The Scandal of the Language of Scandal
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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