The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

9 January 2006

Those, um, cheap rhetorical devices

Patterico castigates the Los Angeles Times for a chunk of verbal effluvia set in type:

"On its face, the assertion threatens to undermine the fundamental constitutional principle that it is for Congress to write the laws and for the executive to, well, execute them."

Itís the "well" in that sentence that gets under my skin. It's right up there with "um" on the annoyance scale.

Which prompted the following comment from reader Harry Arthur:

"Um" and "well" are used as means to condescend to the perceived lesser intellectual capabilities of their readers. It's just more of the same smug, "I'm just so much smarter than you" MSM attitude. I call it the "lecture mode" whereupon they deem to reveal some secret "truth" to we unwashed, backwards rubes out in the hinterlands. Unfortunately for them, "Joe Sixpack" sees right through their smug, self-satisfied, condescending twittery.

Inasmuch as one of the more blatant users of this particular rhetorical device is, um, well, yours truly, I demur. For one thing, I'm hardly "self-satisfied." For another, I have a fair number of readers who strike me as being quite a bit brighter than I am, and hardly any who qualify as "unwashed, backwards rubes." (So far as I know, they at least wash.)

Mostly, when you see "um" on these pages, it's a variation on the also-overused <em> tag; it's a combination of "emphasize this" and, where appropriate, "write your own joke." I have faith enough in my readers to believe that they can, and will. And, well, I think Mr Sixpack (and Mr Arthur, should he read this) would notice this immediately.

Posted at 3:30 PM to Blogorrhea


Um, yeah. Which is so much nicer than 'well, duh'.

I've been known to wash occasionally, have most of my own teeth, and right now am even wearing shoes. I know, shocking, but there you have it.

Posted by: rita at 6:19 PM on 9 January 2006

Well, of course they're your own teeth. What on earth would you be doing with someone else's?

(I have a feeling I'm going to regret that.)

Posted by: CGHill at 8:51 PM on 9 January 2006

Hehe. What are you saying, that there's some things about which you should 'neither a borrower or lender be'?

Posted by: rita at 6:39 AM on 10 January 2006

At the very least. (There is an old phrase used among drunken men to describe women they think are undesirable, which involves the borrowing of one such thing — or, more precisely, the refusal to borrow said thing.)

Posted by: CGHill at 7:24 AM on 10 January 2006

I say "well" all the time, but never uh or doh. Does that make me half a smart-ass?

Posted by: miriam at 8:49 PM on 10 January 2006