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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2013/ 21 Tishrei, 5774

When politicians misuse words: Oh, the enormity!

By John Kass

John Kass


JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) It took a Chicago guy named Daley to assess honestly the "enormity" of American politics.

But I'm sure glad he did.

"Even though you're around it for a long time, you don't get a sense of the enormity of it until you get into it," Bill Daley said the other day, explaining why he dropped out of the race for governor of Illinois.

The very next day, possibly because honesty is so contagious, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, a Republican running for governor, told me he appreciates the "enormity" of the governor's job.

"I understand the enormity of the office," said Dillard, in a big voice. "I need to be governor to lead this state and make it work again."

They're not alone. President Barack Obama, thought by some to be one of the great orators of our age, also uses the word.

"I do not underestimate the enormity of the task that lies ahead," Obama said in his famous 2008 speech in Grant Park after he was elected president.

And in January of the next year, at the Lincoln Memorial, he was at it again. "Despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead," he said, "I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure."

Enormity this, enormity that, enormity ahead, enormity behind. The enormity of politics is often difficult to comprehend.

But some readers just can't stand it when political figures — be they Republican or Democrat — use "enormity."

I could almost hear them ripping their hair out as they typed.

"If I hear one more politician use 'enormity' to describe large government, I'm just going to blow my head off," texted one guy.

"Shut up shut up shut up," wrote another taxpayer. "Enormity? Yeah right."

And then this came in over the email transom:

"The word 'enormity" has been used recently and frequently to describe the Illinois governor's job, the electoral process, Illinois state governance and the state of the state in general. I couldn't agree more.

"Enormity is defined as: 1. The quality of passing all moral bounds; excessive wickedness or outrageousness. 2. A monstrous offense or evil; an outrage … John Borling (Maj. Gen. USAF ret.), Rockford."

How can this be? Does "enormity" really mean something large, like government or "political challenges"?



Or does it perhaps mean something hideously sinful and wickedly outrageous, like a government that starves its own people and gorges on their liberty.

Perhaps enormity also could describe my jealousy at all those who get those subsidized Obamaphones — and don't qualify — while I'm stuck with a non-Obama Tribune phone, the one with the cracked screen that cuts big chunks out of my ear.

It's the enormity of it all that confounds me.

According to Webster's, "enormity" is (1) an outrageous, improper, vicious or immoral act. (2) the quality or state of being immoderate, monstrous or outrageous. (3) the quality or state of being huge, i.e., "the inconceivable enormity of the universe."

It is the third definition — the quality of being huge, or perhaps even ginormous — which is most often intended by politicians.

This grates on some people in the same way that it grates on my editor when I use the nonword "irregardless." I know that it's illogical and doesn't mean what people think it means, but I use it anyway to bedevil him.

To assess the enormity of the damage to our culture, I called the University of Chicago's Department of Linguistics, which you should know is the oldest linguistics department in the country. I spoke with the department chairman, professor Chris Kennedy.

He said that once, "enormity" did mean "great wickedness," but these days, most people use it to mean "huge," and they keep insisting it means "huge," so now there's no stopping it.

The last thing I expected was defeatism from a distinguished linguist. So I implored him to do something.

Why can't you stop them?

"We're not soldiers," said professor Kennedy. "We're scientists. ... Language is a hugely complex system, and imperfectly learned by children through hearing adults. Given how our brains work, you can't stop it. It happens."

So now a perfectly fine word like "enormity," which when applied to politics correctly describes the ravenous and malevolent government leviathan, is now lost?

He wouldn't say, exactly.

"Given that the word has two connotations — the contemporary one and this one that's historically (used), Daley made this assertion as a way to explain his actions. The question is: what were his intentions?"

I can't really tell you Daley's intentions, or Dillard's either.

It would be easier to cut federal entitlement spending so we don't go broke and our children don't turn us into crackers just so they'll have something to eat in the bleak future predicted this week by the Congressional Budget Office, than to read the mind of your average politician.

Kennedy explained that words can develop positive or negative meanings over time. As "enormity" became less threatening, a word that rhymes with "witch" — once innocently used to describe a female dog — has been lost to common discourse.

So I mentioned how grandmothers often use the word "suck" to describe something in the negative, when years ago, grandmothers wouldn't even drink beer out of a bottle for fear of being considered crude.

"That's what we should be worrying about, not the language," Kennedy said. "People use the language as a sort of proxy for some of these other cultural issues ... things like whether one ought to be able to have a conversation without using words like 'suck.' There are good reasons to practice decorum in discourse."

