ARRRGGGGHHH! Marco Rubio just lost ground with me

I’ve been struggling to figure out which candidate I’ll vote for next month, and Marco Rubio has been in the mix for consideration (since he meets the critical “not Trump or Cruz” criterion).

But he just lost a lot of ground with me.

Watch the above ad. It’s only 30 seconds.

Did you hear it? Did it grate on you as much as it did on me?

Yes, he really did say, “It’s time for a president…” (note that — A president, as in just one) “… who will put THEIR left hand on the Bible and THEIR right hand in the air, and keep THEIR promise to uphold the Constitution…”


I really don’t think I’ve ever heard it done so egregiously by any candidate for any office — three times in one sentence!

Yes, we’re a republic, but that’s no excuse for abusing the Queen’s English so…

39 thoughts on “ARRRGGGGHHH! Marco Rubio just lost ground with me

  1. Karen Pearson

    “Their” has become the substitute for the 3rd person singular when no gender is implied. Just assuming that “she” is included when one uses “he” is no longer acceptable. What bothers me more is the repeated insertion of “God” into the political conversation. Using “God” to get elected strikes me as blasphemous.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, I understand that this evil is rampant in our society. That does not excuse it, particularly in this extreme instance.

      This construction is completely unnecessary, and therefore not excusable. Doing it once in a sentence is lazy and contemptible, and doing it three times is far, far beyond the pale. You have to go out of your way to do something like that; it can’t just HAPPEN.

      See how easy this is: “It’s time for a president who will put his or her hand on the Bible, promise to uphold the Constitution, and keep that promise.” See? I managed to say MORE in that sentence, punching the point a bit more, without mangling the language.

      Are there NO competent writers or editors in the Rubio campaign?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        You know, a xenophobe, or a merely condescending Anglo, might dismiss this by saying, “Well, he comes from a tradition in which English wasn’t spoken in the home, so give him a break.”

        But that’s ridiculous, because there is probably not a more fluent, talented speaker of English in this campaign than Rubio.

        And you know what? His grounding in Spanish makes this LESS excusable. Because Spanish is built around assuming that the masculine is inclusive in ways that we never dreamed in English. We have the inclusive “he” — or at least we DID (and while I realize it’s unfashionable these days, anyone who claims not to understand that when it is used is being willful).

        In Spanish, many, many masculine words are used inclusively. For instance, there is no commonly used word in Spanish that corresponds directly to “parents.” They say “padres,” which is understood by context to include madres.

        A niño is a boy, and a niña is a girl. But “niños” means “children.” And so forth.

        But then, as I consider it, maybe that accounts for what happened. Maybe a guy who is fluent in Spanish, being conscious that it doesn’t work that way in English, goes overboard with the “theirs.”

        I don’t know what the explanation is. I just found it REALLY grating on the ear…

        1. John

          “…because there is probably not a more fluent, talented speaker of English in this campaign than Rubio.”

          You aren’t serious, are you? I find his carefully studied formality to be completely insincere and artificial. Maybe it’s a regional thing but I feel Kaisich is the clearest communicator of the current bunch. That doesn’t mean he’s communicating the best thoughts but he sure doesn’t hide them.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              “… which you might find in a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich.”

              That was the best instance of breaking the 4th wall in the history of cinema…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            I must say, Juan, if there was a quick-draw battle of words between Kasich and Rubio, my money would be on Rubio. He’s a master of speaking on his feet.

            Remember when Biden got in trouble for calling Obama “articulate” and “clean”?

            Well, in this race, Rubio is the one who stands out for being articulate.

            He’s clean, too, I suppose. 🙂

            He comes across as a guy who’s got it together. Kasich needs to learn to stand up straight (as does Jeb). He comes across as rumpled.

        2. Juan Caruso

          Brad, apparently the educational leniency conferred upon Rubio at the University of Floriada (B.A., political science) was much too generous, yet his proficiency in English grammar was also, amazingly, adequate for his graduation from University of Miami School of Law.

          Among the professional EDITORS who graduated from the U. of Florida are: Woman’s Day editor, editor of the Journal of Court Innovation, editor of Reason magazine, The Washington Post associate editor, former business editor of BBC News, former foreign editor of The Washington Star, former editor of The National Interest, Executive editor St. Petersburg Times, editor of the Georgetown Review, and the editor at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

          What has the U.S. legal profession sprung on us with elected (relax Bryan) lawyer Rubio?

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and don’t get me wrong. I, too, have sinned. I have, in speaking in a hurry, walked myself in the wrong direction in a sentence and used “their” with a singular antecedent to get myself out of it (in an instance in which “his or her” was awkward, say). But I assure you that, having done it once and heard myself, I would shut my mouth before repeating the error in the same sentence…

      But this was a scripted ad. And there is NO excuse for doing it in anything carefully written…

  2. Zombie Winston Churchill

    “We shall fight in the classrooms, we shall fight on the in the print and televised media, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the spoken word, we shall defend our language, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the headlines, we shall fight on general text of documents, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets where people speak, we shall fight in the hills where people whisper; we shall never surrender…to bad grammar.”

  3. Jeff Mobley

    I have a hard time with this. I really, really, don’t like to use “their” in this way myself, but I don’t really hold it against others, precisely because of the whole gender thing (when I went to Catholic school, they referred to the practice of using “his” in this situation as the “masculine preferred” concept).

    I sometimes just use “his”. Sometimes I tell myself to alternate (“this time, I’ll use “her”, next time, I’ll use “his”). sometimes I use “his/her”. Sometimes, I try to work around it by referring to “one’s”, but that seems a bit ostentatious to me.

    Anyway, I get your gripe, I just don’t get too upset about it when I see others do it.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Cindi Scoppe uses that device with good effect (referring to some nonspecific person as “she.”) I’ve tried it occasionally, but I always feel like it feels too specific, and that readers will scan back over the last few grafs trying to find out who this woman is who’s being referred to. Not because you couldn’t have an “inclusive she,” but because we never have, in this language. It’s just never been a convention, so there’s the risk of failing to be clear.

      I’m all about not erecting even the tiniest barriers to people understanding what I’m saying — people are too ready to do that as it stands.

      Me, I’m a big proponent of “his or her.” It doesn’t mangle the language, and it communicates clearly. Or of simply avoiding such pronouns altogether, as I did in the second and third instances when I rewrote Rubio’s statement above.

      It’s just not that hard.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, people have done it forever, especially when imitating informal speech. If I create a character who doesn’t give a damn about correct usage, I’ll put such words into, ahem, his mouth.

      Just because folks do it don’t make it right, boss.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        But yeah, he would probably use “they” to refer to a singular antecedent. Or perhaps I wrong him to say so.

        Even if he wouldn’t do THAT, we know he’s committed other egregious sins against the language…

  4. Karen Pearson

    I could wish that the subjunctive was still in use, but teachers have been fussing at me about “archaic usage” since the 11th grade or so.

  5. Karen Pearson

    He’s talking to the common man in the common vernacular. I think many consider Obama’s use of proper English to be a personal affront to them.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, the language is falling apart all around us. I blame myself — I keep seeing these signs of decay, and yet I don’t always rise up to combat them with all my strength.

      All that is necessary for the triumph of bad usage is that good men do nothing…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      And reading that story, I’m disappointed that “they” won out over “ammosexual…” They chose an old mistake over a catchy new coinage…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Wow, I had never even heard of “ammosexual”, which Urban Dictionary defines as:

        A term for someone who feels affection for firearms. Often an attraction to the beauty and design of the gun, but can also refer to love for the history, freedom, security, or tactile feel of the gun. Also typified by those who feel joy in being able to find and acquire ammunition to feed their firearms, especially at an affordable price.

        Ammosexuals, like many alternative lifestyle groups, have been ruthlessly attacked by hate-filled bigots who desire the eradication of individual liberty and equality, in favor of either violent mobs, might-makes-right, or tyrant kings.

        Fearing violence and protests, most ammosexuals are forced to hide their biological affection from vocal and violent prejudice. Ammosexuals are frequently the target of anti-freedom laws and politicians, and are currently denied many freedoms granted to other minority groups in most nations.

        That’s awesome. Maybe it didn’t win because the term hadn’t gone mainstream. I mean if yours truly hadn’t heard of it… well.

  6. Phillip

    “8 years since we had a President willing to do that [uphold the Constitution]” ? George W Bush? Seriously? The Constitution?

    And I thought Rubio was supposed to be one of the stronger intellects in the GOP field.

  7. Karen Pearson

    People keep saying Mr. Obama defies the constitution. But everytime he’ s challenged on it the Supreme Court says otherwise. Tsk.

  8. Harry Harris

    If Rubio’s grammar bothers one more than his tax shift plan, his sketchy Soc Sec and medical “reforms,” his shift-with-the primary-base immigration stances, his blurring of church/state issues, perhaps a long career in journalism has finally pushed that one over the line.
    The infection of most of the Republican field (less so Kasich) with hate/disrespect Obama and Hillary, froth-up fear with misleading rhetoric, and no commitment to truth or facts has served to drive more wedges into an already overly-polarized society. Trump makes a convenient landing spot for the angry and uninformed who don’t want to even know about the details.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Well, Harry, all that stuff is kinda par for the course with Republican candidates.

      And frankly, I can see his flip-flop on immigration as a positive, considering the options: At least he was right on the issue ONCE, and could be again. The only guy up there who might be better on immigration is Bush — and, when he was running, Graham.

      Also, you know, my tongue is in my cheek to a certain degree on the “they” thing — although it truly does drive me nuts. I don’t like candidates to sound illiterate…

      1. Harry Harris

        Correct, and I know you like to have fun on here. You’re maybe the Cam Newton of our league.

            1. Norm Ivey

              Cam Newton plays the game with a certain amount of joyful, childlike abandon. Harry’s just implying that you share this characteristic.

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