Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Glaring Solecism: Dylann Roof, Perpetrator of the Charleston Church Shootings, a “Gentleman”?

In the six days since that stunning massacre of nine African Americans in a church in Charleston, leading South Carolinians have, justifiably, used such terms as “a hardcore white supremacist,” “an extreme racist,” and “an embodiment of evil” to describe the 21-year-old perpetrator, Dylann Roof. There has been an outpouring of equally strong denunciations from prominent Americans elsewhere.

So, you can imagine my annoyance and indignation when, during yesterday’s edition of the “Diane Rehm Show,” the highly respected Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne used the word gentleman while referring to Dylann Roof.  “Unforgivably thoughtless of Dionne, considering his vast experience as a guest on NPR and other radio programs,” I immediately remarked to myself. When it comes to more appropriate words, Dionne had a choice of numerous alternatives—man, person, individual, fellow, killer, shooter…I could go on.

[E.J. Dionne’s exact words--“…it became very clear as the weekend unfolded that this gentleman was motivated by a deep racism...”--were in response to Rehm’s opening question and can be seen at the 10:08:25 mark in the transcript: https://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2015-06-22/gun-homicides-mass-violence-and-racism-in-the-u-s]

Of course, E.J. Dionne’s solecism is not the first time I’ve heard a radio or TV guest apply the word gentleman for the perpetrator of something heinous. Time and again, I hear law enforcement officers commit the same “crime,” i.e., “murder” the word gentleman by using it when referring to, say, a terrorist, a rapist, or an armed burglar.

Bottom line--The thing to ponder for my blog readers is: Has society become so reflexive, so robotic, in its use of gentleman that the word has lost its complimentary sense and is now no more than a synonym for “a male adult”?  In other words, using the word gentleman for a criminal is no longer an impropriety?
© Copyright 2015  V. J. Singal


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