Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pinker, Roberts, and the Oath

It is always gratifying to make an assertion and then learn that someone much smarter than you has made the same point.

Steven Pinker wrote a rather snarky opinion piece about the flubbed oath of office in the New York Times - "Oaf of Office." (And BTW, why does juvenile humor suddenly become worthy of the NYT when it's about conservatives?).

The essay was mentioned at Volokh Conspiracy, where I noted in the comments:
Pinker is an expert on language, but his mind-reading is no better than any other mortal's. He likes to kick conservatives when he can, so he speculates on motive in order to bring up things he has disliked about Roberts. There are always a dozen possible explanations for a verbal flub - Pinker chooses the one that suits his need and attributes it to Roberts.

I recently noted at my own site that Pinker seems unable to restrain himself from injecting his political opinions into his discussions of language and thought. I wonder what that means?
A few hours later, Ed Whelan noted over at The Corner.
I agree with Pinker that the split-verb myth (as well as its subsidiary rule against split infinitives) is unsound. But Pinker offers no evidence that Roberts in fact embraces the split-verb myth. And a quick review of one of his written opinions—where any niggling is more likely to manifest itself—indicates that Roberts doesn’t.
Thanks Ed.


@nooil4pacifists said...

I once worked with Roberts and am a huge fan. Besides, Coolidge and Arthur re-did their oaths. No big deal.

Larry Sheldon said...

What is a big deal to me is the rate at which Pinker is destroying his credibility with me.