The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, February 24, 2005
 

Did the Chronicle bowdlerise Biden?


Gannon/Guckert is like the Somme battlefield circa November 1916: nary a poppy to be culled.

However, the San Francisco Chronicle has a vignette that gives me pause:
As Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., pointed out during a meeting with The Chronicle editorial board Wednesday, the Guckert case, at a minimum, suggests "sheer, friggin' incompetence,'' in terms of White House security. Biden said Congress should investigate this potential breach of security, but he acknowledged such a probe would never occur with Republicans in control of the House and Senate.

What did Biden actually say? Was it friggin' - a word, I would estimate, generally used by adults in adult company as an intensifier only where censorship - or self-censorship - is in operation - or was it fuckin' (fucking, even), which would be the natural choice.

The Vice President, no less, has sanctioned the use in public political discourse of fuck and its derivatives - why should Biden have used the mealy-mouthed alternative in a private meeting? To do so is self-evidently weaker than not using an intensifier at all.

Assuming - without deciding - that Biden said fucking, why would the paper not have reported the fact - using the customarily asterisked version of the word? Or else omitted it entirely as a verbal tic - in the same way that - according to the Masson v New Yorker standard - the common stumbles of conversation are omitted in newspaper quotes.

The fact (if it is one) that Biden said fuck to Chronicle editors would clearly not be news. Nor if he said frig.

But, to use the terminology of the antiques trades, my impression is that the quote as used by the paper is not quite right.


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