October 25, 2007

The great Montana speech police affair

In the past some of the mucky-muck higherups at Language Log Plaza have ragged on me because I chose to forsake the joys of Washington DC urban life and to retire, instead, out here in the wilds of western Montana, where nothing linguistically interesting seems to happen. I'll admit that things do seem to move slowly here, which is actually kind of refreshing. This year even our forest fire season has been overshadowed by California. But interesting language issues do pop up here once in a while. At least Washington Post columnist George Will thinks so. He finds the speech police alive and well in this state. His view is that the University of Montana has severely restricted a conservative student government candidate who was defeated because of the alleged shenanigans brought about by liberal Democrats not subject to the same expenditure limits.

The University of Montana permits candidates running for student government offices to spend no more than $100 in their campus campaigns. Will calls this "merely another manifestation of the regnant liberalism common on most campuses -- the itch to boss people around." (Note: Recognizing that most of his readers won't know the meaning of 'regnant,' Will defines it for us, at the same time giving himself a nice opportunity to display his marvelous vocabulary.) You can read the rest of the story in the link above. It's not clear to me who is actually right in this case but the defeated conservative candidate took the matter to court, lost, then took it to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and lost again. Now it's in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court Justices, who will have to decide whether or not to take on the great Montana Speech Police Affair.

See, all you doubters, exciting language stuff does happen out here -- once in a while anyway.

Posted by Roger Shuy at October 25, 2007 12:29 PM