The American zoo

In the fifth series of Prejudices, H. L. Mencken deigned to answer his critics:

Q: If you find so much that is unworthy of reverence in the United States, then why do you live here?

A: Why do men go to zoos?

75 Comments

  1. Ouabache
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Glad to see Sarah Palin finally admit that she doesn’t really care about religious freedom or property rights.

  2. Posted July 18, 2010 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I find the current post on her twitter even more cringeworthy. The bored on the bard:

    “”Refudiate,” “misunderestimate,” “wee-wee’d up.” English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!”

    • Sili
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 2:30 am | Permalink

      Why? That’s the most sense she’s made (ever?). Languages are living, and playing with them is the natural thing to do.

      I think it’s a myth, though, that Shakespeare was a great coiner of words.

      It’s also funny to see such laissez-faire attitudes from someone whose supporters grasp of language likely stops at “English First!” and (Franken)Strunk & White (a pox on both their houses).

      • Posted July 19, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        What makes you think it’s a myth that Shxpr coined a lot of words? I’m pretty sure scholars have documented that. It was a word-coining time (Thomas Nashe did a lot of it too, as did the great John Florio) and Shxpr was certainly keenly interested in words and language.

        • Abbie
          Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

          It’s hard to differentiate between “coinages” and first-recorded-usages.

          • Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:25 am | Permalink

            Sure – there’s no guarantee that the first known usage is actually the first usage. But I think scholars of the subject aren’t quite so clueless that they don’t know that, and it’s at least suggestive that Shxpr is rich in first known usages. So I’m wondering what the basis for Sili’s skepticism is.

          • Sili
            Posted July 19, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            Bingo.

    • mike m
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      Should it be called coining, when it’s counterfeit of a fiat money.

    • ckitching
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      Has she ever tweeted about how that “drill, baby, drill” thing was working out? I’m sure it’s the lefties’ fault (somehow), because it always is.

      I think twitter is probably the perfect medium for her. The 140 character limit seems to fit well with the way she thinks.

      • Posted July 20, 2010 at 3:44 am | Permalink

        So that’s why it is called Twitter. That’s all anyone can do.

        It always sounded like a strange label for a social networking site.

        A bit demeaning and invoking images of tea and cucumber sandwiches.

        so thanks for that:-) I have never accessed Twitter and now I probably never will.

  3. Woof
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    “That woman… is an idiot.”

  4. Hempenstein
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Sarah Palin is yesterday’s lunch.

  5. Insightful Ape
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    But there is still the issue that I happened to agree with Pat Condell. I really rather this were built elsewhere. I do realize that this is a delicate matter and tends to divide atheists.

    • Insightful Ape
      Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

      Incidentally Alaska is “heartland”? News to me.

      • Launcher
        Posted July 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        I was wondering about that “heartland” nonsense, too. Probably she means “place where good Christian soldiers live and pray”.

    • Scote
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink

      Why should this decide atheists? Muslims died in 9/11. They have as much right to build a religious site there as Christians or Jews do. If people don’t want Muslims to build a site there, then they can get together and try to craft a ban on **all** religions (yeah, good luck with that) from building sites near ground zero.

      • Insightful Ape
        Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:29 am | Permalink

        Others were not responsible for what happened.

        • Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

          So by that logic we should also ban Christian churches being built in proximity to abortion clinics, right?

          Or, we should ban all churches in proximity to Ground Zero, because they all push a hopelessly flawed epistemology that ultimately led to 9/11.

          The point I am making with that second paragraph is that when you say “Others were not responsible for what happened”, what granularity are you using? Why not just say that religion was responsible? Or maybe it was fundamentalist religion, so we should allow mosques for liberal Muslim groups, but ban mosques for fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians. Hell, Orthodox Jewish temples too, why not? (The Ultra-Orthodox community’s exploitation of Israel is truly disturbing)

          Or we could say humans were responsible, and nobody should live near Ground Zero.

          Oh no wait, I’ve got it… the 9/11 hijackers were Sunnis, so we should allow Shiite mosques but not Sunni mosques. After all, even though both Sunnis and Shiites were killed in the attack, only the Sunnis were responsible.

