LINGUIST List 6.255

Mon 20 Feb 1995

Disc: Dick Armey's slip and correction

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Directory

  1. MARK ROBERT HALE, Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
  2. Phil Gaines, Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
  3. Geoffrey Nunberg, Dick Armey's slip
  4. wachal robert s, Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
  5. Hugh Buckingham, Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Message 1: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Date: Sat, 18 Feb 1995 19:59:08 Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
From: MARK ROBERT HALE <hale1alcor.concordia.ca>
Subject: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction


I'm sorry if this was in the original post, but it
seems obvious to me that phonological misprocessing
is not the only possible type of "slip" we could
be dealing with, indeed, I don't know the "speech
error" literature all that well but "fak" for
"frank" seems totally out as a likely error, in my
view (has anyone looked at the phonological context?).
Surely the suspicion must be that this is a privately
used slur of Representative Frank that crept into
public discourse -- i.e., it was a register
problem rather than a phonological one.

It would seem unfortunate (just to respond to the
"political agenda" part of an earlier post) if
we as linguists refused to bring our competence
to bear on questions such as this for fear of
being "politicized".

Mark
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Message 2: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Date: Sat, 18 Feb 1995 21:01:53 Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
From: Phil Gaines <pgainesu.washington.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Could someone provide the context for Dick Armey's utterance of "Barney
Fag"? I only heard it once and didn't write it down. My impression at
the time, however, was that the phonological environment didn't seem
quite right for a spoonerism. One other thought: It seems that a binary
opposition between an intentional slur on Armey's part and a purely
phonological slip doesn't represent all the possibilities. It's
certainly possible that if the string "Barney Fag" has been used often
enough on Capitol Hill in the hearing of Dick Armey, he might very well
have inadvertently substituted it for Frank's actual name. Isn't that
something that's done all the time: accidentally saying something that
one has heard recently or repeatedly. "Can't get that tune out of my
head!" Seems like a reasonable explanation for a "slip" that wasn't a
spoonerism. Anything on non-spoonerism phonological slips out there that
bears on this?

Phil Gaines
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Message 3: Dick Armey's slip

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 02:04:38 Dick Armey's slip
From: Geoffrey Nunberg <nunbergparc.xerox.com>
Subject: Dick Armey's slip


So Dave Wharton, having determined that the delay between Richard Armey's
"Barney Fag" remark and its correction lasted less than a second, is
confident that it must have been "a slip and not a slur" (presumably
blameless), all the more since Armey has a Ph.D. and a wealth of political
savvy and "would not think it to his advantage to make such an utterance."
A victim, then, of linguists with ulterior agendas.

How in the in the world is one to respond to such a statement? If Wharton
had made the suggestion 75 years ago you might repeat the observation that
Freud offered in the Introductory Lectures to the effect that the merely
somatic or phonetic concommitents of slips can't explain why they occur
when they do -- as he put it, it's like telling a policeman that the
darkness of the night and the isolation of the street have caused your
purse to be snatched.

What might have possessed Armey, then? The New Republic has pointed out
that he was one of only forty-seven members (Gingrich was not among
them) who voted against George Bush's Hate Crime Statistics Act, which
allowed the government to record violence against homosexuals; that he
voted to exclude people with AIDS from the Americans with Disabilities Act;
that he voted to deny government funds to groups that boycotted the Boy
Scouts of America on the grounds of that organization's anti-gay policies;
and that he refused to sign a voluntary statement saying that his own
office didn't discriminate against homosexuals. Of course the remark wasn't
"intentional," but the evidence is pretty thick that Armey harbors just the
sorts of inner demons who would have been lying in wait for any breach in
conscious attention.

Most inhabitants of the late 20th century will acknowlege some acquaintance
with pesky creatures like these, and you would think that it would be only
by an act of willful repression that someone could deny their existence
entirely. But maybe we should give Wharton the benefit of the doubt; maybe
his is a genuine Victorian innocence. Only, just think of it! All those
theorists arguing that we are living the twilight of modernist era, when
there are still people (with an "edu" in their address, yet) on whom it has
not even begun to dawn.
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Message 4: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 06:35:51 Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
From: wachal robert s <rwachalblue.weeg.uiowa.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Having read all of the research literature on slips of the tongue and
having scanned them in both normal and aphasic corpora, I find it hard to
believe that this much discussed slip was linguistic tho it may, in some
sense, have been Freudian.
Bob Wachal
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Message 5: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 10:45:45 Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
From: Hugh Buckingham <hbucksalvador.speech.lsu.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Slurs...I mean, Sirs:
Armey's slip could very well have been a slip, but a slip of this sort
represents a competing plan, and one can then ask, why the competing
plan? Phonological similarity ("similarity" being the Aristotean
catch-all) [ /fraenk/ vs. /faeg/] or something more like Bernie Baars's
"unintentional" pun, clearly indicating something a bit more than
raw phonological similarity. The non-phonological, competing plan
notion brings up all sorts of interpretive issues concerning why Armey
may or may not have had something painfully abusive "on his mind" when
he produced "fag." If it had been "on his mind," it was (at that point
in time during on-line speech) not anything typically volitional and
intentional. These are tricky issues.
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