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    I Came, I Saw, I Dodged

    Mitt Romney uses an emphatic word repeater to avoid doing anything about global warming. But if you want to block any kind of action or choice, pay attention to his other trick: abstention from the future tense. It’s the right’s main weapon against science and the environment, and the left falls for it every time. By focusing on whodunit—whether humans or nature bear responsibility for the Earth’s warming—both sides fail to answer the central question: What are we going to do about it? 

    My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.

    Mitt Romney, presidential candidate

    Ploce, the doubler. From the Greek, meaning “braid.” 

    The ploce turns up the volume by repeating a word with another word or two in between. For example, “Enough is enough” makes a nice ploce—as well as a description of Figaro’s exasperation over global warming. Romney’s “trillions and trillions” lets him avoid any accuracy over the actual cost of CO2 reduction; it’s the opposite of “priceless.”

    But we’re even more interested in the rhetorical strategy of tense. The future tense is where people make choices. That’s because a decision affects the future, not the past or present. If you want to avoid taking action, avoid the future tense. Nicely done, Governor Romney!

    For more on word repeaters, see our sister site, Word Hero.

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    Reader Comments (12)

    Interesting point, Fig. While everybody else is talking about Romney's apparent flip-flopping--or calling him a "moderate" for recognizing the obvious (that the Earth is indeed warming)--nobody is calling him on the need to do something.

    Your work on the "tenses" is the most important part of Thank You for Arguing, I think. Thanks for your contribution.
    November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Canardo
    Why do you think the Greeks called this form of repetition a "braid"? The translations of figure names mystify me?
    November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarie
    Me too, Marie! In this case, though, "braid" makes sense. The repeated word is woven into the sentence.
    November 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro

    All decisions are present tense - regardless of political affiliation. "Results" are in the future tense and it is results that are determined by present tense decisions.

    If your view is "we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet" then is avoiding a specific remedy - carbon dioxide reduction - a "dodge"? Or a prudent present tense "decision"?

    Look, if "word repetition" is the right-wing herd's main weapon against global warming action - and the left "falls for it every time," it doesn't take much of a scabbard to overwhelm these dolts.

    And "avoiding an action" is, indeed taking an action - hardly an abstention. No wonder Fig is exasperated.

    My head hurts from reading this post.
    November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterduneview
    I think you missed a couple of points, Duney. First, argument over decisions has to do with outcomes, which exist in the future. Aristotle talks about that in his Rhetoric, or you can find a simpler explanation in my book Thank You for Arguing.

    The left doesn't fall for word repeaters but from the tense dodge. By focusing on who or what is responsible for climate change, we fail to deal with the future: the consequences of a warming climate, and ways we can ameliorate the change or adapt to it.

    All of which exist in the future. Get it?

    Sorry about the headache.

    November 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    In newsstand sales we have a great one: "It is what it is." Takes care of the repetition and present tense in one blow.
    November 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Ruth
    Yep, "Boys will be boys." And as one commentator said of Sarah Palin as a vice presidential candidate, "Number two is number two." In these cases, though, the connotation of the second repetition alters ever so slightly, making the figure an antanaclasis: http://www.figarospeech.com/it-figures/2007/12/27/tax-pair.html
    November 2, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    This morning I never thought my day would include a discussion of "tense dodges," but life is funny that way.

    Thank You For Arguing. Chapter 3 "Control the Tense." Read it. Learn it. Live it.

    Thanks, Fig., my headache is going away.
    November 2, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterduneview
    My pleasure, Dune. Figures regularly work as analgesics.
    November 3, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    I just read you book and enjoyed it. But the problem with this post is if we dont know what is causing the problem, how can we possibly talk about the future. How can you make a choice without fully defining the problem and whats causing it? To make a choice in the future we must build up logos for that choice. Without getting too political. The logic behind cutting CO2 emissions isnt there in many instances. So then what othere choice is there? We have the choice of bio engennering which is brilliantant but to radical to even bring up. So whats really left. Do nothing which in many instances is a choice. Why make a choice to solve a problem that the solutions possibly put us worse off without even fixing the problem. Not everything that happens is a problem that needs to be solved. There arent an infinate number of problems. I dont think this point brought up in this post has any realy validity though I'd love to hear your responce.
    November 7, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermike
    What causes a problem and what solves it may not be the same thing, Mike. If my car tire shreds, I need to replace the car tire, not wander the highway looking for what shredded it.

    Deliberative rhetoric is a matter of choices: what's the decision most advantageous to the audience? It's perfectly legitimate to argue for passively letting the earth warm. And it's equally legitimate to argue the advantages of ameliorating the warming, or of adapting to warming.

    If we focus exclusively on whether humans caused the change, then we deny ourselves that deliberative argument. That's certainly not to anyone's advantage.
    November 11, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro
    I understand what your saying and I like you tire anology. But if one side says that humans caused the problem (warming), the other cant go on and convince people to simply live with it. You must first directly address his point on causation to first get people on your side. In a case like this we are talking sience. A sientiest does't run an experemtn and if it fails, imediatlly retry the expierment. He ould wants to learn why the expierement failed so when he does rerun the experemnt he knows what changes to make. He would not want to take a blind shot in the dark becuase "he didnt want to dwell on the past failure".

    I do understand that not talking in the future tence isnt ever going to make choices. But, to make the proper choice isnt it sometimes nessary to deal with the past?
    November 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermike

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