Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Healthcare Bill Has Grammarians Up in Arms

March 9, 2017 

     The new Republican health care law has caused grammar experts to be blitzed with phone calls.  With reports now coming out about the law’s effects, the proper punctuation to refer to the law is being closely scrutinized, according to Lisa Frank, president of Grammarians National Association for Zuper Instructorsor G-NAZ as the younger, hipper members call it.  The organization, originally begun as a sister organization to the premier language and grammar promoting institution in Germany in the early 1930’s, is a repository of experts and self-professed grammar nerds. 

     “This health care proposal is igniting a lightning war among our members. One of the first debates was over subject-verb agreement,” said Frank. “Instead of the concern about whether the subject and verb agree in number, though, this is more metaphysical.  Most members just don’t think that the verb 'care' actually agrees with the stated subject of this bill because it would remove health care access from more people than gained access through the old ACA.”  

     “We have consulted with the American Grammarians Executive Database on this,” she explained, “and AGED shows that there is just no particular grammar rule covering word and definition agreement.”  “Our members are getting phone calls, some every hour, from news reporters and legislators all over the world on how to properly refer to this bill,” she further explained, “but the best that we can tell people is they should contact a professional philosopher with experience in the intenstion-extension area of metaphysics and philosophy of language.   “Oh well,” she sighed, “at least they aren’t calling it affordable now,” she added, “It’s one less issue to contend with.” 
     We tracked down one such expert, Dr. Jeremy Byrd. Dr. Byrd explained that intension is the philosopher’s jargon for the definition of a word and the extension is corresponding real world examples of that word.  “Yes,” opined Dr. Byrd, “this isn’t really an area where you need that much philosophical expertise to see that the definition of “health care” is not covered by a proposal that removes health care from millions.  I read that Paul Ryan actually proposed this as a piece of performance art to troll all of America.  So, if you really want to understand this language, then you should consult with an expert in satire, like the Onion.”
     “There are also practical problems that we grammarians must deal with,” said Samantha "Sammy" Colon, the vice-president of G-NAZ.  “One hot-button topic now is how one should use quote marks when referring to the so-called American Health Care Act.”  Sammy explained that scare quotes are quotation marks sometimes put around words that indicate skepticism over the meaning of a word in a particular usage, or when a word is used in an ironic, sarcastic, or satirical sense.  “This issue is practical and not so philosophical,” she continued.  “The standard practice is to put the scare quotes around the entire phrase.” 
      “In extreme cases, if the language is so controversial that single scare quotes aren’t sufficient,” Ms. Colon continued, “then you have a couple options.  When speaking, you may exaggerate the scare quote gesture of crimping the first two fingers of each hand by moving the arms or even the entire body up and down to amplify the scare-quote-making gesture.  If writing or speaking, you may put scare quotes around each individual word to connote extreme skepticism or sarcasm.”        

Not really related content: 
Conservative Parents Demand New Conservative Verb Tense Be Taught in Schools

     There is one usage that G-NAZ does not give official approval, however.  Ms. Colon explained, “while there is no law against placing scare quotes around each individual word and then additionally around the entire phrase to connote uber-extreme and skeptical sarcasm, we here at the G-NAZ severely frown upon such usage.  Even among grammar nerds, there is such a thing as being too extreme.” 
      “Oh,” added President Frank, “don’t forget that, if you use the phrase “so-called” before a word or phrase, then scare quotes around it is just overkill, just like Sammy explained with putting extra scare quotes around an entire phrase of individually scare-quoted words.”  

 Here are some examples from G-NAZ vice president Sammy Colon of proper and improper usage:  
 Yes: American “Health” “Care” Act 
Yes: “American Health Care Act” 
No: “American “Health” “Care” Act” or “American “Health Care” Act” 
No: the so-called “American Health Care Act” 

     There are proper ways to use scare quotes, and we should take note that grammatical extremism, even in the defense of liberty, is considered a vice.  Please remember, readers, to watch your grammar.  We never know when a G-NAZ member will have to storm in like a Valkyrie and give our writing an uber-grammatik treatment, and nobody wants that.  Frank, however, asserts that they are only trying to help improve the quality of communication and that they aren’t some Gestapo sending people to re-education camps.

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