Just a little slip...
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 95 19:07:07 PST
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: Just a little slip...
Forwarded-by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Mark Seiden)
From: Larry Horn (LHORN@yalevm.ycc.yale.edu)
(from the linguist-list)
Since Marge Jackman, in her posting "Barney Frank/Fag", brings up the issue of
Dick Armey's purported speech error, perhaps it is worth cross-posting my
recent outil message here. Responses on that list tend to view the "error"
as a Freudian slip par excellence and/or an accidental public exposure of a
familiar private (in-group) epithet, but in any case NOT a phonological tip of
the slung. Responses from experts in that field are especially welcome.
[outil posting of 1/30/95, slightly altered:]
If, as Max Weinreich used to say, a language is simply a dialect with an army
and a navy, it's worth looking at one particular feature of the Armey dialect.
I refer of course to House Majority Leader Dick Armey's recent "slip of the
tongue" in which he referred to Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), who our new
majority would call "an admitted homosexual", as Barney Fag. In response to
an outraged New York Times editorial (1/29/95) castigating him for "bigotry
aforethought", Armey wrote a letter published in today's Times (1/30/95),
explaining that it was all an innocent mistake:
'In saying that I did not want to "listen to Barney Frank haranguing me",
I blended the two words (Frank and harangue, which I pronounce with a
hard "g") in a way that made it sound as if I was using a slur. I
immediately corrected myself and moved on with my comments.'
Mr. Armey (R-Texas) went on to blame "the Washington media" for turning
his stumble into a national story and a lead editorial. "No wonder", he
concluded, "public officials feel the need to speak only in scripted
sound bites". Now while our collective heart must go out to the unfortunate
congressman, who happens to be the second most powerful figure in the House,
I was wondering if anyone on the list knows enough about speech errors
--from either a Fromkinian or Freudian perspective--to be in a position
to evaluate his explanation. I think it's important to challenge this line,
before we're treated to a steady stream of the same, a la...
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) explained that he had not
intended any personal aspersions. 'While I may have characterized the
First Lady as a bitch and a slut, I categorically reject the politically
motivated attempts to impugn my motives. In seeking to call attention
to her status as "Bill's rich wife" and to her personal and
professional qualities as "a slender attorney", I inadvertently
blended "Bill's" and "rich" in the former case and "slender" and
"attorney" (which I pronounce with an initial schwa) in the latter.
I call on the press to apologize for their manipulation of an
honest error. Nor is it fair to quote me as claiming that our historic
Contract with America is "supported by every constituency in the U.S. but
niggers and kikes". In my natural excitement over our glorious
program for our land, I meant to except only "nihilist muggers"
(I favor a short [i] as the traditional value for the first vowel of
the adjective) and "killer tykes". The elitist liberal press will stop at
nothing to twist my deeply felt cry of the heart into a supposed slur that
I certainly never intended, so help me Dodd.'
© 1995 Peter Langston