Category: Dictations

Home Dictations
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International Community

In April, Condoleezza Rice made a stunning display of her keen analytical mind and verbal agility.  During a joint press conference with the Hungarian foreign minister, the secretary of state found herself defending the Bush administration’s decision to abstain rather

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Heavy in Their Loafers

Consider the word gay.  Blunt, yet with a bright ring, this synonym for robust mirth graced our common tongue through the centuries, from Chaucerian verse to the ballads of Cole Porter.  The music died in the late 1960’s, however,

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Sounding Brass

“Charity begins at home” was one of the most telling proverbs in the English language.  I say “was” because the English language is deader than Latin, and its post-English/post-American replacement, while it contains sound sequences remarkably similar to the old

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“Include Me Out”

The Church needs to be “inclusive.”  This was the refrain of the liberal delegates (an overwhelming majority) to the convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in Minneapolis as they considered the controversial nomination of Gene Robinson as coadjutor bishop of

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Choice: What a Beautiful Lie

The abortion debate has been over for years.  Both sides agree on the fundamentals.  Pro-abortion activists now routinely speak of their reverence for life.  Admittedly, that reverence extends to baby seals, calves raised for veal, and porpoises caught in a

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(Sic)

Too many members of my generation (postwar birth, 1960’s student) have a nasty way of ridiculing their juniors for their ignorance of history and their native tongue.  Outrage at the students’ ignorance of U.S. history was expressed recently in the

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God Bless America

Every president since Ronald Reagan has employed this invocation to punctuate the conclusion of a major speech. Coming from Reagan, it was sort of a tip of the hat to the official pieties of the World War II generation. In

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Citizens

Now that citizenship has become an alien concept to most Americans, the distinction between citizen and non-citizen is being obliterated. Decades ago. Justice Thurgood Marshall was already making the case that aliens, even illegal aliens, should—or, rather, did—enjoy virtually

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Diffr’nt Strokes Move the World

We are so used to living with meaningless expressions that we hardly notice when new absurdities are foisted upon us. “Multicultural” is supposed to suggest openness to different cultures. But since each culture, to the extent that it is distinctive,

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“Call Me Irresponsible”

“This is really a matter of accountability,” snarled Tom Daschle on Fox News Sunday, “making sure that we can enforce the rights we’re now going to guarantee and that we hold everybody accountable.” In his superbly inarticulate way, Daschle

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“The Only Thing That Matters”

Tennyson’s Northern Farmer, who did not want his son marrying for love, took a lesson from his horse’s hoofbeats:

Dosn’t thou ‘ear my ‘erse’s legs, as they canters awaäy?
Proputty, proputty, proputty—that’s what I ‘ears ’em saäy.

Conservatives, repeating that

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The Moral Minority

The word “minority” represents one of those inversions of value (that typify socialist regimes. Derived, obviously, from the Latin minor (smaller or less in respect of size, importance, age, etc.), “minority” has been used in English to express both the

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“Mandate for Leadership”

Your servant Humpty has been hearing a great deal about the “will of the people” and an incoming President’s need for a “popular mandate.” Richard Nixon was the first president I recall claiming to have received a “mandate” as a

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The People, No!

Nobody can define democracy, and if any honest man succeeded in doing so, the liars (always in the vast majority of mankind) would stone hime to death for his pains. Democracy means, literally, rule by the people; or rather, as

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“I got rights, I got rights, too.”

Few people have heard Hank Williams, Jr.’s song about a man getting revenge on the man who killed his wife and got himself acquitted, but it raises the question of what rights are. For the killer and his lawyer, rights

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Liberating Students From the Liberators

The “liberal arts” have come to mean the arts that turn people into liberals. Anti-Christians as early as Montaigne have played on the expression as the “liberating” arts. Montaigne must have known that artes liberales, translating directly from the

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Lightening Up

“Two D’s on your report card? What have you been I doing all semester? From now on, you are a student: no phone, no friends, no dates. . . . It’s time you started growing up, started accepting responsibility.”

