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Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
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    Hold the Cheese

    Poor Mitt Romney. His tin ear gives him a chronic decorum problem. Listen to him speaking at Jackson, Mississippi.>

    I got started right this morning with a biscuit and some cheesy grits.

    It’s not “cheesy grits.” It’s cheese grits. Romney tries hard to fit in wherever he goes, to prove he’s a man of the people. But if you want to prove you’re part of a tribe, you have to know the tribal language. That’s a key element of decorum, Latin for “fitness.”

    Fitness. Darwin used the term to refer to a species’ ability to fit into its particular environment. Rhetorical fitness—decorum—has to do with a person’s ability to fit into a particular tribal environment. And, listen up, all y’all:  It don’t get more tribal than southern Republican.

    Figaro often gets emails from word snobs who mistake grammar for morals, and who see a split infinitive as a crack in civilization. But grammar, like cheese grits, is merely an element of decorum, the art of fitting in.

    And Romney, for all his many abilities, just isn’t the fitting-in type. Then again, neither is Obama. Figaro cringes every time the Harvard Law grad refers to Americans as “folks.” Trust the Fig: This election will be more grammatical than folksy. 

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    Reader Comments (1)

    I'm all about taking on the culture and language of a "tribe," but my biggest concern lies in the question "When does it become fake?" When does decorum become deceit? There's such a fine line between trying to fit in and just wearing a mask, only to discard it soon after. Language is tricky and I'm not about to go against centuries of time-tested rhetorical structures, but I will pose this: when it comes to something like the way the president of the US speaks, I'd hope that we can see beyond whether he/she correctly uses 'cheese grits.' That is to say, maybe there's an even higher level of language that transcends the quirky phrases of any particular place, something more concrete to base such serious matters on.
    March 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaria D.

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