And there are good reasons to use "enormity" as it was once intended, regardless of what some people say.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Comments by clicking here.



Previously:



09/11/13 Of dogs, Dems and Damascus
08/19/13 Forget the tears. The Jacksons know they got off easy
08/13/13 Bros filling the void --- with 'My Little Pony'
07/31/13 A serial sexter stays in New York's mayoral race. What’s next?
07/26/13 Show some appreciation for the new prince
05/29/13 Mr. President, save us from Xbox One
05/23/13 Tornadoes sound like eerie silence --- then evil
05/15/13 How the unassimilated are transformed into terrorists
05/07/13 Lives lost mean 'Benghazi' should be more than a political buzzword
04/30/13 American football industry is on its deathbed
04/25/13 Boston terror can't be packaged neatly for American audiences
04/18/13 In the world of acts, the urge to help overwhelms
03/11/13 Senate battle between a libertarian whippersnapper, crotchety establishment
02/25/13 If only Jesse Jr. would have read his own book
02/11/13 Secret drone strikes simplify Obama Doctrine
01/29/13 Making a pet project out of Neanderthals
01/17/13 Spielberg stops 'Robopocalypse,' perhaps on orders of evil master robot
01/07/13 Reality TV, how deep can it sink?
11/08/12 Thanks, voters, for caring enough to argue
11/05/12 It's Romney by a head
11/01/12 Sandy swoops in to save Obama. Should it be allowed to?
10/18/12 The other side of the emergency room curtain
10/15/12 Droopy Chia candidates get a do-over
10/04/12 :Schoolchildren's stomachs rumble; drama queens grumble
10/01/12 : Chia Obama vs. Chia Romney: May the best greenfro win
09/25/12 : With bitter campaign in full swing, you need to watch some movies
08/02/12 : Toasting culture's absurdities
04/24/12: Why do you have to sell your privacy to win?
10/13/11: Stupid things men say to pregnant women
09/26/11: Desk zero: ‘Contagion’ lurks just outside office bathroom
09/08/11: Light up your lottery tickets, pass the Hopium
08/31/11: It was only a paper moon , but a legendary hoax
05/27/11: For 2012, it's Obama vs. the smoothies
05/05/11: Is it time to de-friend Pakistan?
04/12/11: China stretches the bounds of decency with cow-human-breast milk
03/23/11: No you're not in control; get over it
02/28/11: Chicago wanted a strongman, and it got one
01/26/11: Oh, c'mon, c'mon, Rahm-bo a victim? That's a stretch
12/13/10: WikiLeaks and Assange pretend there are no consequences
12/09/10: Trendy toys don't stand up to playthings of yore
10/11/10: Obama and his pals need some scarce Hopium for the next election
09/14/10: Obama gets a little bossy with tacit endorsement of Emanuel
08/18/10: Dead Meat walking, but heat to be applied again
07/28/10: No verdict, but Blagojevich trial still has its winners, losers
07/26/10: Obama's fall guy in Shirley Sherrod case is Vilsack the Pooh
07/21/10: Loathing of Steinbrenner softens after his death
07/19/10: Summertime, and the race cards are easy
06/28/10: Does Congress have the guts to fix what court gutted? Honestly, no
12/17/09: Belt-tightening presidential aspirant leaves room for Spam
09/27/09: ACORN can teach the GOP a thing or 2
09/03/09: Blago as author gets it wrong yet again 06/22/09: Obama's latest political play should shock no one
06/17/09: Presidential satire takes Hopium break
06/11/09: E-Verify works, so, of course, let's not use it
06/09/09: First Lady Macbeth's the man, so in your face, Eminem
06/02/09: Judge Sotomayor would think me most unwise
05/12/09: Parents, enjoy this time, in all its creepiness
03/18/09: Stem cell policy shift brings a sinking feeling
03/09/09: Name That Blago Book contest names its winner
03/05/09: Contest: Name Blagojevich's book
02/16/09: Dems undercut aid for U.S. workers
01/20/09: Let the carving begin on Tombstone's tomb
01/12/09: Obama serves Reid taste of Chicago Way
01/02/09: Jesters don't pick up the race card in a nationally televised news conference and slam it into the face of every Dem in the Senate, a palm heel strike to the tip of the nose, leaving all of them watery-eyed, their lips stinging
12/24/08: Governor waxes poetic, but Combine rolls on
12/23/08: Got corruption? Get Jesse Junior G-Man
12/18/08: Will ‘feditis’ spread to Obama and Daley?
12/15/08: Man behind curtain is wizard of Rod, Rahm

© 2012, Chicago Tribune. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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