Sunday, October 18, 2009

If by, you mean

Thursday, August 29, 2002

life is so beautiful some days

when you find the perfect quotes:

"Drink you under the table? I believe I'll drink myself under the hostess!" .. unknown

"If you mean whiskey, the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples Christian men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pits of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fiber of my being.

"However, if by whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life's great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into Texas treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it. This is my position, and as always, I refuse to be compromised on matters of principle." ... anon



"Anon" has a name and immortality.

"In political discourse, if-by-whiskey is a relativist fallacy where the response to a question is contingent on the questioner's opinions and use of words with strong positive or negative connotations (e.g., terrorist as negative and freedom fighter as positive). An if-by-whiskey argument implemented through doublespeak appears to affirm both sides of an issue, and agrees with whichever side the listener supports, in effect, taking a position without taking a position." (wiki)

"Anon" is actually Noah S. "Soggy" Sweat, Jr., a young lawmaker from the U.S. state of Mississippi.

Columnist William Safire popularized the term in his column in The New York Times:


THE GREAT POLITICAL straddle exemplified by the if-by-whisky speech was attributed here to Gov. Fuller Warren of Florida in the 1950's [incorrect attribution]. An earlier and richer formulation was submitted by Norman L. Simpson of Syracuse, who found an undated and unattributed clipping in his family archives; he dates it to the 1920's, during discussions of the repeal of the Volstead Act prohibiting the sale of liquor:

"[insert the above quote by 'anon']"

The if-by-whisky technique is still in active use. Asked by Jonathan Alter of Newsweek if he was not too sensitive to criticism, Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York replied:

"If by thin-skinned you mean very, very quick to respond -- that's what I've done for a lifetime. I'd been a lawyer for more than 20 years. You can't let the comment from the witness pass.

"If [ by thin-skinned ] you're talking about being personally sensitive to criticism, that's a lot of [ expletive ] ."


The other two Safire columns on that page are awesomeness. Jungle becomes Rain-forest.

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