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    Master of the Dark Art


    Quote:  “I would engage in some form of syntax destruction which sounded as though I were answering the question, but in fact, had not.”  Alan Greenspan, in an interview with 60 Minutes.

    Figure of Speech:  skotison (SKO-tih-son), the figure of ultimate darkness.  From the Greek, meaning “darken it.”

    Former Federal Reserve Chairman and Treasury Secretary Alan Greenspan’s memoir is causing a minor tsunami in Washington.  The self-described “libertarian conservative” ranks Clinton’s presidency above George W. Bush’s and declares that the Iraq war is “largely about oil.”  But what’s really bouncing Beltway eyebrows is the book’s language:  it’s  clear and comprehensible!  This is the man who said, only half-kidding, “I’ve been able to string more words into fewer ideas than anybody I know.”

    Greenspan didn’t invent the technique, of course.  The ancient historian Livy described a rhetorician who would tell his students, “Darken it!”  The Greek version, skotison, makes a fitting figure for academics and bureaucrats who swap obscurity for erudition.  (The figure isn’t Figaro’s idea. He got it straight from Richard Lanham.)

    Greenspan’s skotisonical mastery wasn’t such a bad thing.  Speaking clearly could cause international markets to tumble; his impenetrable language gave people confidence that this high priest of monetary policy had a personal relationship with Mammon — solid proof that the rhetorical dark arts can be used for good.

    Snappy Answer:   To quote the immortal Homer, “No function beer well without.”

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    Reader Comments (6)

    So, Fig, you're saying the Dark Master is GOOD? I'm beginning to think you're a conservative.
    September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSigourney
    Yes, Greenspanning can be a force for good. If there were bubblegum cards for Fed chairmen, he'd be the most collectible.

    And Figaro IS a conservative. He believes in conserving classical rhetoric in all its glory.

    September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    Hi Fig., quick question: is there other, (different, other than)classical rhetoric, "neo classical", "modern", "post classical" type of rhetoric?
    September 17, 2007 | Unregistered Commentersurfa11day
    I'll answer your question in the Ask Figaro section, Surf.

    September 17, 2007 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    Ha! I always thought government economics was mostly just hocus to poke us taxpayers, and here it's confirmed by the main money magician (retired) himself, Mr. Alan Greenspan Magoo.
    September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTerre
    Hm, there IS something of a resemblance between the two four-eyed celebs, isn't there? But while Mr. Magoo walked into walls, Mr. Greenspan walked through them.

    September 17, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro

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