The Grammatical and Political Passive Voice

Let’s kick off this post by first defining terminology / going grammatical…

Passive Voice: “A form or set of forms of a verb in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb (e.g. They were killed as opposed to the active form He killed them).”

In other words… speaking, writing and even blogging passively tends to imply a timid, noncommittal state of mind. It is to wimp out. This could even be interpreted thusly…

“Somebody is forcing me to say this.”
“I don’t really shive-a-git!”

Let’s now apply our discussion to the actual sentence structure of a 35 word count passage excised from a Donald Trump speech.

Space/Time: Washington DC’s White House Diplomatic Room  / August 5, 2019
Subject Matter: This past weekend’s domestic terrorist attacks in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Said the reined in by a teleprompter, deadpanning Donny…

“In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

To Monday Morning Quarterback this (OK… technically it’s actually Tuesday): Owing to Donny’s [1] slow burn delivery of passive grammar (tantamount to blurting out, “Somebody is forcing me to say this!”) and [2] his stiff, sniffing, squinty-eyed demeanor / body language, one has to wonder…

[1] Just how much more grammatically and politically passive could he have gotten?
[2] Could we ever expect anyone who either cannot or chooses not to speak in the active voice to actively defeat racism, bigotry, and white supremacy?

A real president… i.e., one who possesses clarity of mind, amity / charity of heart and purity of soul would be able to effortlessly raise his active voice to say…

“I flat-out condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. I fully acknowledge that my own past words and deeds have both played a role in promoting these sinister ideologies and the abject hatred that warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul of my homeland… of our world. Hate has no place anywhere within a civilized society and it is my heartfelt hope that everyone… throughout America and our world… can and will find the desire… within their heads and hearts… to follow my lead… so we can join together to forever wipe the scourge of hatred off the face of the Earth.”

The difference between a fake and genuine leader oft, respectively, can be measured by the discernible difference between the passive and active voice he speaks in.

 

 

 

 

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Hey Burrzil [sic]… Should We Pertest [sic] This?

 

FULL DISCLOSURE: To be monolingual is not something I am particularly proud of. Worse yet, there have been a few occasions where I’ve not even done full justice to my own native tongue… e.g., mispronouncing / misspelling words. Mrs. H, my high school sophomore English teacher, once publicly humiliated me in the classroom… right in front of dozens of my peers. But… in retrospect… I am indebted to her for she had spared me far worse embarrassment later on… oh… say… during that all-important job interview where first impressions always matter.

The inescapable truths… [1] we learn to enunciate from the way words are spelled (and vice versa) and [2] we must remain dilligent to ensure our errors are the exception and not the rule.

Of course, such truths are not always self-evident to all. Let’s explore this further…

In my homeland, what little that’s left of trustworthy reportage is left in the capable, learned hands of National Public Radio (NPR) personnel. We, their levelheaded listeners, can find little fault with their relevant, informative, reality based, reliably sourced, fact checked news content. Would one not expect such qualities to go hand-in-hand with a firm grasp on something as elementary as grade school taught phonics? Not so.

While NPR’s on-air journalists / staff announcers all speak, otherwise, letter / picture perfect English, how is it even possible that they so persistently mispronounce nearly every last damned word prefixed with “PRE” and “PRO”… i.e., as if the first three letters are “PER”?

The most flagrant error I can cite was a reporter’s mispronunciation of the word protestor… his mutilating it into the non-word “pertestor”. Seeing how he had repeated this error several times within the same story, how could that possibly be some random slip of the tongue?

Such flubs also occur when news coverage focuses upon current events transpiring in Berzil… Burrzil… oh… wait a minute… they must be talking about South America’s Brazil.

True, those of us, who know better, can auto-correct. But what about some just-starting-out-in-life, intellectually curious student? What if this child starts to wonder where in the world Berzil / Burrzil is located? Based, solely, upon the mispronunciation, it would be difficult to locate that land in any of our atlases. And, that would probably be frustrating as hell. Oh, eventually… either independently or via a parent/teacher intervention… the kid would find out… but… would it not be more efficient to correct phonics flubs prior to On-Air / Internet transmission?

SIDEBAR: I totally stumped WordPress spellcheck with both spellings… i.e., Berzil and Burrzil. If AI cannot figure this out… hmm… maybe this problem is far bigger than we think?

We still need to dig a bit deeper into this name game issue, too.

In a sense… in our post 9/11 world… where there’s a veritable alphabet soup of new-to-us names of nations (and leaders, too), have we not all become just-starting-out-in-life, intellectually curious students? Which does beg the question…

Just how can any of us be certain both NPR and we are even pronouncing everything correctly when their reporters cannot even properly pronounce Brazil?

To help NPR air personnel avoid embarrassing themselves further, what management really needs to do is hire a team of overseers who could channel Mrs. H’s brand of educational tough love!