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Weasel Words and Theodore Roosevelt

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The more I study Theodore Roosevelt, the more I appreciate the impact he had on this nation, both in large and small ways.  He brought several phrases, for example, into common usage in this country.  One of these is “weasel words”.  Roosevelt did not invent the phrase, he noted that he first heard it used in conversation in 1879, but when he used it the phrase quickly entered American popular usage.  Roosevelt’s most famous use of the phrase was on May 31, 1916 in a speech entitled Mr. Wilson’s Weasel Words in which he attacked Wilson’s call for “voluntary universal military training”, Roosevelt viewing such a plan as inadequate and calling for a draft.

One might legitimately criticize Theodore Roosevelt for many things over his strenuous public life, but use of weasel words-never!

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

4 Comments

  1. I like weasel words. Not euphemisms like “voluntary universal military training”, but words that temper the impact of a statement. On the internet we’re supposed to say “you’re wrong”. I’d rather say “I think you’re wrong”, or “you could be right, but I think you’re overlooking something…”. It’s about not being a jerk.

    I just had a chat with my brother-in-law about “The Democrat Party”. I was saying to him that there’s no point in antagonizing the listener before you even get to your point. Anyway, the virtue is in the middle, somewhere between cowardice and obnoxiousness.

  2. Fair point, Pinky. The Internet could use more weasel words in your sense of the term.

    Don, have you read Morris’s trilogy? While I would take issue with a fair number of TR’s policies, there is no denying that he was an admirable “man in full.”

  3. I have listened to the first two volumes as audio books Mike and I have the third volume in my library although I haven’t gotten around to it yet. The trilogy is a fine effort, but as we near the centennial of TR’s death he still lacks the magisterial bio his career demands.

    The various positions Roosevelt adopted during his life give something to inspire, or outrage, every part of the American political spectrum of today. One must keep in mind that his positions were often far more nuanced than the truncated versions floating around the internet.

    Roosevelt led life at the charge and I will always be an admirer of his. This quote by Democrat Thomas Marshall at the time of his death is a good summing up of the bold spirit and force of nature that was Roosevelt.

    “Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”
    —Vice President Thomas Marshall

  4. Teddy Roosevelt is inspiration personified a manly man and a presidential paradigm. It will be noted that he was considered a “progressive” but I think only in an incipient manner that never developed into the distorted view of reality that currently goes by that appellation. If asked for my favorite quote of his, I will offer his rather humble assertion that “It is not having been in the dark house that matters but having come out”.

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