Friday, March 28, 2008

Words Fail Her (And Us)

We suppose Wednesday’s “no contest” plea by Priscilla Slade (looking strangely like a younger version of Sanford and Son’s Aunt Esther in the daily newspaper’s front page photo of Thursday) brings her saga of taxpayer-funded home makeovers to an unsatisfactory conclusion, but as Official Grammarian-in-Residence of the Greater Houston Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area we remained unsettled by the tortured illogic of the “statement” the former TSU president was forced to deliver in court before she was allowed to, as she put it, “move on with my life to bigger and better things.” It was a strange little ditty that went something like this: "
"I accept responsibility as the president of Texas Southern University with regard to the expenditures described in the indictment as misapplications and not ensuring that Texas Southern University policies were followed. If I had the opportunity to do things differently, I would do so. My thoughts and prayers are with the Texas Southern University family to whom I apologize."
Ordinarily, a person admitting guilt or seeking credit would say she “accept[s] responsibility … for” some deed, not “accept[s] responsibility with regard to” the deed. The deletion of the preposition “for”---and you can bet it was deleted in whatever negotiations led to the parsing of Slade’s statement---also renders the second half of the first compound sentence nearly incomprehensible: “I accept responsibility … with regard to … not ensuring that Texas Southern University policies were followed.” Then check out the way the crimes for which Slade “accepted” responsibility with regard to are described: “the expenditures described in the indictment as misapplications … ” We know that "no contest" is not an admission of guilt, but this "statement" puts Slade about as far from an actual admission of responsibility/guilt/whatever as possible within the confines of the English language.

As we noted previously, that Mike DeGeurin (looking strangely like Prof. Irwin C. Corey in the daily newspaper’s front-page photo) is a hell of a defender. No wonder he and Aunt Esther were grinning so madly.

No comments: