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Thursday, 11 October 2007

I can feel the way the wind is blowing. Sooner, rather than later, the word "debatable" will come to mean "amenable to rational discussion", or "willing to debate", rather than, as now, "a matter of opinion" or "open to dispute". It may well happen in our lifetime.

Robert Spencer, in an otherwise very well-written post - all his posts are well-written - uses "debate" as a transitive verb to refer to his potential opponent, rather than to the topic:

I would, of course, be happy to debate any scholar about Islam and jihad; this is a standing invitation." In reality, several Islamic apologists have recently approached me with challenges to debate, and I've told them I'm willing to debate them all.

I would say not "debate any scholar about Islam" but "debate Islam with any scholar". You debate a subject, but you debate it with a person.

As with "impact", however, the tide is turning. If I were an American, or a Briton who would be under thirty in twenty years' time, I would think it perfectly acceptable to use "debate" in this way. And I would be right. That's how it goes. So if a man can be "debated", that is "argued with", in all his new-fangled transitiveness, then he is "debatable". How can he not be?

Interestingly - to me, anyway - "debatable" is one of the definitions of "problematic". But for how much longer? Language change impacts us all.

Posted on 10/11/2007 4:16 PM by Mary Jackson
11 Oct 2007
Send an emailreactionry
At the risk of becoming what we Yanks call an "enabler", I'm facilitating the transmission of the following letter to Mary Jackson from a Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman, although it's unquestionably reprehensible and its provenance is in question:
Dear Ms. Limette:
I'm thinking of you sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon, going to the candidate's debate. Laugh about it, shout about it when you've got to choose. Ev'ry way you look at it, you lose.  You lose if you vote for some spineless "tower of Jell-O" (gelatin is haram and hat tip to Dorothy Starkers) conservative or some neo-Nazi BNPer  What does that stand for anyway? British National Petroleum Jelly*?
Not that we've got it better over here.  You've got your Tory "Wets" -do you still call them that? - but we've got scores of millions of wetbacks and Tom Tancredo has about as much chance of becoming President as does Harvey Firestone - I mean - Fierstein - of opening a Dhimmi Dean Pure Pork Sausage outlet in Medina.
But not that I give a dormouse's hindquarters about that.  I'm too busy trying to catch up on Oscars won with the other Hoffman - Mr. Mother/Daughter Menage A Trough Man, Mr. Little Big Man, Mr. Rain Man, Mr. Tootsie Wo-Man, Mr. "I'm like sooo afraid of the dentist" Marathon Man - I'm sure you Brits can identify with that last one.
And trying to live down my performance as the Capote Americain to Johnny "The Wad" Holmes in Boogie Nights.  Which reminds me - know what rhymes with "Tuckman"?  No, not "Tuchman", as in Bab's A Distant Queer - that's a homonym -it's Truman. Geddit?!?  You're welcome.  And think of me when you watch In Cold Blood, but if you want those tears to fall, try not to think of Robert Blake when Perry Smith is hung (or is it "hanged"? -hat tip to the National Lampoon) - not much of a "stretch" was it?  And what did "Little Beaver" shoot his wife with?  A Baretta? (gotta' watch those e to a vowel changes)
It's time to cue up David Johansen's Frenchette.  I just love the way he disses frenchette, letherette, naturalette, launderette and so forth, although I doubt that his pick-up lyric, "I've been to France, so let's just dance" would go over big across the Pond.   Time to run - my blood runs cold - and polish the Oscar to a centerfold.
Philip Seymour "Butz" Hoffman
*Jelly -See Peter Devries' homage to Raleigh.  Available online and on page 45 of The Brand-X Anthology Of Poetry:
'Come live with me and be my love,'
  He said, in substance.  'There's no vine
We will not pluck the clusters of,
  Or grape we will not turn to wine.'

It's autumn of their second year.
  Now he, in seasonal pursuit,
With rich and modulated cheer,
  Brings home the festive purple fruit;

And she, by passion once demented
  --That woman out of Botticelli--
She brews and bottles, unfermented,
  The stupid and abiding jelly.