November 08, 2006

Double disingenuousness

Stephen Rowland has made me very happy. He has found a linguification phrased as an embedded rhetorical question. An astonishing blend of two of my recent topics of interest. And in fact it actually co-occurs with a third trope, irony. It's from an article by Michael Gove in the Times (London) on November 8, 2006:

[A]ll true fans of The Sound of Music know that the most important role in the production, the moral centre of the show, is the Captain.

Before I go any farther, I know that I have to pause while some, mildly perturbed, readers wonder how one can shoehorn the words "moral centre" into a sentence which also contains the phrase "Sound of Music".

Isn't that wonderful? Two disingenuousnesses compounded. He does not really think his readers will be wondering about how a musical can be described as having a moral center, he is being ironical, and pretending he thinks it is uncontroversial shared knowledge that musicals don't have moral centers (the mutual knowledge of what the answer is supposed to be is what makes it a rhetorical interrogative); and he doesn't really mean to raise the question of whether the word sequence "moral center" might occur in a properly formed sentence where "Sound of Music" also occurs (that's the linguification). I know that I have to pause while some, mildly amused, readers wonder how one can shoehorn three tropes into one short but rhetoric-heavy sentence.

Thanks, Stephen!

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at November 8, 2006 10:31 PM