Quote: “I congratulate the Democrat majority.” President Bush, in his recent State of the Union Address.
Figure of Speech: apocope (a-PAH-co-pee), the end-biter. From the Greek, meaning “snip off the end.”
Washington is still in a dither over the president’s substitution of “Democrat” for “Democratic.” But Figarists will be pleased to know that Bush was employing a figure of speech, the apocope, which snips off the last part of a word. Poets once used the figure to sound poetical — by replacing “often” with “oft,” for instance. You can still hear the figure when people ask “what’s the diff?” or battle terrorism with “intel.”
Bush told NPR that his un-Democratic apocope was “an oversight, ” adding a Reaganesque cognitive malfunction: “I didn’t even know I did it.” (It reminds us of Charles Barkley’s complaint that his autobiography misquoted him.) But Bush did it on purpose! lament liberals. Nefarious code language! lecture linguists.
Figaro thinks the president is just trying to even the rhetorical odds. The Democratic Party has a rhetorical advantage over the Republican Party. After all, who talks about bringing “Republican government” to the Mideast? The problem is, no one but the Republican right wing uses “Democrat Party,” which makes the device too visibly rhetorical; and Figaro has told Washington time and time again that the best rhetoric disguises itself. So we object to the phrase not because it’s manipulative, but because it’s clumsy.
Snappy Answer: “And we Democrats are thrilled to work with the radical right.”