LINGUIST List 6.277

Wed 22 Feb 1995

Disc: Dick Armey's slip and correction

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Directory

  1. Larry Horn, Re: 6.255 Dick Armey's slip and correction
  2. Burns Cooper, Dick Armey and errors
  3. Loren Allen Billings, Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
  4. Hartmut Haberland, Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Message 1: Re: 6.255 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 95 15:44:24 ESRe: 6.255 Dick Armey's slip and correction
From: Larry Horn <LHORNyalevm.ycc.yale.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.255 Dick Armey's slip and correction

I was going to respond to Dave Wharton's posting on why it's only those of us
with a political agenda who might doubt the sincerity of Rep. Armey's explana-
tion of the innocence of his verbal slip, but since Mark Hale and possibly
another of the recent respondents asked about the verbal context of the remark,
I thought it was worth reposting Armey's explanation (from my earlier message,
originally written on Jan. 30, the same day the Times printed his letter in
which these comments were contained):
 In saying that I did not want to "listen to Barney Frank haranguing me",
 I blended the two words (Frank and harangue, which I pronounce with a
 hard "g") in a way that made it sound as if I was using a slur. I
 immediately corrected myself and moved on with my comments.
Wharton's rebuke of us skeptics for only now, two weeks into the discussion,
beginning to examine the actual data seems to suppose that the only relevant
aspect of the data for linguistic (or psychological) analysis is the
duration of the pause between Rep. Armey's utterance of the "slip" and his
correction of it. But surely the phonological plausibility of the
"blend" counts as part of the data, and I have it on at least Vicki Fromkin's
authority that 'Frank' + 'harangue' (however hard the [g]) --) [faeg] is not
the sort of speech error that pervades the data. I agree with the other
recent group of posters (in 6.255) that there's many a lip 'twixt a slur and a
slip. My favorite response was that of Rep. Frank, who observed that nobody in
the fifty years of her married life had anyone ever introduced his mother as
"Elsie Fag".

--Larry
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Message 2: Dick Armey and errors

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 1995 12:06:11 Dick Armey and errors
From: Burns Cooper <FFGBCaurora.alaska.edu>
Subject: Dick Armey and errors

 In the matter of Dick Barmey's ias, Dick Wharton lambasts members of
the LINGUIST list for "abusing their professional skills to make a political
point". But I wonder if it isn't a case of the pot haranguing (with a
"hard g") the kettle.
 First of all, he makes the important point that the lag time between
"fag" and "Frank" was small, (1 second. This is useful information, and
exactly what was asked for by one of the list members. However, it does not
invalidate any of the rest of what was said.
 Let's assume, for the moment, that the small lag time proves the
utterance was a "slip," that is, accidental. That does *not* mean it was
necessarily "not a slur". In fact, none of the messages I read on the subject
suggested it was anything other than a slip; the dispute was over what kind of
slip it was. As Larry Horn said, the consensus seemed to be that it was what
is commonly known as a Freudian slip; presumable the word "fag" was
subconsciously associated in Armey's mind with Barney Frank, and popped out by
mistake. Armey's claim that it was a purely phonological error, a sort of
spoonerism made by combining "Frank" and "harangue," seems dubious to say the
least. Several people requested that someone who specifically studies speech
errors comment on this, and I'd like to second the request. Wild enough things
come out of my mouth sometimes that I couldn't say for sure that Armey's
account is impossible, but it sure doesn't look like any of the common types I
read about in grad school. Substituting /f/ for /fr/ is possible, I suppose,
but the bizarre part is Armey's claim about his pronunciation of "harangue"--
does he mean he says it /haraeg/ (where ae = low front vowel)? This seems odd
for a man as educated as D.A. Otherwise, though, he should have called him
"Barney Fang".
 On the other hand, it's not obvious to me that it had to be a mistake.
Armey comes from a very conservative district in Texas, where using slurs like
"fag" in mixed company may be considered a bit vulgar, but anti-gay sentiment
is decidedly not a political disadvantage. If I wanted to have my cake and eat
it too in such a situation, I'd do just what Armey did: say it, but quickly
correct it to give me deniability. This is a rhetorical trick that even
children master: "Oh, look, here comes Potty--I mean Patty".
 Why is it that criticizing a right-winger is political, but apologizing
for one is not?
 --Burns Cooper
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Message 3: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Date: Mon, 20 Feb 95 16:22:37 ESRe: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
From: Loren Allen Billings <BILLINGSPUCC.PRINCETON.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Has anyone considered the phonetics of Dick Armey's slip. He said
"Barney fag" but meant "Barney Franks" (in his correction a second later).
"Franks" is a complicated syllable, with both complex onset _fr_ and
complex coda _Nks_ (where _N_ is presumably an _n_ that has assimilated its
Place to the velar nasal, which I can't write here). The vowel, of course,
is a front, low "ash", which I'll represent with capital _A_. Thus, it
might (repeat, might) be the case that _fr-A-Nks_ simplifies to _fag_ if
some other word like that is hanging around one's associative lexicon. To
be most specific, the syllable onset _fr-_ simplifies to just the obstruent
of the two _f-_ (presumably to maintain the nice steeply rising sonority).
Likewise, the coda _-Nks_ is simplified to the velar stop, but with voicing
perhaps from the nasal. This is just a possibility, and not laden with any
agenda on my part. Can anyone out there corroborate this substitution of a
cluster here or there with another if it causes the word to become another
word related to the first in the speaker's associative lexicon? Thanks.

--Loren Billings (billingsprinceton.edu) (billingspucc.bitnet)
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Message 4: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 05:36:39 Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction
From: Hartmut Haberland <hartmutruc.dk>
Subject: Re: 6.249 Dick Armey's slip and correction

A slip of the tongue is probably much more interesting, and says more about
the person that slipped, than an intentional slur.
Rainer Barzel, a German politician, gave a speech in the German Bundestag
during the Vietnam war, where he (certainly a slip) talked about 'nuclear
aid' which he immediately corrected to 'humanitarian aid'. Now you don't
have to be a psychoanalyst to 'read' Barzels mind, like 'why don't they just
drop a couple of nuclear bombs and get rid of the problem?'
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