words I do not understand, David Brooks edition

In the New York Times:

Gail: You may be right that the big issue for America now is class, not race or gender. But in this presidential campaign, gender rules. Really, sex rules. Who’d have thought?

David: Class is gender. Specifically men. [emphasis mine] The wage stagnation and inequality stories are largely stories about how badly men have been doing over the past few decades. Women’s incomes have been up, up, up.

Uh… what? The verb “to be,” in whatever form, is a powerful instrument. It should be used carefully. Using it to assert that two properties are the same, and then justifying that assertion by pointing out that one of these properties is strongly but imperfectly correlated with the second, thus demonstrating that they are not the same– this is not careful use. In fact, it’s far worse than merely careless; it’s a willful, proud  imprecision that thinks misuse can signal audacity when it really only signals idiocy. This is the way language can come to undo itself, when it’s wielded by people so self-impressed that they perceive only the gravity in the gravely stupid.

I know Brooks is probably tired from writing his latest book, I Read Somewhere that the Brain is Really Important, but jeez.

1 Comment

  1. This kind of thing is everywhere; if someone is not saying something is the most superlative thing ever, they are saying that it IS something else.

    Is it just that, in order to be heard, we all need to exaggerate everything? Or have we just become lazy?

    (and yes, I am fully aware that my post falls into this same trap! I told you, it’s EVERYWHERE!!)

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