Al Gore's Writers Make Him Look Like a Pretentious Blowhard

Or maybe he writes his own stuff, in which case he makes himself look like a pretentious blowhard.

Or … light begins to dawn … perhaps Al just is a pretentious blowhard. That theory has the advantage of simplicity.

What's this all about? It's Mr. No-Controlling-Legal-Authority's recent testimony to Congress, where he said:

As many of you know, the way that the Chinese and the Japanese, both of whom use the so-called kanji characters, express the concept of "crisis," they use two symbols together. And the first one means "danger" and the second means "opportunity."
Ben Zimmer at the Language Log blog was all over this, and has lots of links. It turns out the core assertion is just wrong. And, as Victor Mair, professor of Chinese language and literature at the University of Pennsylvania, points out: "A whole industry of pundits and therapists has grown up around this one grossly inaccurate formulation."

Zimmer also points out that Gore went above and beyond the usual bogosity in using the hifalutin term "kanji", also (at least technically) incorrect. It does pump up the pseudo-profundity, however, which I'm sure was the purpose.

Enough dumping on Gore, though. Follow the links, and you'll find plenty of other victims who have been suckered into believing the beguiling bit of misinformation, and it's bipartisan. Condoleezza Rice fell into the trap. It goes (at least) all the way back to a speech JFK gave in 1959. It's also claimed that Nixon said it, although I can't verify that. (I scanned through a few pages in his Six Crises, which would be a likely enough place to find it, but was unsuccessful.)

We won't even go into what makes this particular bit of bunkum so appealing to various speechifiers; even if it were true, it's about as profound as pointing out that "there's no 'I' in 'TEAM'".

Probably my point ("and I do have one, I think") is that politicos should hire some fact-checkers with skills in the Googling Arts to prevent such gaffes. In addition to the Language Loggers, it's pretty easy to find skepticism on this point from the Acton Institute, The Straight Dope, and Jane Galt. Even the tedious Marty Kaplan pointed this out at Huffpo last year, but (predictably) he only detected Republicans as the abusers.