Alexander Haig

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Feb 21 15:00:59 UTC 2010

On Sun, Feb 21, 2010 at 9:42 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
> At 2/21/2010 07:31 AM, Bill Palmer wrote:
>>General Haig, well known for his various military and governmental
>>accomplishments, may also be remembered by some for his unique
>>approach to language.
>>Keith Allan in "Linguistic meaning" parodies this with an example
>>from The London Guardian from 3 Feb 1981 of a hypothetical piece
>>that might have been written about him, using his style:
>>  "...General Haig has contexted the Polish watchpot somewhat
>> nuancely.  How though, if the situation decontrols, can he stoppage
>> it, mountingly conflagrating? Haig, in congressional hearings
>> before his confirmatory, paradoxed his audtioners by abnormalling
>> his responds, so that verbs were nouns, nouns verbed, and
>> adjectives adverbized. He techniqued a new way to vocabulary his
>> thoughts so as to informationally uncertain anybody listening about
>> what he had actually implicationed, etc, etc..."
> Cool.  Can someone easily provide an actual quote?

The NY Times obit gives some quotes:


Nouns became verbs or adverbs: “I’ll have to caveat my response,
Senator.” (Caveat is Latin for “let him beware.” In English, it means
“warning.” In Mr. Haig’s lexicon, it meant to say something with a
warning that it might or might not be so.)
Haigspeak could be subtle: “There are nuance-al differences between
Henry Kissinger and me on that.” It could be dramatic: “Some sinister
force” had erased one of Mr. Nixon’s subpoenaed Watergate tapes,
creating an 18 1/2- minute gap. Sometimes it was an emblem of the
never-ending battle between politics and the English language:
“careful caution,” “epistemologically-wise,” “saddle myself with a
statistical fence.”

Here's something I wrote last year on "caveat" (with Haig in a starring role)...

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society -

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