Posts Tagged ‘Marriage

04
Aug
10

A Family Weigh

The 1976 film Network may most commonly bring to mind overwhelmed, despairing Howard Beale bellowing “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” His performance is genius, and his newsroom messiah complex may seem to presage this generation’s personality-driven Fox News and CNBC, but something else stood out to me when I watched the movie for the first time not long ago. A much smaller moment. And it had nothing to with Howard Beale, at least not directly.
Continue reading ‘A Family Weigh’

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19
Mar
09

The Right Looks Up ‘Marriage’ and Finds ‘Revolution’

A right-wing Web site is fuming over their recent discovery that Merriam-Webster has added a secondary definition of marriage to its pages.

World Net Daily sarcastically reported Tuesday:

“One of the nation’s most prominent dictionary companies has resolved the argument over whether the term ‘marriage’ should apply to same-sex duos or be reserved for the institution that has held families together for millennia: by simply writing a new definition.”

The change occurred years before any states legalized gay marriage. It went unnoticed until now, apparently because writers at World Net Daily do not make frequent use of dictionaries.

(Personally, any publication that accepts written work from Ann Coulter, and that hawks “Where’s the birth certificate?” bumper stickers (attempting to call into question Barack Obama’s citizenship), doesn’t have much of value to say to the more thoughtful readers of the world. But I digress.)

Merriam-Webster editors are mystified by the fuss. From the story:

“Its inclusion was a simple matter of providing dictionary users with accurate information about all of the word’s current uses,” the company said, adding that it was surprised by the recent attention because it was “neither news nor unusual.”

“We were one of the last ones among the major dictionary publishers to do this,” said Merriam-Webster spokesman Arthur Bicknell.

Someone who commented on a YouTube video complaining about the definition says, “The word ‘marriage’ has never been synonymous with same sex relationships,” said the forum participant. “What is happening is the meaning is being changed to trigger it becoming synonymous, not the other way round.”

If he’d take his bible out of his ass long enough to concentrate, he’d realize that the definition does not make heterosexual marriage and same-sex marriage synonymous. What it signifies is merely that the term is used in that way. It is a figurative meaning.

Dictionaries include figurative and idiomatic meanings for a great many words. Note definition No. 6 of dig and definition No. 5 of bird.

The World Net Daily writer goes on to cite a 1913 dictionary definition that not only doesn’t mention same-sex marriage, but in fact adds biblical references to the traditional definition. In fact they are citations, meant to show context, not that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John or God himself are editors of dictionaries. It could have just as easily referenced a Jane Austen novel.

More importantly, should we be shocked that a word’s usage should change between 1913 and the year the Merriam-Webster change was apparently made? Of course not. Why would a 1913 publication of any sort refer to “same-sex marriage” when that concept wasn’t even part of the public consciousness? It would be like expecting Oscar Wilde to identify as “gay.” He never would have done so. Does it mean he wasn’t a big flaming queen? Certainly not.

Completely outside of the argument for or against gay marriage, consider the idiocy of World Net Daily’s complaint. I’m not thrilled that “ain’t” is in the dictionary, and that school students gleefully point to it to justify poor grammar. However, its legitimacy is determined not by whether you or I like it, but by whether or not it is used — and useful — by speakers of English. Whatever you think “ain’t” implies about its user, we all know its meaning. Ergo: ain’t.

Same-sex couples in long-term relationships have long thought of themselves — and referred to themselves — as being “married.” It’s a matter of convenience, being far less wordy than “partnered with a member of the same sex.” And until very recently on the scale of human history, we didn’t have a choice but to be figurative.

15
Mar
07

Lake Wobegon Gays

A friend pointed me today to this Slog entry by Dan Savage about a March 14 commentary by Garrison Keillor on Salon.com about taking care of the kids, in which he extols the virtues of heterosexual marriage and simultaneously defames same-sex parenting. Here’s a sampling:

And now gay marriage will produce a whole new string of hyphenated relatives. In addition to the ex-stepson and ex-in-laws and your wife’s first husband’s second wife, there now will be Bruce and Kevin’s in-laws and Bruce’s ex, Mark, and Mark’s current partner, and I suppose we’ll get used to it.

The country has come to accept stereotypical gay men — sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers and go in for flamboyance now and then themselves. If they want to be accepted as couples and daddies, however, the flamboyance may have to be brought under control. Parents are supposed to stand in back and not wear chartreuse pants and black polka-dot shirts. That’s for the kids. It’s their show.

Not sure what “stereotypical gay men,” or America’s supposed acceptance of them, have to do with any of the actually quite lovely things he says about kids and the way life can be. He’s so much smarter than this, little more than a catalog of thoughtless stereotypes. Surely his world travels — and his social circles — must have delivered him a broader, truer view of gay men than he lets on.

It’s a cheap shot. The whole two paragraphs are completely unnecessary. It’s an intellectual and moral disappointment.

And then he throws the gays a bone: “I suppose we’ll get used to it.”

Well, thank you very much for that concession. I hope we don’t inconvenience you too much in the meantime.

Keillor’s comments wouldn’t hurt so much if I didn’t respect him as much as I do. Savage, for one, is fighting mad. There’s not much I can add that he hasn’t already said.

In his misplaced, futile and delusional longing for the Goode Olde Days, I think maybe he’s confusing the whimsical, kitschy, also-stereotypical world of Lake Wobegon with the real world. Billy Joel said it pretty well, I think: “The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

09
Mar
07

I’m Not a Hypocrite. I Just Play One on TV.

From the Associated Press story that appeared in today’s New York Times.

    Newt Gingrich
I’ll pull your leg if you pull my finger.
[newsweek.com]

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich acknowledged he was having an extramarital affair even as he led the charge against President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair, he acknowledged in an interview with a conservative Christian group.

Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton’s infidelity.

“The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge,” the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton’s 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. “I drew a line in my mind that said, ‘Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept … perjury in your highest officials.’ “
[more]

Translation: The president can’t lie, but the Speaker of the House can. One might even extrapolate: If I were the president and not the speaker, I would not have lied. (Or, I only lied because I was the speaker.)

However you parse it, if this sort of reasoning idiocy brings Newt any comfort, I think it’s pretty clear that Republicans have no business nominating him to run for president. Unless they prefer that the president be someone who can’t be trusted to tell the truth.




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