I am what I am ....

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 23 21:45:13 UTC 2010

The Langston Hughes example given by Jim Parish, "America never was
America to me," evinces a potential class of anti-tautophrases.

I am not what I am. (Othello by William Shakespeare. Safire mentions this.)

It is not what it is. (In GB: "Being other than itself, it is not what
it is." in Writing and Differenceā€ˇ by Jacques Derrida.)

When it's over, it's not over (In GB: The Divine Drama by Kurt D. Bruner.)

We hadn't let Reagan be Reagan. (In GB: A Different Drummer by Michael
K. Deaver.)

Nothing succeeds like failure. (In GB: The Innovation Paradox: The
Success of Failure, the Failure of Success by Richard Evans Farson,
Ralph Keyes.)

Business is not business. (In GB: Everybody's Magazine in February 1910.)

The last sentence in my previous comment was driven by transient
irritation and was certainly too inflexible. Thanks to Ron Butters and
John Baker for valuable responses. I appreciate the suggestion to read
Grice. One of his conversational maxims is: Avoid ambiguity. He also
includes the supermaxim: Be perspicuous.



On Fri, Apr 23, 2010 at 11:38 AM, Jim Parish <jparish at siue.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Jim Parish <jparish at SIUE.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: I am what I am ....
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Laurence Horn wrote:
>> Curiously, Safire didn't mention (in his discussion of "Let Poland be
>> Poland") the flap about "Let Reagan be Reagan", but maybe he
>> discusses that elsewhere. Â Probably used for other politicians some
>> of whose advisors accuse others of preventing the true Whoever from
>> coming out. Â I'm not sure I've encountered a "Let Obama be Obama"
>> yet, but it's probably out there...Yup, 150K raw google hits,
>> including duplicates.
> There's also (moving in a slightly different direction) Langston Hughes'
> poem, "Let America Be America Again" (which also includes the line "America
> never was America to me"):
> http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15609
> Jim Parish
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