Language column roundup
William Safire talks about diplolingo, namely the sensitivity surrounding Israelis' pullout from the Gaza Strip. Prime minister Ehud Olmert struggled with what to call the move that didn't make it sound like a retreat or abandonment. He came up with hitkansut, Hebrew for coming together. But what should it be called in English? (He also mentions a related article from the Washington Times, "Olmert Asks for a Word With Bush: Aides Settle on 'Realignment.'")
After hearing Bush use opinionating ("You pay attention to all the sharp elbows being thrown and you know, the people opinionating and screaming and hollering and calling each other names. But there is a consensus emerging on this issue.") in a speech on immigration, Jan Freeman discusses whether the verb is legit. It was standard English 400 years ago and serves a useful purpose, she says. And for those of you saying opine does just fine, thanks, consider the difference between comment and commentate.
Using the Democrats' new slogan, "Together, American can do better," as a launching board, Geoffrey Nunberg discusses the differences in the parties' buzz words. This line makes me laugh and cry: "The very ungrammaticality of the Democrats' slogan reminds you that this is a party with a chronic problem of telling a coherent story about itself, right down to an inability to get its adverbs and subjects to agree."
The past tense of sneak is still sneaked, but probably not for long. So says Barbara Wallraff. She also discusses the problem with picking a third-person pronoun. No matter what you go with -- he, she or they -- someone will be unhappy.
James Kilpatrick is ready to commit "linguistic euthanasia" on shall and awoke. He quotes an editing great: "John B. Bremner, a beloved (and terrifying) professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, said in 1985 that except in England 'the distinction between "shall" and "will" is moribund.'" Kilpatrick never discusses what that distinction is, though. (Interested? See Fowler's lengthy discussion.)