paraphrase Winston Churchill, infinite isrnthe debt owed to those who want tornspeak strongly but do not know how.rn”Literally” is a case in point. StephaniernFawcett of the National Archives saidrnthat thanks to the recently declassifiedrnmaterial on the Cuban missile crisis,rn”You are literally a fly on the wall in thernWhite House.” Ohio RepresentativernJim Traficant said by dumping tomatoesrnon the American market, “Mexico is literallyrnthrowing tomatoes at Uncle Sam.”rnWe know what they mean, of course, butrnliterally turns us into real flies, like JeffrnGoldblum, and Mexico into a giant FernandornValenzuela bouncing real tomatoesrnoff a real Uncle Sam.rnWashington lawyer/writer Bruce Feinrnreported that no one could read ArmandornValladares’ book about life in Cubanrnprisons “without feeling nauseous.” Valladares’rnjailer, Fidel, may be nauseousrn(i.e., causing nausea), but Valladares’rnreaders were nauseated, made ill.rnA recent episode of television’s ThernSimpsons makes a point Washington insidersrnshould note: “Proactive andrnparadigm; aren’t they words dumb peoplernuse to sound smart?” George Orwellrncould not have said it better. New wordsrnoccur when the old ones have becomerntoo vague: e-mail, voice mail, as distinguishedrnfrom snail mail, for example.rnBut has leftist jargon so infiltrated ourrnlanguage that even the staunchly conservativernCongresswoman Ileana Ros-rnLIBERAL ARTSrnTHE COMPASSIONrnPOLICErn”A wide range of predators victimizernillegal immigrants. Guides and organizedrngangsters have robbed, raped,rnand killed them or forced them tornwork in sweatshops or prostitutionrnrings to pay off the cost of therntrip. . . . Xenophobes and hatemongersrnterrorize them. .. . The fact thatrnillegal immigration is a crime makesrnthe immigrants particulady vulnerablernbecause they are unlikely to seekrnthe protection of the law.”rn—from the June J 997rnNational Institute of Justice Journal,rna publication of thernU.S. Department of JusticernLehtinen must use “proactive,” as sherndid in a recent article, just to show thatrnshe is not a reactionary? I hope not.rn”Paradigm,” on the other hand, is a realrnword to describe things like the conjugationsrnof verbs and declensions of nouns.rnThomas Kuhn appropriated the term torndescribe the state of scientific knowledgernat a given time, until a new paradigm replacesrnit. Nevertheless, it is what WestbrookrnPegler called an “out-of-townrnword,” and paradigm-users, like sociologistsrnwho use mathematical-looking formulasrnwith Greek letters to conceal simplisticrnnotions, should raise eyebrows.rn”Parameter” is another suspect word.rnWhen my computer advises me: “Nornsuch parameter, Humanoid,” it is usingrnthe word correctly to say that I have givenrnthe wrong characteristics of whateverrnI am looking for. Even the late MalcolmrnBaldridge, the formidable former Secretaryrnof Commerce, nodded on this one.rnIn the wonderful little memo he sentrnaround Washington pleading for plainrnEnglish, he excommunicated parameterrnand suggested that boundary or limit bernused instead. Oh, the horror!rn”Begging the question” is becomingrnthe highfalutin equivalent of “prompts”rnor “raises the question.” Washingtonrntalking-head Jim Classman always misusesrnit in this way on his Sunday CapitalrnGang show. “Begging the question” is arnliteral translation from Latin of a lawyer’srntrick; pretending something that has tornbe proved has already been proved.rnWhen former Secretary of State JamesrnBaker, writing in the New York Times, defendedrnthe Chemical Weapons Treatyrnagainst charges that it would underminernnational security, Baker argued thatrn”the idea that Ronald Reagan andrnGeorge Bush would negotiate a treatyrndetrimental to this nation’s security wasrngrotesque.” Baker was “begging thernquestion” whether the treaty was safe tornratify by recasting it as whether presidentsrnReagan and Bush would sell outrnthe country, as if the answer to that questionrnresolved all doubts about the treatyrnitself.rnArchaic expressions are especially attractivernto the chattering class and potentialrn”petards.” In opposing various religiousrngroups who were calling forrnfederal intervention to protect a churchrnfrom a Texas zoning law, Washingtonrnpublic television personality BonniernErbe wrote: “This legal claim hoists thernreligious conservatives by their own fatuousrnpetard.” “Petard” is an old Frenchrnword for a bomb. “Hoist” in this contextrnmeans being blown up by a bomb yournyourself set, as happened when sappersrndallied. “Fatuous” means silly or foolish.rnIf I ever have to defuse a petard, I hope itrnis a fatuous one.rnThe Spanish writer Ortega y Gassetrnobserved that it is a characteristic of ourrntime that the commonplace has the assurancernto impose itself wherever it will,rncrushing traditions of excellence andrnprofessionalism. He might have addedrnthat it’s good for a few yuks, too. The AssociatedrnPress announced that a 1997rnNew Hampshire law imposes jail termsrn”for hunters who shoot someone whilerndrunk.” Sober people are apparently stillrnfair game. Even the Writer’s DigestrnSchool, wbich is in the business of knowingrnbetter, entices new students withrn”free gifts.” A gift by definition is free. ArnBritish journalist reported that the Oxfordrnand Cambridge Club was admittingrnwomen because the student bodies ofrnboth universities were now “almost entirelyrnbi-sexual.” (I suspected as muchrnwhen I was at Cambridge, but now thernsecret is out.)rnFor most of this century, A Dictionaryrnof Modern English Usage, written byrnH.W. Fowler and later edited by SirrnErnest Cowers, has been a conspicuousrnexception to the mediocrity Ortega yrnGasset lamented. Fowler’s was the arbiterrnelegantiae of English usage and thernbane of ugly and barbarous language.rnNo more. Under the new editor, RobertrnBurchfield, Fowler’s passion for properrnEnglish, like Fowler himself, has beenrneliminated from all but the title. As isrnappropriate for a politically correct age,rnThe New Fowler’s Modern English Usage:rnThird Edition does not concern itselfrnwith how English should be spoken butrnrather how it is spoken, by everybodyrnfrom comic strip characters to rappers. Itrnis not a guide. It is a Sears word catalogue.rnJust pick out what you want.rnDizzy Dean—who used to say thingsrnlike, “He slud into third,” when he wasrnbroadcasting games for the St. LouisrnCardinals—got in hot water with localrnEnglish teachers. Dizzy had the grace tornsay, “I’ll have to quit broadcasting if 1rnhave to talk proper.” Today it is just thernreverse. If Dizzy had stuck around a littlernlonger, he might have been thernspokesman for the State Department.rnFrank Ruddy is a former U.S. ambassadorrnwho now practices law in Washington,rnD.C.rn48/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn