During this fall’s election, now-former delegate Dick Black got in the habit of intentionally mispronouncing the name of his opponent, Delegate Elect David Poisson, as “poison,” rather than “PWA-sonh.” He did this in their debate and on his advertisements. Black lost his seat to Poisson, and his childish antics surely played a role in that.
I’ve long been annoyed with rude Republicans who intentionally mispronounce the name of the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party.” They do this because “democratic” is a word that Republicans want very much to associate with all that is good and right, but want to separate from the Democratic Party. So they drop the “ic.” It’s a really rude thing to do — it reminds me of people who call President Bush “Resident Bush,” “Preznit Bush,” or “Bushit.” Mangling somebody’s name, or the name of their organization, is one of the most base and offensive things that can be done to them, and it angers me.
Because I’m not very smart, it hadn’t occurred to me that these two thoughts — “poison” and “Democrat Party” — are related. Happily, Daily Progress columnist Bob Gibson is smart, and he explains that this tactic isn’t just rude, but is backfiring:
Northern Virginia voters are intelligent enough to know that the name of Poisson’s party is the Democratic Party and that Republicans who call it “the Democrat Party” are intentionally mispronouncing the party’s name.
That has been a favorite little tactic of some conservative Republicans who think it funny to mispronounce proper names.
Many Northern Virginians consider such tactics, well, to be a bit of poison at the polls for those who insist on using them.
People who go out of their way to mispronounce a name may be saying more about how they view fairness and courtesy than they might realize.
Even in politics, language still matters and civility is still a part of the art of persuasion.
Those who read this blog regularly know that, in all political matters, I teeter between wanting to fight fire with fire and wanting to take the high road. This is another instance of that. On the one hand, I’d like to start referring to the Publican Party, or the Republic Party, because I’m fed up with being treated rudely by some Republicans in this regard. On the other hand, it’s a (vocal) minority of Republicans — though all of the leadership and most of the elected officials, in my experience — who do this, and it seems unfair to treat an entire party with the rudeness demonstrated by a minority of its members.
No doubt I’ll continue to vacillate. Hopefully, in time, the Republican Party will come to realize that this sort of nastiness doesn’t work, and the problem will self-correct. But I’m not holding my breath.