Rhetorical Flourishes

Also from the NYTIMES:

A death in the family. A punch to the gut. The announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement felt to me and many people I know like both of those.

Wow, people must really hate their relatives. I have some relatives I’m not close to and don’t particularly like but still death is death. When people die, they are not there any more. It’s still a lot more major than any of this crap.

I understand that this is meant to be a rhetorical flourish. But I encounter it very often these days. People compare some Trump-related outrage of the day to death of relatives and it sounds so weird. I wonder if their family members – especially the ones who are not in great health – take it in their stride. I get it when very young people who haven’t buried anybody yet say this. But middle-aged folks?

The author is somebody who writes for a living. Shouldn’t he be a bit more careful with words?

6 thoughts on “Rhetorical Flourishes

  1. A death in the family is the same as a punch in the gut is the same as the news that SCOTUS gets another conservative? I’d say the latter two are perhaps similar in their effect, but a death in the family is something else entirely.

    The purpose of this particular hyperbole, of course, is virtue signaling. If you drop the third element (SCOTUS), the idiocy of the comparison is still apparent. A death in the family is the same as a punch in the gut? eyeroll

    From a purely stylistic standpoint, it pisses me off when people draw parallels between things that really aren’t alike at all. If your metaphor or a simile is effective, an intelligent person will be delighted by it, appreciative of the insight.
    But so many are just plain bad. For instance, there’s a fellow writer who often asks me for feedback and who loves over-the-top similes. It’s stuff like “Molly had a fever, red and fast like drops of rain on a cactus.”I presume it’s is supposed to be lyrical and deep, but is just plain nonsense.


  2. Oh, I don’t know. It means a conservative super-majority for the foreseeable future and beyond. Last gasp for a lot of hope and if you were ever attached to the idea of reason coming from SCOTUS, this is a pretty definitive end.


    1. “if you were ever attached to the idea of reason coming from SCOTUS”

      Is that really the role of SCOTUS? I’m very much in favor of people and institutions playing their role in the system and no more. The role of SCOTUS is to determine the constitutionality of legislation and/or lower court decisions. And as we all know, legal issues only tangentially rub up against issues of logic or reason (or even fairness at times).

      I’m very far from being constitutional literalist* but I’d be happy if they stuck to their role according to their understanding of the constitution (which means there’s probably a bunch of cases they take on that they shouldn’t but that’s another issue).

      And if RBG had the sense to step down when Obama was in office then this wouldn’t be as strong an issue. I’ve read speculation that she was hoping/assuming Hillary would win so that her resignation would cause the first vacancy to be filled by a woman president – if that’s so then….

      *I belong to the school of thought that the constitution is deliberately vague and a little contradictory in places because its purpose isn’t to provide ultimate answers but rather a framework for arguing issues out.


  3. “It means a conservative super-majority for the foreseeable future and beyond.”

    Yes, it means exactly that. And for those of us who believe that this means that the court will finally start doing its proper job, and will limit itself to interpreting existing legislative law, instead of straining to find non-existent “rights” in the simple words of the actual Constitution, this is a Godsend.

    After all these years, finally a reality-based Supreme Court!


  4. Since I have read many times about the supposedly backward old generation stopping progress, I decided to share this article. Even though it’s from 2012, I believe it’s still relevant:

    // The most commonly said thing about the “Millennial” generation is that it’s more diverse and more tolerant than its predecessors.

    All of this is lead in for a new survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, which polled adults aged 18 to 24 on everything from religion and morality to economic issues and the 2012 election. They also posed questions on race and ethnicity: Does government pay too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities? Is “reverse discrimination” a problem in today’s society? Is demographic change a good thing for American society?

    The results weren’t heartening. Overall, 46 percent of Millennials agree that the government pays too much attention to the problems of minorities, with 49 percent who disagree. 48 percent also agree that discrimination against whites is a genuine problem. When you disaggregate by race and count only white Millennials, the picture is much worse.

    A solid majority of white Millennials, 56 percent, say that government has paid too much attention to the problems of blacks and other minorities. An even larger majority, 58 percent, say that “discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.”



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