Jewish World Review June 27, 2002 / 17 Tamuz, 5762

Richard Lederer

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Suppository questions | Chicago mayor Harold Washington carved out a niche in the Mixed Metaphor Hall of Shame when he explained to the local press the objective of his planned news conferences: "It has been our purpose all along to have a sort of a periodical potpourri to cover all of this flotsam and jetsam that flies through the media that can get nailed down on a regular, periodic track. So in a sense, that can be interpreted as open sesame, but don't throw darts."

The word politics   derives from poly, "many," (as in polytheism  and polyglot, and ticks, "blood-sucking parasites." Here are classics of poly-tickle science:

  • A Louisiana lawmaker, loudly opposing a bill for the benefit of dependent children, shouted, "To hell with posterity. What's posterity ever done for us?" A state representative from Jackson, LA. complained (when opposing an apparently popular measure), "I can't believe that we are going to let a majority of the people decide what's best for this state." Other Louisiana legislators have been recorded as saying "I don't want to beat a dead horse to death" and "This mortality rate is killing us," and "I am not sure I understand the question, but I agree with you."

  • A political candidate confronted by questions from a Philadelphia reporter begged off, saying, "Candidly I cannot answer that. The question is too suppository."

  • A West Virginia pro-life legislator, advocating tough antiabortion legislation, stated that he was opposed to abortion except when necessary to save the life of the mother or the child.

  • A New Hampshire congressman declared, "What the people of this state deserve is clean, fresh, wholesome pasteurized milk. And I'm going to the State House and take the bull by the horns until we get it."

  • Explaining why he would never return to Washington, Defense Secretary Bobby Ray Inman metaphorized, "I came to a fork in the road and I took it."

  • Reacting to the NFL pulling the Super Bowl out of Arizona, Senator Dennis DeConcini riposted, "Those who throw rocks in glass houses had better look at yourself."

  • White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater observed, "The highly fortified chemical weapons are dangerous and becoming more so."

  • Leave it to Washington mayor Marion Barry to say, "Outside of the killings, we have one of the lowest crime rates in the nation."

  • U. S. Senator Barbara Boxer announced, "Those who survived the San Francisco earthquake said, 'Thank G-d I'm still alive. But, of course, those who died, their lives will never be the same again.'"

  • When he was governor of New Hampshire, John Sununu mangled a metaphor thusly: "The bankers' pockets are bulging with the sweat of the honest working man."

  • Former Secretary of the Treasury John Connally explained, "In the early sixties, we were strong, we were virulent."

  • A New Mexico state senator told the governor, "The ball is in your camp now."

  • A newly elected Justice of the Peace in New Mexico, asked to enforce a law prohibiting cohabitation without benefit of marriage, pronounced, "That would be like looking through a needle for a haystack."

  • A member of the Michigan House of Representatives noted, "The House will not allow you to circumvent the rules unless you do it right."

I don't mean to cast asparagus, but when politicians circumvent the rules of the English language, they certainly do it right.

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JWR contributor Richard Lederer is a language maven. More than a million of his books, which have been Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild alternate selections, are in print. He is the host of "A Way With Words," on KPBS, San Diego Public Radio, and a regular guest on weekend "All Things Considered." He was awarded the Golden Gavel for 2002 by Toastmasters International. Comment by clicking here.


06/20/02: George Orwell is looking at you
06/06/02: Jest for the health of it
05/30/02: It is truly astonishing what havoc students can wreak on the chronicles of the human race
05/16/02: A bilingual pun is twice the fun!
05/09/02: What's in a president's name?
05/03/02: Slang as it is slung
04/25/02: Abstemious words
04/19/02: This Riddle Isn't Letter-Perfect

© 2002, Richard Lederer