Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Slate's Jack Shafer makes an amusing point:

On the occasion of President Gerald R. Ford's death, the press applied the word decent to him so often that it stopped sounding like praise and started to sound like an insult.
Ask the average reporter or commentator to pass quick judgment on somebody who just died and as likely as not they'll reach for something that combines lukewarm praise with an appropriate cliché. If it's a New Englander in the casket, they might go with "flinty." For an African-American, especially if they don't want to go on record as agreeing with him, they'll probably pick "articulate." For a Latino, "industrious" or "passionate." When assessing the sons and daughters of that great flyover territory known as the Midwest, the formula suggests pale platitudes about honor, honesty, and being decent, as long as the word means "adequate" and "just enough to meet the purpose."

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