The Little Difference a Word Makes
Sometimes lawmakers find that one little word can make all the difference in the impact of a legislative action. Back in May, I mentioned how a Missouri state senator, taking the advice of a home-schooled high schooler, used the word "tocology" in a bill to legalize midwifery
without other legislators being the wiser at the time. Now we have another example of an Arkansas law with unintended consequences
, as the Associated Press notes:
The law, which took effect July 31, was intended to establish 18 as the minimum age to marry while also allowing pregnant minors to marry with parental consent. An extraneous "not" in the bill, however, allows anyone who is not pregnant to marry at any age with if the parents allow it.
A single word can make or break days, weeks, and months of research, drafting, and negotiation. Look at the current brouhaha about the House resolution stating that the Ottoman Empire's killing of 1.5 million Armenians was genocide. The Turks are in an outrage
, according to AFP, the government there calling it "irresponsible" and adding:
It is unacceptable that the Turkish nation should be accused of a crime that it never committed in its history.
Of course not. However, let's put that aside for the moment and look at the House's use of the word genocide. It might be nothing but home politics, to court the Armenian-American vote. But what else might it be? As the Bush administration keeps pointing out, to pass the resolution might antagonize the Turks, who could retaliate by not allowing the US to use its air space and facilities to run the vast majority of the supply line for the war in Iraq. Perhaps that's the intent. If you can't supply troops, you can't keep them in place. Maybe this is the House pitting the power of the word genocide against the power of a word Bush has come recently to appreciate: no.
Labels: bush, genocide, House, Iraq, power, Turkey, White House, words