Those Language-Hijacking Conservatives


Over on the always interesting if often arcane Language Log, linguist Geoff Nunberg reveals another weapon in conservatives’ linguistic arsenal: the object+present participle compound. Those are syntactic constructions like “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking”, which make for handily efficient epithets. He writes: “In fact you could trace the whole history of the right’s campaigns against liberals via those compounds — from tree-hugging and NPR-listening back through the Nixon era’s pot-smoking, bra-burning, draft-dodging, and America-hating, until you finally excavate the crude origins of the trope in nigger-loving, the ur-denunciation of white liberal sentimentality.”

The subtitle of Nunberg’s great new book, Talking Right, lists some of the right’s favorites, including the current codeword for treachery, “New York Times-reading.” Somehow he left out “Mother Jones-reading,” which a Google search finds to be a nice standby for would-be Frank Luntzes seeking to expand their repertoire. A few examples:

“hardcore, Lenin-goateed, Mother Jones-reading left-wingers” …. “pasty-faced tofu-munching, Mother Jones-reading, socialist-vegan-liberal…” …. “the Volvo driving, Mother Jones reading, sprouts eating crowd…” …. “Until later you Volvo driving, latte drinking, Mother Jones reading, leg warmer wearing, liberal.” …. “clove-smoking, Birkenstock-wearing, Mother Jones reading, granola crunchers” …. “the Nader-voting, Strawpleberry Mocha Frappucino-sipping, Mother Jones-reading, hipster-dirtbagger Francophile Lefty progressives”

That leg warmer one hurts. And for the record, that would be a decaf, fat-free, fair-trade Strawpleberry Mocha Frappucino.

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