Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Being brought to life again meant bringing to life as well all those deeply graven reflexes of his style. He had only to pick up his pen and they overpowered him with easy automatism, no more under his control than the jerk of a finger away from a flame

"The style is the man" as the Comte de Buffoon famously vouchsafed, "Le style c'est l'homme même" (it's not entirely clear what he meant by the bit at the end about memes). Given a choice between the two, it is easier to study the style, which only requires a Goofle search, and also the Ethics committees are less complaisant about dissecting the actual man.

Now sometimes you are exposed to a sentence from a particularly self-unaware shite writer, and a word or phrase catches the eye... a dumbprint which the author is parading which such pride that you just know it will appear again and again in his secretions, in the manner of a damaged letter in typewritten text. Like lipstick on the rim of an unwashed pint glass in the Old Entomologist, or the black thumbprint on each slice of bread-and-butter served by a slovenly landlord, you know it will be back.

Cases in point are Jonah Goldberg and his thumbless grasp and Brecht reference, or "racial fides" and "grandees" in Victor Davis Hanson  Also special commendation to anarthrous occupational nominal premodifiers in Dan Brown novels. Perhaps these barbarous turns of phrase are intended as trademarks to protect the authors' text from unauthorised misuse, much as cartographers individualise their maps with fictitious settlements.

In the present red-flag-flying case a Latin tag is followed by English translation:
the Roman consul Lucius Cassius famously asked, “Cui bono?” (“To whose benefit?”)

I had a sheltered childhood in which this would be an insult to the intelligence of one's audience, and an shortcut to non-invitation back to the High Table. Perhaps the author is from a different milieu. Anyway, the recurrences were easy to find:

New Orleans was a dysfunctional city in a state with famously corrupt and incompetent leadership
“I'm a conservative,” [Jeb Bush] famously said, “but I'm not mad at everybody over it.”
Meryl Streep once testified famously before Congress
Clinton political guru James Carville famously insisted
Anne Morrow Lindbergh famously coined the phrase “wave of the future”
The New York Times famously reported on one instance
Holder famously declared in a speech that America is a “nation of cowards”
Clinton famously refused to acknowledge Barbara Feinman, the ghostwriter of her book
Victor Hugo even more famously declared
In Die Lösung Brecht famously quipped

It is as if the writer owns but the single adverb, which he uses unremittingly, like a brutal Victorian Hackneyed-cabman whipping his poor spavined horse. Are there no Societies for the Prevention of Overuse of Adverbs? Does he have no friends to club together and buy him a second adverb? Thirteen sightings from one book-shaped object:

Vanderbilt famously quipped
Lee Billinger, the president of Columbia University, famously declared
Robert Putnam, a liberal sociologist at Harvard, famously found
another famously short egomaniac
Scammon famously defined
Sheryl Crow famously proposed on her Web site
Chesterton famously observed in The Defendant
"Man is born free," Rousseau famously wrote, "but everywhere he is in chains."
Buckley was famously wrong about that
"In religion," Napoleon famously said
"If something cannot go on forever," Herb Stein famously observed, "it will stop."
Robert Ley, head of the Nazi German Labor Front, famously said
When Rabbi Hillel was famously asked to summarize the Torah

I can only hope that should I ever fall into secreting such an unrelieved, featureless stream of wordwooze, then friends and family will let all the air out of my typewriter. The message to his readership seems to be that they lack the education to recognise the fame of each [ quip / declaration / observation / event ] and need the patronising prompt to put them in a suitably reverential frame of mind.
Otherwise I will just blame the Library Pixies for typing the offending words while my attention was distracted elsewhere.

But the Riddled hospitality is unstinting and here's a longer series of sightings from a second collection of pages:

those progressive liberal journalists who famously looked out for the little guy
[Mussolini] famously responded to those who wanted specifics from him
most famously, got the "trains running on time."
Hermann Rauschnigg, an early Nazi who broke with Hitler, [...] famously dubbed
Hitler and countless other soldiers famously protested
[Bismarck] famously told the Reichstag in 1862
Bertrand Russell famously saw through the charade
He bravely fought his condition, most famously at the spa
"Take a method and try it," he famously declared
Roosevelt most famously utlized the radio
"Martial virtues," James famously wrote, "must be the enduring cement" of American society
Roosevelt's inaugural address was famously drenched with martial metaphors
Werner Sombart famously asked
the inexperienced bomb makers famously blew themselves up
JFK famously inherited this ambition from his father
More famously , [Laski] became one of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes's [sic] closest friends
"It's my job," Holmes famously declared
[Holmes] concluded by declaring, famously
Isaiah Berlin famously argued that fascism was the progeny of the French reactionary
Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, famously declared
Bush is famously pro-immigration
Philip, the famously progressive governor of Wisconsin
Lionel Trilling famously reduced conservatism to a series of "irritable mental gestures which seem to resemble ideas."

Do you think he knows he’s doing that? Maybe it’s a nervous tic or something, an "irritable nervous gesture". Let's wind up with one final example. This one's a twofer. In the absence of proper documentation for the precedence order of adverbial operators, it is not clear how to parse it.

Huey Long famously said -- or allegedly famously said -- that if fascism ever came to America it would be called "Americanism."

Allegedly famously. I'm going to stare at that sentence while it thinks about what it's done wrong.


H. Rumbold, Master Barber said...

flatulethes scribendi

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Given the author, may I suggest "fatuous" as a second adverb?

Another Kiwi said...

Roosevelt's inaugural address was famously drenched with martial metaphors
Ah the famously famous When The Metaphors Turned up and wee'd on the Pretzeldent's speech, incident.
One the most feared biker gangs The Metaphors struck fear into everyone's heart like a prune into stout.

M. Bouffant said...

Swifties all the way down. Well, a Swifty, straight to hell.

Smut Clyde said...

Just changed the Poorman link to the Wayback Machine's archived copy. All praise the Wayback Machine!!

rhwombat said...

I presume the library pixies have to jump onto each key of the giant typewriters individually? Humph! Pixilation meant something back then, not like today's yuof, with their damn designer hallucinogens.

Smut Clyde said...

They enjoy their Archie-&-Mehitabel cosplay.

rhwombat said...

ain't that archie and mehitabel question mark. or have those dang kids found out about the CAPS LOCK YET?