Favorite

Add hominem 

Add (cq) hominem:

In a recent discussion of the rhetorical device ad hominem, this column said that "ad hominem seeks to discredit an idea by belittling its opponent, frequently through innuendo." That should have been "ad hominem seeks to discredit an idea by belittling its proponent, frequently through innuendo."

Looks like my assistant and the Times copy desk all stubbed their toes on this one. But I'll take part of the blame. I'm always too lenient with them during the Christmas season.

* * *

Results are mixed:

A headline from the Standard Democrat of Sikeston, Mo.; "Grade cards used to gauge student progress."

* * *

High school commencement speakers and other bores always used to work the phrase "from the sublime to the ridiculous" into their orations. I never knew where it came from, and never much cared, until I recently saw it attributed to Thomas Paine. So I checked Bartlett's, which spreads the credit or blame around, as Bartlett's often does. Unless it's from Shakespeare or the Bible, any quotation that gets collected is likely to be attributed to more than one source.

Paine's is the earliest citation, from "The Age of Reason," written in 1793: "When authors and critics talk of the sublime, they see not how nearly it borders on the ridiculous."

Napoleon is quoted from a letter he wrote in 1812, referring to his retreat from Moscow: "From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step."

Bartlett's doesn't quote him directly, but it says the "sublime to the ridiculous" business is also attributed to Talleyrand, the French diplomat and contemporary of Paine and Napoleon. I envision the three of them hanging out in Paris, and after a few glasses of wine Napoleon saying, "Hey Tom, that was a pretty good line about the proximity of the sublime and the ridiculous. Mind if I borrow it in case I get chased out of Russia?" (He would have said this in French, most likely.) And Paine says, "No problem, but be sure and give me credit." "You bet," Napoleon says. Talleyrand sits mute.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Doug Smith

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Latest in Words

  • The L word and the C word

    I was excited to see the newspaper headline "Bielema liberal." "After all those neo-Nazis, we've finally got a coach who thinks right," I told friends. "I wonder if he belongs to the ADA."
    • May 1, 2014
  • Who's exasperated?

    Jim Newell was gripped by exasperation himself after reading this item in the business section. "Exacerbated" is the word the writer wanted, he sagely suggests.
    • Apr 24, 2014
  • We will run no race before it's ripe

    "What year would Oaklawn recognize as its 100th anniversary? After all, Oaklawn's advertising material is ripe with 'Since 1904,' but it's widely reported the first race wasn't run until 1905."
    • Apr 17, 2014
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Event Calendar

« »

April

S M T W T F S
  1
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29
30  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Art bull

    • the nice thing about art is that it is what it is, but what it…

    • on April 22, 2017
  • Re: Executionpalooza

    • Fantastic work-from-home opportunity for everyone... Work for three to five hrs a day and start…

    • on April 21, 2017
  • Re: Erasing humanity

    • Exactly how I feel only written much better than I could.

    • on April 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation