Sunday, May 01, 2005


U.S./N. Korean Relations and the Language of Diplomacy

Linguistics scholars have long been concerned with the implications of words and syntax uttered by national leaders and their representatives. Recall the complex discussions regarding the president and his Russian translator in the novel Fail Safe.

It seems quite likely that North Korea has tested a short range missle by firing one into the Sea of Japan. What then will the linguists make of the following words exchanged by representatives of President Bush and leader Kim Jong Il?

White House chief of staff Andrew H. Card Jr: The North Koreans are "bullies" and President Il is "not a nice person."

North Korean spokesmen: President Bush is "a hooligan" and a "philistine".

Words that hurt.

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