Home > Pre-Japan > Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones…

…but your words are hurting my brain!

Part One

You know how politicians are generally reviled for their ability to say one thing, and do the other? I’d give an example, but frankly when I did a search my brain was overwhelmed and shut down for a few seconds. I will trust you all to know at least one example of this political “doublespeak”, to use a “1984” term.

Reading the New York Times Magazine this morning, I flipped to the section they have called: “On Language.” It’s a great column, and everyone should read it. That’s besides my point, though. This particular column, among other things, talked about how politicians use words, one word in particular.

And I quote:


Previously known for its six syllables of sweetness and light, reconciliation has become the political fighting word of the year.

Months ago, the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, hinted that a procedural step known as reconciliation might be used to turn the coming annual budget bill — which the Congress must pass — into a vehicle for major legislation. If the House and Senate, both in Democratic control, were to agree to “reconcile” differences in an overall budget bill, then the Republican minority in the Senate might not be able to assemble the votes to filibuster it. The Times’s politics blog headlined Reid’s veiled threat “Senate Leader Wants Budget Maneuver That Riles Republicans.”

Reconciliation became a word of political warfare in the post-Watergate atmosphere. As president, Nixon cut Congressional spending by “impounding” appropriations; in 1974, Congress reclaimed its budgetary power from a weakened presidency with the “Impoundment Control Act,” which introduced the reconciliation device. With the next decade’s rise of Reagan Republicans, however, turnabout was seen as fair play: reconciliation’s steamroller became the G.O.P.’s method of avoiding the filibuster of widespread tax reduction. Now, with Republicans in the minority denouncing “fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as health care reform” as “a disservice” and “purely partisan,” Democrats in control smile and say, “Reagan did it.”

In nonpolitical use, the word means “the process of restoring friendly relations between persons or nations, promoting unity and peace.” The O.E.D. dates it to the 14th century, as “the action of restoring humanity to God’s favor.” Now, like the “Janus verbs” sanction, table and cleave, this gentle noun has gained a second meaning the opposite of its first. I heard one Republican strategist resurrect a sanguinary phrase made famous by Senator John McCain in 2000, adapting it thus: “If they try to use the reconciliation trick to avoid debate on a trillion-dollar deal, there’ll be ‘blood all over the floor.’ ”


Now, not only are politicians saying one thing and doing the other, they are using words that mean one thing, and making them into words that mean something totally different! I don’t even know how to classify this…if saying one thing and doing another is doublespeak, what is this? Well, it’s plain stupid. I just had to share this part of the column with you, because it amused me to no end. The use of this word in this way can lead to many fun sentences, such as:

“Your movement towards reconcilation is going to require a lot of reconciliation to fix.” HUH?!

“If you use reconciliation, you will be ruining our relationship.” WHAT?!

“Can we please just reconcile our differences before you start using reconciliation to make everything bad again?” WHAT THE WHAT?? as Becca would surely say.

The English language is difficult enough to learn as it is. Let’s not make it any more difficult by adding the worst aspects of Japanese and Chinese (Having words that sound the same mean two or three different, often opposite things.)

Part Two

Entirely unrelated to Part One, yet equally as frightening! I have been in contact with my predecessor concerning my apartment in Japan. According to him, my apartment will look like this:

Why is it blank, you say? Well, because there will be nothing in my apartment. Not even, apparently, light fixtures. From his experience, his first night he had some blankets and a flashlight. I may indeed look into bringing along a sleeping bag, if I can fit it into my suitcases. Now, as many of you may have noticed, especially when I write, I tend to exaggerate both events, and the emotions which these events evoke in me. I am, in fact, kind of excited about this, as it will test my mettle and determination, and my ability to go a few nights without sleeping on anything that one can call remotely soft. At least I’m arriving in the summer, so I won’t need to stay warm, and, as my predecessor noted, “Look at it this way, your apartment will be really clean.” I certainly can’t argue with that!

And yet, it makes me wonder what, exactly, the JET program and my contacts in Japan are thinking about when such a situation occurs. Not only are we moving into a new apartment, which generally is stressful enough, we are moving across the world to a country which speaks a language entirely opposite ours, with the ability to bring only two suitcases, most of which has to be filled up with souvenirs for them. I am sure they will be incredibly helpful, going shopping with me, helping me get everything I need, but really this is unnecessarily stressful, especially if I don’t have a bed to sleep on the first night. It doesn’t make me feel very warm and fuzzy. Well, I will feel warm because it will be 120 degrees and humid as heck, but I won’t feel very fuzzy. Unless my blankets will be fuzzy. OKAY! So it doesn’t make me feel good. Stupid expressions.

Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. Winnie
    July 14, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Dash ur going to b fine with ur apt. comcerning the bed get a inflatable mattress or a pad people tend to use for caming (if you doing know what i am talking about i can show u another time) space saver too. if you have a very small place grab furnatures that are multitaskers like a coffe table you could use as ur desk AND as storage. Its all about being smart with ur space (how i would LOVE to design it 😀

    • Dash
      July 14, 2009 at 3:48 pm

      Like I said, I tend to exaggerate. It’s just a little strange is all

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