Thursday, January 22, 2009

I Don't Like It When People Are Obnoxious On My Behalf, Either

Oh, shut up, Mort:
What is the reason President Obama chose this sequence ["We Are A Nation Of Christians And Muslims, Jews And Hindus -- And Non Believers"] when listing these four religions?

Throughout its history, the United States has always been known as a nation based on Judeo-Christian values and heritage.

Moreover, surveys show that there are some 5 – 7 million Jews living in the United States. Most surveys show that there are 1.8 – 2.8 million Muslims living in the United States.

In contrast, in President George W. Bush's Inauguration Speech on January 20, 2001, he said the following, "Church and charity, synagogue and mosque, lend our communities their humanity, and they will have an honored place in our plans and laws."

Oh my God, could you be more annoying? What is this, third grade? Grow up!


PG said...

Evidently Mort has an ear for neither rhythm & rhyme (JEWS and HinDUS) nor satire.

Jack said...

Ahem, someone ought to tell him that if we're going to play this game those "nonbelievers" come in second by a wide margin...

Of course we're elated to be mentioned at all.

PG said...

Although I'm not a huge fan of Yglesias, Ezra Klein and Ackerman, I do think "Juicebox Mafia" is more appropriately applied to someone like Morton Klein. Perhaps we should judge by the maturity of the writing instead of the age of the writer. (And of course that sort of insult inevitably betrays more envy on the part of the insulter than it exposes weakness in the insulted.)

Cycle Cyril said...

Since Obama is a careful wordsmith one must presume there is a significance to this change of a standard formula. What is it?

PG: If it was rhythm and rhyme then it would be more rhythmic and sound better to make it "Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus."

PG said...


No, that's why I noted BOTH rhythm and rhyme rather than just rhyme. Think about meter.

Christians and Jews [4 syllables],
Muslims and Hindus [5 syllables].

Try saying it in Obama's preacher-inflected style, and you'll realize that your ordering throws off the rhythm of the speech.

David Schraub said...

See, this is the trouble with White people. We can't understand this "rhythm" nonsense.

Friar Zero said...

If anyone is going to complain about placement in that list it really should be nonbelievers. Jews make up an estimated 2% of religious affiliation and nonbelievers make up roughly 7%.


Cycle Cyril said...


It will probably boil down to a matter of taste but in my opinion there is a better connection between these two lines:

Christians and Jews,
Muslims and Hindus.

because of the rhyming between the two lines than in his original order:

Christians and Muslims,
Jews and Hindus.

The rhythm with regards to the number of syllables is essential the same and the connecting rhyming creates a better rhythm.

But back to my question.

What do you think is the significance of the switch from a standard formula? Coming from a careful wordsmith it is of note.

David Schraub said...

Flushing out petulant seven year olds like Mort Klein?

PG said...


Please provide evidence that "Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus" is a "standard formula." I googled the phrase ["Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus" -obama] and the top hits all used those groupings to describe interreligious fighting (i.e. Christians fighting Jews, Muslims fighting Hindus), which is hardly what Obama wanted to discuss.

I've already explained that the internal rhyme, instead of your preferred end-line rhyme that would throw off the meter, fits Obama's speaking style (a point you don't rebut but simply attribute to differences in taste). If you listened to Rev. Lowery's benediction, he employed a similar internal-line rhyme style.

"when BLACK will not be asked to get in BACK,
when BROWN can stick aROUND,
when YEllow will be MEllow,
when the RED man can get aHEAD, man;
and when WHITE will embrace what is RIGHT"

However, feel free to devise your own theories about why a man with a particular speaking style, influenced by a particular oral tradition, put words in a particular order.

Cycle Cyril said...

The standard is Christians followed by Jews, not Christians followed by Muslims, when describing American society (unless hyphenated as Judeo-Christian).

Obama in his speech has virtually no other rhyming scheme. Thus I do not think that an internal rhyming scheme was paramount in his decision regarding word order.

Again, on this minor point, what do you think of this careful wordsmith's order of words.

PG said...

The standard is Christians followed by Jews, not Christians followed by Muslims, when describing American society (unless hyphenated as Judeo-Christian).

Again, where's your citation to any evidence to back up your claim? I provided a Google search to show that your preferred order tends to be associated with a very *negative* rationale: grouping by conflicts. Why should I believe your assertion of what is the "standard" in describing American society?

There's NO other rhyming in the speech at all, but as I've said, your preference of "Christians and Jews, Muslims and Hindus" would create a bad, forced rhythm to the rhyme. It's quite likely that as the speech was being drafted and he tried speaking it aloud, he found himself coming down with an exaggerated or elongated force on HinDUS due to the extra syllable, so an easy solution was to switch Muslims and Jews, thus creating a nice internal rhyme and avoiding having the rhythm thrown off.

But seriously, what's your theory about it, since you've rejected mine? What was "paramount in his decision regarding word order"?