Parsing the State of the Union

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ben Zimmer, "On Language" columnist for the New York Times and executive producer of Visual Thesaurus and, takes a closer look at some of the words and phrases that the president used in his State of the Union speech. Also, we get more insight into the president's smoked salmon joke from Niki Russ, fourth-generation co-owner of the Lower East Side fish shop staple Russ & Daughters, who explains the difference between smoked salmon and lox.


Niki Russ and Ben Zimmer

Comments [10]

Amy from Manhattan

I asked about the difference between "appetizing" & "deli" not that long ago--I think it was on a segment on Leonard's show. I don't remember who the guest was, but he said that "appetizing" was the dairy (& fish) equivalent of "deli," which (in NY, at least), refers specifically to stores that sell meat. Maybe it's only in New York that kosher requirements actually extend to entire separate stores for milk & meat! In any case, it sounds as if the "stuff that goes on a bagel" definition is a coincidence.

Jan. 28 2011 11:19 AM
Edward from NJ

The fundamentally stupid thing about blindly counting occurrences of a word was highlighted in the audio montage at the beginning of this segment. One instance was actually the phrase "private investment" -- which is clearly *not* code for government spending.

Jan. 28 2011 11:13 AM
Xitna from the E. Village

Exactly Rlewis from the Bowery. The unprecedented media need to be 'fair and balanced' by allowing every nut job a voice, even if it's counterbalanced by 1000 sane voices, has now hit NPR and local talk radio shows.

Jan. 28 2011 11:13 AM
RLewis from the bowery

Rational, serious people call in and comment on this show day after day, and you pick Jack as the person to highlight. He was a nutjob with insanity in his voice. Thanks for acting like traditional, for-profit media. And you wonder why your funding is threatened. I'm so dissapointed.

Jan. 28 2011 10:57 AM
Gene Detroyer from NYC, NY

I just heard the comment that "investment" is a code word for "tax & spend". If so, I would like to see the country tax and spend like it did on the Louisiana Purchase, Alaskan purchase, the Erie Canal, the Transcontinental Railroad, Land Grant Colleges, the GI Bill, The Panama Canal, and the Interstate Highway System.

Jan. 28 2011 10:57 AM
gary from queens

Ben Zimmer feels like "tax and spend" is merely Republican demogoguery. He should look to history. The last U.S. president that tried to spend his way out of a recession---using printed or borrowed money---was Franklin Roosevelt. And all that accomplished was to turn a simple recession into a decades-long depression. The New Deal----Roosevelt's stimulus plan----delayed our recovery. Government becoming a player discouraged private investment. The new regulations and mandates, which always follows government investment, creates economic uncertainty. The only thing that finally created economic growth and put people back to work was World War II. Thanks to the New Deal's huge influx of government dollars into the economy, the stock market hadn't returned to it's pre-depression highs until well into the 1950s. Roosevelt's Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. admitted that the New Deal had failed in it's mission in testimony before the Democrat majority-run House Ways and Means Committee on May 9, 1939:

We tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and if I am wrong… somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosperous. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises… I say after eight years of the Administration (Franklin Roosevelt from 1931-1939) we have just as much unemployment as when we started… And an enormous debt to boot!

1. Burton Folsom Jr New Deal or Raw Deal? How FDR’s economic legacy has damaged America. New York: Threshold Editions, 2008.
2. Morgenthau Diary, May 9, 1939, Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library.
3. Richard K. Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway, Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1993.

Jan. 28 2011 10:56 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Lack of "investment" in infrastructure and education = third world country.

Jan. 28 2011 10:52 AM
gary from queens

The "new" moderate Obama said through one side of his mouth in his January 2011 State of the Union speech, that we must "live within our means", and freeze domestic discretionary spending, he said in the other side of his mouth that government must "invest" in dozens of projects, including the old standby, our crumbling roads and bridges. Apparently the nearly trillion dollars that Obama spent on crumbling roads and bridges almost two years ago had no effect. Maybe it was because he referred to it as a "job stimulus", as opposed to an "investment"?!

Jan. 28 2011 10:52 AM
Mike from Atlanta

That teacher is insane. How about the Republicans or as I like to call them "Spend and Defer Conservatives". These guys, since Reagan, have killed the middle class by spending and spending then once a Democrat takes office, they have to pick up the tab.

"Spend and Defer Conservatives".

Jan. 28 2011 10:50 AM
Xtina from E. Village

Who cares what Jack from Staten Island did, counting the times the President said 'investment'. So he has listened to and decided to repeat Limbaugh's and other conservative pundits' talking points and allow himself to be brainwashed. No it's not 'code' for 'tax and spend'. Hey Jack taxes have NEVER been lower in this country since the 1950's. How much lower can they be without ruining this country?

Jan. 28 2011 10:50 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.