Fact-dodging Geoff Nunberg

Sez he:

The fact is that the right owns those object+present participle compounds, as surely as it owns values, media bias, the lapel-pin flag, and sentences that begin with “See….” In fact you could trace the whole history of the right’s campaigns against liberals via those compounds — from tree-hugging and NPR-listening back through the Nixon era’s pot-smoking, bra-burning, draft-dodging, and America-hating, until you finally excavate the crude origins of the trope in nigger-loving, the ur-denunciation of white liberal sentimentality.

As Mr Nunberg points out in his next para, he’s actually talking bollocks (or linguifying): the right does not “in fact” have–and has never had–a monopoly over the construction. Moreover, corpora parts can be readily found which demonstrate that its use predates considerably Mr Nunberg’s ur-slur and that claims of its genesis on the political right are pure fantasy. The oldest example I know is Richard complaining of a lack of love in Shakespeare Richard II (“all” is the king’s perhaps over-ambitious version of the royal “we”):

This music mads me; let it sound no more;
For though it have holp madmen to their wits,
In me it seems it will make wise men mad.
Yet blessing on his heart that gives it me!
For ’tis a sign of love; and love to Richard
Is a strange brooch in this all-hating world.

Man-hating” also turns up a number of times before “nigger-loving” makes its first appearance, and it’s used to refer to misanthropists, not to feminists, suggesting that, to the extent current meanings of words like “liberal” can be projected backwards in time or across borders, the object+present participle compound was first a liberal tool. Put simply, you can’t “trace the whole history of the right’s campaigns against liberals [back] until you finally excavate the crude origins of the trope in nigger-loving”, and if liberal intellectuals think that slandering conservatives as racists is a smart option, then they really are in trouble.
Update: Mr N has updated. He now acknowledges (although you wouldn’t necessarily notice) that his trope didn’t have its “crude origins” in “nigger-loving”. Since he owns Marchand and clearly knows it well, I’m surprised he didn’t mention this salient fact in his piece. I apologise for misusing “construction”.

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Comments

  1. I guess you’re just too busy to look up “trope” in a dictionary, hey?

  2. I’ll quite happily look u p “trope” if he’ll look up “own” and “origin”.

  3. Man-hating doesn’t refer to liberals. It refers to “those goddam dykes.” Abortion-advocating would be another way to tar the same group – although don’t think there weren’t compounded slurs against the suffragettes. Home-wrecking?
    I think your critique, although pointed, is more “bollocks” than is his. He’s not making a linguistic point. He’s making a point about recent political linguistic tropes – which go directly back to the time when the Democrats had the south as a stronghold, and the Republcans were the party of Lincoln – or possibly of Congressional reconstruction. If not earlier.
    If you draw the lines the way he does – racist anti-intellectual equality-hating pro-violence (heh – kidding!) anti-civil rights pro-war meatheads (no offense if you know anyone like this…), vs. the above-described “pot-smoking” (because no conservatives ever smoke up) “bra-burning” (GREAT compound – too bad no feminist ever did in the 1960’s – look it up) etc. liberals…
    … then he’s right. The unstated salient, the underlying assumption, is that liberals are bad because they like the Other. Faggot-lover. Illegal alien-apologist. Osama-coddler. Terrorist. Ann Coulter and MM are as guilty of this as anyone anywhere- but I’m done trying to make the shameless feel shame.

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