word of the year?

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Mon Aug 20 14:23:08 UTC 2012

On Aug 20, 2012, at 6:43 AM, David Barnhart wrote:

> What was going through the speaker's mind.  Legitimate rape!?!?
> From: Hollis Barnhart [mailto:hbarnhart at highlands.com]
> Sent: Monday, August 20, 2012 8:35 AM
> To: David Barnhart
> Subject: word of the year?
> worst euphemism maybe?  legitimate rape:
> http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/compost/post/legitimate-rape-and-todd-akins-myths/2012/08/20/f8c048b4-ea76-11e1-a80b-9f898562d010_blog.html

my guess is that he was (mentally) contrasting forcible rape ("real rape", "legitimate rape") with statutory rape.  the legal presumption is that sex with a minor cannot by definition be consensual and therefore must have been coerced, even if not forcible -- so is rape (labeled in various ways in different jurisdictions, but known informally as "statutory rape").  but people recognize that the legal minor in these cases often enters willingly into the sexual relations (and most people are uncomfortable with the idea that a specific date makes the difference between rape and consensual sex).

if that's what Akin meant, then of course he should have said so, rather than merely saying he mis-spoke (if he mis-spoke, what did he *intend* to say instead?).  but then he would be exposing an attitude that might well be unpopular with a significant portion of the electorate.

the other problem with his original statement is his expressed belief that forcible rape doesn't make women pregnant, because their bodies -- somehow, magically --prevent conception.  he is simply wrong about that as a matter of science, and it's a really ugly idea.  the only way for Akin to fix that would be for him to admit that he was wrong ("mis-speaking" doesn't begin to cover the case), but i fear he's convinced of the truth of this myth, though he realizes that it would be impolitic to admit that.  so his follow-up statement disregards the issue entirely, in favor of apparently supportive platitudes.

really, a remarkable performance.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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