Last week, or thereabouts, former New York mayor and current GOP crackpot Rudy Giuliani noted that there had never been a terrorist attack in the United States before Barack Obama became president. Giuliani was mayor of New York when the 9/11 attack on the twin towers took place. George Bush was president. When confronted about this blatant misrepresentation later, he noted that “he was using ‘abbreviated language’.”
Missouri GOP gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens also seems to have a taste for abbreviation:
Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens, who claimed to have volunteered in Bosnia in the ’90s, actually volunteered mostly in neighboring Croatia, according to a report by The Associated Press.
In his recent campaign remarks and his online biography, Greitens claimed that he spent the summer of 1994 volunteering in Bosnia to help the children of families impacted by the Bosnian genocide.
Some critics were quick to accuse the candidate of lying in order to appeal to a large Bosnian refugee community in the state.
[…] However, Bosnia and Croatia were both part of Yugoslavia prior to the ethnic war, which is why, Greitens said, he made the remark.
“When you think about the violence, people recognize and they understand what happened in Bosnia, and they understand working with Bosnian refugees,” he said.
Of course any such volunteer activity is to be commended, but when the volunteer is willing to misrepresent what he did so blatantly, doesn’t it call his integrity into question? Maybe it even casts a pall over his actual achievement? Did his time in Croatia really mean anything to him or was he just another ambitious kid busy with resume building?
But not to worry. Greitens is youngish, almost a “millennial,” and they speak differently, or so we are told:
There’s a way that young people talk these days, and it’s totes hilars. You see it on Twitter a lot, people exclaiming about their totes delish spags or their totes redic boyfs. Linguists Lauren Spradlin and Taylor Jones call this practice “totesing” — the systematic abbreviation (“abbreviash”) of words to effect a certain tone. The fad might have started with “totally” becoming totes, but at this point, no entry in the English lexicon is safe.
Linguist Spradlin claims that millennials are doing this “not primarily to be efficient, but to be expressive — to add dimension to words.” Greitens and Giuliani are just applying the same principle to concepts rather than words. They’re abbreviating conceptual sequences rather than chains of letters and, in the process, obscuring actual events in order to create a new story.
Greitens wants to plant the idea in St. Louis Bosnian minds that he’s the shiny white knight who will watch out for Bosnians. Giuliani wants to intensify his presentation of Barack Obama as Barry Milquetoast flailing ineffectually at ISIS rather than the quietly persistent leader who did in Osama Bin Laden. In order to do so, they “abbreviate” the truth. To tatters.
On the other hand, maybe they’re nothing more than garden-variety liars. Cut and dried. Giulliani? A doddering old fool desperate to be relevant in today’s bat-s**t crazy GOP. And Greitens? At least we can be glad that he’s revealed his opportunism early in the game. If you vote for him, you deserve what you’ll get. And it’s not necessarily going to be the truth.
*3rd and last paragraphs slightly edited for clarity and emphasis (8/23, 12:27 am).