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    Blind, Yes. Faith, No.

    It is this kind of Blind Faith — which is ironically the name of an actual rig in the Gulf — that has led to this kind of disaster.

    Congressman Edward Markey at the oil disaster hearing

    Parenthesis, the insertion. From the Greek, meaning “insertion.”

    The BP catastrophe wouldn’t happen on our rigs, say the chairmen of Exxon Mobil and Chevron. Anticipating their comments, Ed Markey came up with the best quote at the hearings.

    We don’t think of a parenthesis as a figure of speech, but that’s exactly how it started its career. Parentheses aren’t punctuation; those little half-circles denote them. Used deftly, they can add an eyebrow-raising “oh-by-the-way” to a sentence, reinforcing a point in a way that makes it seem inevitable.

    Markey did this by working backwards. His staff discovered that Blind Faith is the name of a rig; presumably in honor of the great blues-rock band, not their philosophy on safety. He uses the phrase as if it’s his own, then parenthesizes the rig.

    Result: great irony. Great parenthesis. Rotten oil execs.

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    Reader Comments (7)

    Can you elaborate on what you mean by working backwards?
    June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReductio
    Put it this way: Markey almost certainly wouldn't have referred to BP's insouciance as "blind faith" if a rig hadn't been named that. Markey chose the phrase because it allowed him to add the parenthesis.
    June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFigaro
    OK, I get it. Can you give an example of how I might use the technique myself?
    June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReductio
    Sure. It works wherever you find an ironic coincidence. Say you're in dispute with your dentist for overcharging you. When you both appear before small claims court, he's proudly carrying a new iPad. You tell the judge, "This man pads his bills--ironically, he even owns an iPad."
    June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterReductio
    An instance of oil troubling the waters.
    June 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJuan
    Why does the senator inform his audience that the ship's being named Blind Faith Is ironic? Is Markey underestimating his listeners' ability to recognize the irony, or does the context for the spoken remark require him to signal to his listeners that the his following statement is parenthetical? What are your thoughts?
    June 17, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterseanmcnall
    A signal is always a good idea in spoken rhetoric. Markey didn't have to use "ironically"; he could have said, "Which, by the way, happens to be..."; or "Believe it or not, that's also..."

    "Ironically" sounds more formal, but it actually deflates his point slightly. The platform's name IS ironic, but saying so implies that the coincidence is a mere trope, and not a corporate philosophy.
    June 17, 2010 | Registered CommenterFigaro

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