          • puzzledponderer
            Posted July 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

            I’m not saying I agree or disagree with that Mosque, but you did get your logic wrong. By this logic we shouldn’t allow a Christian church being build next to the remains of an abortion clinic that was burned down with explosives by Christians in the middle of a normal, busy day. Just thought I’d correct that.

    • Sili
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 2:34 am | Permalink

      But there is still the issue that I happened to agree with Pat Condell.

      When that happens, one should usually here the sound of a record being scratched, and then try to see where one went wrong.

    • ckitching
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

      You can rather it be built somewhere else all you like, but at the end of the day, these people’s fundamental rights have to be honoured. Otherwise, what good is freedom or speech, association and religion if it cannot be used.

      Americans are doing a better job at dismantling their cherished rights better than any Muslim suicide-terrorist could ever hope to achieve.

  6. Abbie
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Actually I completely agree with her Shakespeare tweet.

    • Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      There is a difference between coining new words in a living and developing tongue and claiming, after the fact, that your botching of the language was an intentional move, placing yourself on a par with Shakespeare. I’ve used the same argument in 7th grade, but my teacher didn’t buy it either.

      • Doc Bill
        Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        I has a large degree of resentation to your remark!

      • Tim Martin
        Posted July 19, 2010 at 6:49 am | Permalink

        Yes, exactly.

        If Palin felt the need to defend herself on this (instead of just laughing it off), the correct response would have been “I made a mistake. We all do. Get over it.” Instead, she tries to pass it off like it wasn’t a mistake at all. How immature.

        It’s very similar to the bullshit she pulled in response to the writing-on-her-hand incident.

        • r
          Posted July 19, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

          she will start using refudiate on purpose in her speeches now. it’s guaranteed.

      • Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:12 am | Permalink

        Cafeeine is right on the money.

        I have bent words before when there was not really a word for what I needed to say. That’s generally fine. But it’s pretty clear Palin just fucked up, and it’s lame she won’t admit it.

      • Abbie
        Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        Your 7th grade teacher was a slave to prescriptivism and probably thought Latin grammar applied to English.

        • Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:49 am | Permalink

          Considering the incident involved Greek, not Englsh, your assumptions fall rather off the mark.

          This isn’t about Palin creating a new word and me being flustered that I can’t find it in my trusty Merriam-Webster.
          Its about Palin making an honest mistake and instead of copping to it, trying to pass it off as a case of “I always meant to do that”.

          There’s nothing wrong with the idea that the language is fluid and malleable to a point.

          The notion however that this applies to Palin’s use of ‘refudiate’ is not truth, its truthiness.

          • nick bobick
            Posted July 19, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

            Agreed. And she didn’t do it just on her tweet. She also used the same made-up word on a recent Fox News blurb.

            Re your use of the word “flustered”: gee, shouldn’t that be “flustrated”? That is a great coinage by a former girlfriend.

            • Marella
              Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

              It’s all a question of how you wish to be perceived isn’t it? If you wish to seem educated, you use long words correctly, or creative, cleverly make up your own, or whimsical, try lolspeak maybe. George B wished to be perceived as a man of the people regardless of his huge fortune so he spoke as though he was a bit thick, and it worked!

              Seems like Sarah wishes to look educated but can’t quite manage it.

    • Potco
      Posted July 18, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      All I have to say is that I think the worse thing bush did was screw up how to pronounce nuclear for a whole generation. I still get it wrong because of that jerk.

      • Friend of Icelos
        Posted July 18, 2010 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

        Well, people were saying “nucular” long before Dubya got into office. He just gave it the old presidential seal.

        • Abbie
          Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

          I’ve always pronounced nuclear the way W does, maybe it’s a New England thing. It’s a common variation, it’s definitely not “wrong”.

          • Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            Yes it is, it’s wrong. There is no u between the c and the l. U r doin it rong.

            • Dominic
              Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink

              I seem to recall a recent item on BBC Radio 4 (Word of Mouth perhaps?) about how it is pronounced – & I am sure they found that Oppenheimer or von Neumann pronounced it ‘noocler’ or similarly without the first ‘e’. For an American to do it I think is fine – to me it grates somewhat when spoken in that way by an English English speaker. Let us agree that these things differ between different individuals.

