“on the matter of Washington language”

In a CIA review of various attempts between 1960 and 1963 to assassinate Fidel Castro…an internal report prepared in 1967 by the Inspector General of the CIA and declassified in 1978 for release to the House Select Committee on Assassinations, there appears, on the matter of Washington language, this instructive reflection:

… There is a third point, which was not directly made by any of those we interviewed, but which emerges clearly from the interviews and from reviews of files.  The point is that of frequent resort to synecdoche – the mention of a part when the whole is to be understood, or vice versa.  Thus, we encounter repeated references to phrases such as “disposing of Castro,” which may be read in the narrow, literal sense of assassinating him, when it is intended that it be read in the broader, figurative sense of dislodging the Castro regime.  Reversing the coin, we find people speaking vaguely of “doing something about Castro” when it is clear that what they have specifically in mind is killing him.  In a situation wherein those speaking may not have actually meant what they seemed to say or may not have said what they actually meant, they should not be surprised if their oral shorthand is interpreted differently than was intended.

Joan Didion, We Tell Ourselves Stories In Order To Live, 472-3

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Culture, Current events, History and historiography, Journalism, Reading and writing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s