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Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Chgo Trib.- Cheney Always 'Hedging' - Is That Like Lying?

-By Warner Todd Huston

Not since Dan Quayle or Spiro Agnew has there been a vice president that the MSM loved to hate so much. Now, the Chicago Tribune is even going so far as to pick apart vice president Cheney's verbal ticks and making fun, or even assigning perfidy to them.

In an article titled, Cheney's usage of `if you will' is `like' hedging, Tribune "cultural critic" Julia Keller, assumes that Cheney's over usage of the phrase "if you will" amounts to him verbally pausing while he thinks up another lie to tell the people, or at the very least amounts to the VP trying to sound smarter than he relly is.

Her piece is filled with jabs at the VP over a simple phrase ... the type of thing nearly everybody does everyday of their lives. I am sure if you think about your own language usage, you'd realize that you, too, have some phrase you use far too often. From the common "Umm", to "like", "You Know" (and its sister phrase, "you know what I mean"), to "cool" or "dude", many of us have such verbal ticks.

Apparently, Mz. Keller, though, feels it isn't right for the VP to have one. It makes him a fuddy-duddy, effete, or "fusty", according to her. She also calls the usage of the phrase "if you will" a "hedge".

Now, she doesn't come right out and say it, but it seems to me that she is trying to hint that she means the interpretation of the word "hedge" to be "lie".

Gregory Pullum, linguistics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz and frequent contributor to the blog Language Log, has opined several times about "if you will," defining it as "a way to signal hedging about vocabulary choice -- a momentary uncertainty about whether the adjacent expression is exactly the right form of words or not."

Cheney, though, is not known for harboring uncertainties about anything, from foreign policy to phraseology. Thus there must be something else going on when he goes to the "if you will" well.

Well? Well, indeed? Keller ends her piece with the thought that Cheney's constant use of "if you will" amounts to his "hedging" because of his "options as a man in a suit are limited" and not because "it makes him sound smart and serious-minded".

In fact, Keller spends quite a bit of time reading a lack of "smarts" or serious mindedness into Cheney throughout her piece. All over a simple verbal tick.

I remember when Spiro Agnew was the favorite target of the News Media in a pre-Watergate Nixon administration. Spiro's most remembered phrase was "nattering nabobs of negativity". Perhaps Agnew's colorful phraseology was something it was easy and not too mean at which to poke, but it WAS, at least, colorful. Making fun of "if you will" as if it were a similar example of the over-the-top rhetoric as Agnew's "nattering nabobs of negativity", however, reeks of the picayunish attacks of small minded reporters that simply hate the VP.

I think I like Spiro's colorful epithets. And I would cast them all at the MSM, those "pusillanimous pussyfooters" of the fourth estate, obsequious Cheney haters all.

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