“Yeah,

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“No Man Is an Island”

In claiming that each of us is a part of the whole, John Donne was not criticizing King James I for his isolationist foreign policy. Donne’s reflections on human unity were spiritual, not political—though how each man’s death diminishes me

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Charity Versus Foreign Aid

“Charity begins at home” strikes the modern ear as a contradiction in terms. In our time, charity has come to mean giving to strangers —the stranger the better. It is a duty that we discharge by writing a check or

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Time’s Ugliest Children

Between the two world wars, Robinson Jeffers watched as the old American Republic settled into empire. Jeffers was an honest man, a patriotic Democrat who knew that the extension of American hegemony into Europe and Asia could only mean an

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Contemptible Familiarities

“Would you guys like somethin’ to drink?” I could not help smiling at the lady and two men sitting across the table from me in this California restaurant injected into the middle of North Carolina. We had just been deploring

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“Patriots and Other Scoundrels”

Samuel Johnson’s description of patriotism as “the last refuge of a scoundrel” is frequently quoted by globalist liberals who cannot imagine any normal person actually loving his country. Occasionally, some conservative critic responds by saying that Johnson was really condemning

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“This Strange Disease of Modern Life”

How long have we been modern men, living in modern times, experiencing the trials of modernity and modernization? What self-obsession! Although the people of any brilliant age—Elizabethan England, France under Louis XIV, Augustan Rome—lend to exercise their bragging rights too

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Party of One

Herbert Hoover once praised the “American system of rugged individualism.” (This was the same Hoover who gave Americans a trial run of New Deal socialism.) The ideology of individualism is a classic piece of 19th-century claptrap. Once upon a time,

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Learning, Larning, and Schooling

        “All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.”
—Sir Walter Scott

Educate, educare, Latin, from educere “to lead out.” Education is thus, etymologically, a leading out of young minds from

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Dedicated to the Proposition

Every moviegoer remembers the sign: “Keep your change. Tipping is un-American.” It is on the cash register of the roadside diner that is the setting for The Petrified Forest. It is a strange expression. We don’t say “un-French” (and hardly

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Regrets Only

“Any loss of life is regretted,” announced Col. Manfred Freytag, after a NATO pilot fired a missile into a bus carrying civilians across a bridge about ten miles out of Pristina. The official voice is unmistakable, even in Our Man

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Name Games

“Kosovar” became a watchword in the months leading up to the U.S. attack on Yugoslavia. Although some new readers continued to speak of the “Albanians of Kosovo,” use of the term “Kosovar”—adopted about two years earlier by Albanian nationalists—was the

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Values Clarification

“Family values” is one of those political slogans that promises much and delivers nothing. It is a first cousin of such equally equally meaningless Bill-bennetisms as “Western values” and “Great Books.” The primary problem with such expressions is that they

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News-Speak

“We very clearly had made a mistake,” said the marketing director of Merriam-Webster, explaining her company’s decision to pull an on-line thesaurus that included “faggot” and “fruit” as synonyms for “homosexual.” While many homophiles freely use expressions like “faggot” and

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Words of Mass Destruction

How many changes have been rung on this one phrase: Weapons Of Mass Destruction. We are told we must eliminate the threat of, degrade his capacity to employ, send a clear signal that we will not tolerate the existence of

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“Take short views . . . and trust in God”

“At the end of the day,” declared the minister—or bleated the commentator or droned the expert. . . . But why continue? Phrases like at the end of the day are useful signposts, saying: IGNORE THE FOLLOWING COMMUNICATION.

Other such

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“Or Else a Little Conservative”

The words conservative and conservatism have been the subject of an ideological straggle that resembles the tussle over Patroclus’ corpse described in the Iliad—as violent as it is futile: Both words are dead. Originally, conservatives were supporters of the

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Parsing or Posing?

Bill Clinton has enriched the American political vocabulary in so many ways, giving us (along with jokes involving knee-pads and Buddhist nuns) such expressions as “I feel your pain,” “conduct that was not appropriate,” and “depends on what your definition

Literature and the Real Person
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Literature and the Real Person

The invitation to visit Chicago, the outline provided of the Foundation’s aims, and the name of the Award, made me think at once of a poem by T.S. Eliot, in which he describes a British visitor to America.

The poem