The Scandal of the Language of Scandal

by Joe Lavin (

	Perhaps the most significant legacy of the Clinton sex scandal will be
	its contribution to the English language. Is it just me or are there
	brand new euphemisms popping up every day? If someone returned to the
	US after a ten year trip, would he or she have any clue what Dan
	Rather is talking about when he keeps mentioning the "President's
	DNA."  Or the word "arouse." Didn't there used to be a time when you
	didn't immediately think of Bill Clinton when you heard that word?

	And then, of course, there's our esteemed President himself, the
	virtuoso of the English language. I believe him when he says that he
	"technically" didn't lie. He is, after all, the one person alive who
	can probably tell the truth and lie at the same time. Put him on a lie
	detector test, and he would probably pass every time. Technically
	might as well be his middle name. 
	Personally, I'm in awe of the way he only admits to things that nobody
	can actually define. I'm just waiting for him to announce that it
	wasn't a lie in January when he denied having improper relations with
	Monica. "I may have had inappropriate relations with her, but I sure
	didn't have any improper relations." He will announce calmly to the
	nation, after which his approval ratings will surge into the eighties.
	By the way, does anyone out there know exactly what "having
	inappropriate relations" means? "I have a rude aunt. Does that count?"
	My friend Dawn wanted to know the day after the speech. 
	Having said all this, it's time to defend the President for a moment.
	Frankly, the pundits/politicians are starting to get on my nerves.
	Let's face it. The President's speech really wasn't that bad. I'm
	getting sick of hearing everyone complain that he didn't apologize. He
	may not have used the words "sorry" or "apologize," but so what? It
	sure sounded like an apology to me. He said "misled" instead of "lie."
	Big deal. If we're going to quibble about these little details, we'll
	be playing the same game with language that the President plays every
	There is obviously another reason for the disappointment in the
	speech. Just remember that whenever you turn on the television and
	hear people complaining about the President's speech -- that he didn't
	apologize enough, that he shouldn't have attacked Ken Starr, that the
	American people deserve to know the whole truth and nothing but the
	truth -- what they are really expressing is their heartfelt
	disappointment that the President's speech did not contain the word
	This speech was, after all, the biggest entertainment event of the
	summer. (My roommate Anna even made popcorn for it.) We were not there
	for politics. We tuned in because as grossed out as we are by the
	whole thing we wanted to see how much the President would have to
	admit. Sure, we didn't expect any details, but we wanted to be there
	just in case the President of the United States suddenly took out
	diagrams the way Ross Perot used to and dove into all the explicit
	details of his, er, DNA activities. 
	And one final note. Could we please have some sort of moratorium on
	the use of the word "blow" in news reports about this. I don't mean to
	act like Beavis or Butthead here, but for a few days every time I
	flipped past the news there was some reporter exclaiming, "Well, Brit,
	this is a serious blow to the President." I almost wanted to start up
	some sort of drinking game in which you have to drink every time you
	hear a reporter use that phrase. Meanwhile, Orrin Hatch, a Republican
	Senator from Utah and no doubt Chairman of the Senate Pencil-Necked
	Geeks Committee, announced on CNN, "I'm so angry I want to blow my
	cork." Orrin, dude, could we come up with a better metaphor? Please?
	You have speech writers. Use them. 
	At any rate, we all know that the scandal and its $40 million
	investigation is far from over. With our luck, we'll still be watching
	it unfold as we get ready to cross that lovely bridge to the 21st
	century. Talk about a serious blow to the country.  
__________ Copyright 1998 by Joe Lavin

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