s proof that Obama can’t write? Funny story–I can use the same tactic against you in the very same article:

Although his description of the Law Review’s selection process defies easy comprehension, apparently, after the best candidates are chosen, there remains “a pool of qualified candidates whose grades or writing competition scores do not significantly differ.” These sound like the kids at Lake Woebegone, all above average. (Emphasis added)

Clearly, if Cashill had done ANY kind of research, he would know that Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town is spelled Lake Wobegon. Clearly, anything Cashill wrote in this article can’t be trusted and should wholly be ignored if he can’t even spell a well-known fictional town correctly.

The point is, sometimes the little things matter, but for the most part, they don’t. Gaffes happen, and they shouldn’t be constantly thrust in the spotlight, because all it does is clutter the airwaves for more important issues.

It’s like the old saying goes, “Stick and stones may break my bones, but words can prove that you’re an incompetent loser.” Or something like that.

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2 Responses to “Why Minutiae Might Not Matter”

  1. Matthew of Canberra Says:

    I’m no expert, but is it possible that “merits”, used as legal term, might actually be a singular? It might be archaic, but I’m not entirely convinced yet that he’s necessarily wrong. What we need is a jurisprudence scholar.

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