Re: Political syntax
Sometimes this may result in a distinction without a difference. This is
the case (for me at present) when considering "only". "I only have $5"
could mean "the only thing in the world that I possess is $5". But "I have
only $5" could mean "I have nothing in the world except $5". I don't see
how to represent these as two different situations.
In the case of
"I believe the world is not flat" vs.
"I do not believe the world is flat",
there is clear distinction: The distinction between belief in a lack of
flatness, and lack of belief in flatness. In some times and places
not(believes X) vs (believes (not X)) could be a life or death difference.
To the context of my example: "I never remember X" has come up relatively
frequently in interviews with public figures on the Sunday morning talk
shows, or in similar venues. The case that triggered my note occurred (if
I recall correctly) during the Republican candidates' debate on MSNBC last
Thursday. Unfortunately I don't (right now!) recall which candidate said
it. The second most recent incident that I recall was last Sunday on 60
Minutes when George Tenant was saying that he didn't remember any meetings
where the rational for invading Iraq was discussed (or words to that
effect)-- "I never remember any meetings like that." This is clearly a
case where a close paraphrase is "those meetings might have occurred, and I
might have remembered them, but I never do." Possibly a true statement,
but a strange way to phrase "I don't remember any meeting like that." I
can't help thinking this is a "phrase of art," and he wanted us to believe
"I remember that there were no meeting like that."
On the other hand, Gonzales explained a similar situation in a recent
congressional hearing, when he said something to the effect "I don't
remember that meeting, but I've come to believe that I attended it."
On Sun, May 06, 2007 at 12:27:25AM -0400, John F. Sowa wrote:
> John V. and Bob,
> That construction seems to be related to a common
> syntactic feature of English:
> JV> Lately I've noticed quite often that a politician
> > or bureaucrat says "I never remember X" when he or she
> > seems to want us to believe "I remember that never X".
> > Why say "I never remember..." when "I don't remember X"
> > would do?
> In English, it is common to move a qualifier from the
> direct object in front of the verb. Instead of saying
> I have only five dollars.
> I believe the world isn't flat.
> it is common to say
> I only have five dollars.
> I don't believe the world is flat.
> But I agree with Bob Parks:
> RP> Could you give a concrete example for analysis? Often the
> > context helps to understand the possible motivations for odd syntax.
> John Sowa
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