            • Tim Martin
              Posted July 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

              It’s dialectual variation, in this case resulting from metathesis. Get over it.

            • Posted July 19, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

              No no no, let us agree that an inserted or “intrusive” u is wrong. Get over it.

            • Tim Martin
              Posted July 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

              Sure, just provide and defend your definition of “wrong.”

            • Notagod
              Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

              Wrong is approximately equal to Sarah Pail’n

              [Apparently she won't mind the speln. Damn god, I'm not sure she'd notice]

          • mike m
            Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

            I always liked the way Pavel Chekov said “nuclear wessels” not right … but enjoyable. I think George W use of English is entertaining if nothing else.

            • Marella
              Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

              definition of “wrong.”

              Makes you like like a moron when you say it.

      • Sili
        Posted July 19, 2010 at 2:33 am | Permalink

        Plautus, not Bush.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          “If we find the comedies of Plautus unspeakably vulgar in conception and expression we must remember that he had to appeal to an uneducated crowd whose chief interests were in bear baiting and gladiatorial combats.”

          Not Bush?

          [OT, but that was a great reference: ""nuculeum amisi, retinui pigneri putamina, I have lost the kernel and kept the shell, id. Capt. 3, 4, 122 .--"

          I suggest the last quotation as a motto for language moralists everywhere."

          And, of course, accommodationists! Not really religious nuts, but not considering the displaced volume as a place for freethinkers either.]

          • Notagod
            Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

            Except that duhbu really is stupid.

      • dave's not here
        Posted July 19, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, but it’s wrong. There are rules, unless you are moving in the direction of a new dialect. You don’t get to claim it’s a regional quirk – it’s called illiteracy. BTW, Clinton got it wrong too, and many before him, so, much as I’d like to, you can’t pin this one on Bush.

        • dave's not here
          Posted July 19, 2010 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

          Bush alone, that is.

  7. Chris
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    “Refudiate” is a perfectly cromulant word.

    • Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure cromulent is selled with an E.

      (I’d look it up in the dictionary, but…)

  8. Posted July 18, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    This is my favorite Palin joke. (Warning: rude humor.)

  9. MikeN
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

    I think “refudiate” could be a great word. It means “to avoid repudiating some horrendous words or actions by refusing to respond to the question.”

    “David Vitter refudiated charges that he appointed an abuser to the position of advisor on women’s by pointing out that Obama was a socialist.”

    “Sarah Palin refudiated a billboard put up by Tea-partiers comparing Obama to Hitler and Lenin by pointing out that latte-sipping liberals love muslim terrorists.”

  10. Jonn Mero
    Posted July 18, 2010 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I have always had the impression that the US American Joe Blow and the English language are of two different planets. Maybe it would have been better with German?

  11. Posted July 19, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    She deleted her tweet, so her “”Refudiate,” “misunderestimate,” “wee-wee’d up.” English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” post is nonsense.

  12. Posted July 19, 2010 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    ………..So if she’s pretending she meant to do that, how is refudiate an improvement on repudiate? It looks as if repudiate is exactly what she meant, so what extra nuance would refudiate have added? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • Andrew B.
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      It’s kind of like a cat running full speed into a class door, then, without any gap acting like its embarrassing mistake was intentional.

      An even better comparison could be made with people trying to justify their scripture by pointing out that the absurd parts are “just metaphor.” Metaphors for what? At what point does one just admit that what was said or written is stupid and that it is just grasping at straws to do otherwise?

  13. Posted July 19, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    “Refudiate” is not a Palin neologism. On June 25 (weeks before Palin’s infamous tweet) The New York Times reported that the word is used by Colorado pot sellers. Either Palin reads the New York Times, or she pals around with Colorado pot sellers.

    • Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Hahahaha! She did make her political rise in the Matanuska Valley where this is grown.

    • Abbie
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      This is why it’s ridiculous to leap up and down and shout “that’s not a real word!” at people. Words mutate, people mishear and mispeak and sometimes these “errors” settle and become “real” words. There’s plenty of dialectical variation going on you personally are not aware of. And remember, “Standard English” is just a dialect- a very artificial one at that.

      • Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Yes yes yes yes yes, you’re a descriptivist not a prescriptivist, good for you; the fact remains that “refudiate” is not yet a standard word.

        Palin also says that she mmumbled and blustered on purpose when Katy Couric asked her what magazines and newspapers she read, because she was so annoyed at being asked such a question. Do you believe that claim too?

        • Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

          Oh look, there’s a new word now! Mmumbled – it means – er – mumbled with a Minnesota accent.

          No actually it’s a typo. Like “refudiate.”

          • mk
            Posted July 19, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

            Actually I always thought a typo was when you accidentally hit the wrong key. There’s plenty of evidence that Sarah didn’t know the word she was looking for wasn’t “refudiate.” She thought she was using the correct word.

            • mk
              Posted July 19, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

              Ah… I see “typo” is a little broader than that. Ahem… nevermind.

  14. Eddie Janssen
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Help!
    I am Dutch and my English is not good enough to understand what this is all about. Would someone care to explain?
    Please?

    • Dominic
      Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      1/ Sarah Palin – as with GW Bush (Bush Baby if you like!) she is not the brightest light on the Christmas tree & she conflated two words – ‘refute’ & ‘repudiate’ to create a confusing non-word – ‘refudiate’.

      2/ Mencken, a great cynic & a very clever man, is saying that America (by which we must assume he means the USA), his native land, is a zoo & we go to a zoo to see the animals, therefore he is watching the animals. A bit harsh perhaps -really the world is a zoo.

      Mencken (surely one of the most quotable people) also said this that I just came across – “A church is a place in which gentlemen who have never been to heaven brag about it to persons who will never get there.”

      • Dominic
        Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        I should add of course that those who say that language evolves & changes are clearly right, though others would argue that this is a bad thing. It depends if you are a proscriptive or descriptive grammarian – that is too either say what language SHOULD be or to describe what it IS. I seem to recall that Robin Dunbar argued in “Grooming gossip & the evolution of language”, persuasively to me (many years since I read it), that language change is a way of including & excluding individuals from or in a group – a way of noticing the ‘outsider’ who might pose a threat or of ‘belonging’. More to it than that of course. Anyway, it is true that these changes happen & probably always have, otherwise we would all use some ‘ursprache’!

        • Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Yes these changes happen, but that doesn’t mean we have to treat every typo as a valuable new word!

          • Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

            It’s actually simpler than that. Even if Palin’s typo eventually catches on as a word, she still fumbled it up in her tweet, and she still tried to cover it up with a lame cop out, before deleting both. Discussions about prescriptivism or descriptivism are completely off the mark.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          The ingroup/outgroup thing is not exclusive to language of course. Analogous to Ophelia Benson, that doesn’t mean we have to treat every dress as a valuable new design.

          In fact I believe that when you don’t have to make a divide between the descriptive and the proscriptive such as in morals vs legal et cetera ethics system, it is easier to let it hang loose. That said there are some occasions where formal dress or formal language is beneficial. In these cases one may well heed the stuffy shirts/minds. :-~

  15. Posted July 19, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I would also like this word to enter the lexicon.

    Another example of a refudiation is when Condoleeza Rice was asked about the August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US.” In response she said it was an “historical document.”

    Her answer was totally nonsensical, but it sounded like something meaningful and official. Thus it was a good refudiation.

  16. Ben W
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Whether or not the English language is evolving, Palin, whose intellect has always been in question, should not be doing things that make it *look* like she’s stupid. At least, not if she wants to fix her image.

    Better to leave the English language maverickyness to dudes like Shakespeare.

  17. mike m
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    Sarah with Glenn Beck in 2012!!! They can make a lot of real stuff up, not just silly words.

  18. Anothergreg
    Posted July 20, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I’m going to have to go with Pat Condell on this one. This mosque is an intentional slap in the face. People are equal, ideas are not. It’s like erecting a giant American flag at the Hiroshima memorial. Your PC attitude has gone full circle and is now insensitive to the very people who have suffered at the hands of those you think we are oppressing. It’s okay to pissed off and call people on their BS, and this mosque is a BS power play and everyone knows it.

    And getting side tracked on SP’s shitty spelling isn’t helping the discussion.


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