In the old days, the three biggest lies in the world were: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help you;” “The check is in the mail,” and “I swear, the diamonds are real.”
Well, these are still up there, but times have changed and the list needs to be updated. So as a service to my loyal readers, lefties and righties, I’ve put together a new list of suspicious phrases. Call it “Ellen’s Guide to Modern Speechmaking.”
I urge everybody to print out this column and keep a copy taped to your refrigerator. Refer to it any time a politician, celebrity, influence peddler, lawyer, corporate fat-cat or interest group spokesperson tries to tell you that black is white, or wrong is right, or asks you to trade your common sense in exchange for trusting them.
Whenever you hear:
“I was quoted out of context!”
It really means they were quoted 100 percent accurately – only they didn’t know somebody was taping the speech.
When somebody tells you:
“But it’s not about the money!”
It really means that that’s all its about – especially if it’s a lawyer talking.
When a politician says:
“The Axis of Evil!”
He’s really referring to only that part of the evil axis that is too small to do us much harm – unlike evil countries which can do us a lot of harm, like China, for example.
When some long faced, indicted politician, defrocked priest, disgraced CEO or drug-busted Hollywood movie star starts a sentence with, “I regret very much … ,” you should jump in and add the words: “getting caught!”
When a former slave trader, concentration-camp commandant, or gulag operator says, “On behalf of my country, I want to apologize for … ,” you should understand him/her as meaning: “This is a helluva lot cheaper than paying reparations.”
When a state legislator puts the words, “gambling casino revenues” in the same sentence as “increased school funding,” you should substitute the words “campaign cash” for the words “school funding.”
Whenever a salesperson uses the words, “up to” as in “up to 50 percent off,” you should substitute the words: “less than.”
However, lest any of you think I’m too cynical, there are some things that ought to be taken literally. Like the phrase, “Results not typical,” that appears with most weight-loss ads. Or the words, “past performance is no guarantee of future success,” that always follows ads hawking mutual funds. Other words that mean exactly what they say include, “tax lien,” “late fee,” “parking ticket,” and “Personal checks not accepted.”
But there are lots of words that don’t mean at all what they seem to say. For example, “bi-partisanship” really means, “I hate you.” And “Coalition Against Terrorism” really means finding yourself Trick or Treating with a bunch of Frankensteins and Draculas who – when they remove their masks – still look like Frankenstein and Dracula. Did somebody say Syria, China and Somalia were our allies in the war on terrorism?
Sure, there’s a lot of cant and rant out there. But some words are always true, yet never seem to be reported – never make it into a State of the Union speech, a government report, a Senate hearing, a ballot question or the moneyed whispers of a lobbyist in some politician’s ear. Yet their truth is always present. They were uttered by the Patron Saint of the New Millennium. He was the man who saw everything that was to come, the man who single handedly invented who we are today, because he knew us oh so well. I refer of course to the magnificent Mr. P.T. Barnum. And his great utterance was:
Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.
I invite my readers to go ahead and disprove it.