Tuesday, June 19, 2007

As Daffy Duck might say, "pronoun trouble."

Hello to the Czechs! Yesterday's movie review captured your interest.

Howdy to the kiwis! Nice to have you on board.

For today's sermon, I take as my text this quote from Our President I found on my George W. Bushisms daily calendar, which he said on February 5, 2001.

"I confirmed to the prime minister that we appreciate our friendship."

Let's parse this sentence, shall we? It is a complete sentence. It's got a subject and a verb. In fact, there are two subjects and two verbs, one pair before the word that and one pair after and they both agree. Still, it's like one of those SAT questions where you are asked to find the error, or a sentence you have to correct for someone who speaks English as a second language.

"I confirmed to the prime minister" translates fairly as "He asked and I told him." It's the "we appreciate our friendship" part that then gets a little shaky. With all the languages I know, which includes a little Spanish, Italian, French and German, there are major problems with first person plural pronouns. When I say "we"or "our", is the listener included in the group? If I use these pronouns twice in a sentence, am I referring to the exact same group of people each time?
If "our" means "the United States' and Canada's", then "we" should mean "the United States and Canada", which means the Decider was telling Chr├ętien not only how the U.S. feels about them, but also how they feel about us. If we look at this picture where Chr├ętien grooms Bush like a lower dominance monkey, maybe that is really what he meant. Maybe Bush meant "we" to mean "the people of the United States", which is a possibility, but then the second use of a pronoun causes confusion, since it's hard not to include Canada in the phrase "our friendship".

It's not a political statement to say that George W. Bush has trouble with the English language. His dad could wander around in a sentence for many a happy minute without ever getting a subject and a verb to meet, but with W. the problems are more about awkward usage that conveys double meanings and gaffes that make it look like English is his second language, like "Is our children learning?"

Here's my hypothesis. The drugs cooked his brain a little. I take as another example, and a far worse one, Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzy had a reality TV show earlier this decade, and the difficulty in understanding him became a national joke. On the other hand, there is a movie from 1988 called The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, and Ozzy is interviewed at length and is much more lucid than he is some fifteen years later.

Please note: I'm not saying that Bush's drug use was on a par with Ozzy's. I think it's a much milder version of the same problem. Also, there are plenty of stories of Bush's early education difficulties prior to his romance with alcohol and other substances. He may have inherited some of his odd brain wiring from his dad, and his less than stellar record in school due to laziness and a sense of entitlement also didn't help, but I think you have to add in the drugs to get the full package that creates a guy who can fill a one-a-day calendar with authenticated quotes that make him look stupid seven ways from Sunday.


Jess Wundrun said...

I had one of those calendars last year. I doubt they repeat, so I'm sure he fills many many more than one year's worth of one-a-day gaffes.

Matty Boy said...

I think they do repeat some. If you got one of these and Is our children learning? wasn't there, you'd feel cheated.

Jess Wundrun said...

I wonder if later versions will have the update "is they, I aks you? Is they?"

Anonymous said...

As long as he does nothing, his masters are satisfied. If he looked intelligent, it would be difficult to sit there and be ineffectual. As he is, no one wonders...they can't believe that he can tie his shoes...