Quoted, with ameliorative modification

Writing at WorldNetDaily, Ilana Mercer criticizes Rush Limbaugh for attacking Obama’s big government budget while ignoring the role Republican presidents have had in expanding government. At the end of the piece, she quotes a recent blog entry of mine:

Adds Auster: “Until conservative opinion makers render unto Bush the censures he richly deserves, especially for the same things for which they now excoriate Obama, their criticisms of Obama will have the [odor] of rank partisanship.”

In the original entry I had written, “the stink of rank partisanship,” which Mercer changes to “the odor of rank partisanship.” I guess she feels that “stink” is too strong, both in reference to the behavior being described, and in the offensive connotations of the word itself. Part of the reason I chose the word was that I liked the alliteration of “excoriate,” “criticisms,” “stink,” and “rank.” But perhaps Mercer is right that “stink” was too strong and should not have been used.

But then “rank” is a pretty strong word too. Its two possible relevant definitions in my excellent WordWeb dictionary are

Very offensive in smell or taste

which takes us back to the unacceptable “stink,” and

Conspicuously and outrageously bad or reprehensible,

which is also too strong for the behavior being described (i.e., conservatives criticizing Obama without have criticized Bush for doing similiar things). Also, I first remember encountering the adjective “rank” when reading Hamlet at age 15:

Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew’d in corruption …

So maybe it would have been better to leave out “rank” as well as “stink” and simply write,

their criticisms of Obama will have the odor of partisanship.

But now that’s too weak …

- end of initial entry -

Leonard D. writes:

My guess as to what Mercer did not like about “the stink of rank partisanship” is that it is redundant, “rank” being almost synonymous with “stinky.”

LA replies:

Good point. I hadn’t thought of that.

Sage McLaughlin writes:

Personally, I prefer “stench,” that is according to Webster’s online, “a characteristic repugnant quality.”:

Gintas writes:

When I was a teenager my best friend and I would get into a contest where we would try to top each other with excessive description of something. So, in that spirit:

the stink of rank partisanship


the fetid, reeking, rotten, noisome, putrid, gangrenous stench of rank partisanship

Leonard D. writes:

Personally, I think it is rather silly to change one word like that in a quote, but hey, whatever makes someone happy. It is just possible that you’ll get some extra hits from it, as people get curious to see what Mercer is up to with her revision, and go to see the original.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 06, 2009 10:25 AM | Send

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