Having co-written a book on the “A-word,” our research revealed that the world needs these people. It was our contention that being labeled one might be a good thing: a term describing a person who is willing to break a few eggs to get big things done.
One of the examples we gave was the first military leader to be tagged with the A-word label, Army Gen. George S. Patton. You wouldn’t want this guy in your house, but when we needed someone to march an army 100 miles to save all those soldiers trapped during the Battle of the Bulge (including my father), someone tagged with the A-word had to get it done.
The world will always need these people to push the rest of us forward or out of the way. So the next time someone calls you one, you might just say, “Thanks; now get out of the way.”
Steve B. Green
I don’t agree with Geoffrey Nunberg’s claim that discourse today is no more scurrilous than it was in earlier times.
Just 50 years ago profane expletives were not spewed out in public discourse. Among the upper class they were rarely used even in private. The “F-word” was certainly declasse and seldom used by educated speakers.
Language has degraded along with civility, but Nunberg and many other linguists define this as merely evolvement and change. As we accept the vulgarity and incivility of our society, both of which indicate a lack of education and class, we are no longer able to make the distinction between vulgarity and sophistication.
The A-word is not provocative; it’s sophomoric. But Nunberg writes about it as if it has value.
Its value is predicated on its usage by educated speakers who conform to the mainstream morality rather than set a more dignified standard.