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· Pointed Takes on Style Delineated ·
January 25, 2004
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· "We Hold These Truths" on the First-Person Plural ·
Take, for instance, these uses of the first-person plural "we":
Now don't get me wrong. Like President George W. Bush, we might, by law, be pluralized someday into office — moving from obscurity into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue through a rare vote count in an election. But anyone might still agree that we might have a long way to go, especially when measured stylistically by the most honored of American presidents, Abraham Lincoln.
Consider, for instance, these two paragraphs from a student essay on "The Gettysburg Address" — an essay analyzing President Lincoln's subtle shadings of the plural pronoun in his dedication of a battlefield cemetery (a rhetorical task sometimes, I think, of necessity falling upon presidents):
Having heard George W. Bush's lengthy State-of-the-Union speech last week, we might ask if anyone serves us now as a good president, editor, or "tapeworm" even. Happily, with Thomas Jefferson still, we might all fittingly say: "We hold these truths to be self-evident . . . "
Properly speaking (sotto voce), it is, of course, our challenge.Permalink
His ellipital reference I'll let you discover, from his impressive third chapter, "The Land of We All."
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