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 Post subject: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 12:48 pm 
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On the closed thread entitled "Political theater," Gary Kirchherr said that "false pretext" is redundant.<p> I'm not sure about this, for two reasons: (1) if the The American Heritage Dictionary is to be believed, a pretext can simply be a reason "professed," there being no necessary implication that the reason is not the actual one, and (2) even if we interpret the Merriam-Webster definition as meaning that a pretext is automatically a phony reason, i.e., an excuse concealing the actual motive, the factual basis of the excuse can be either true or false.<p>For example, not wishing to accept a dinner invitation because the hostess is a terrible cook, an invitee might mention a bad cold as the reason for declining--a cold which might or might not exist. If the potential guest is not actually suffering from a cold, couldn't his or her excuse be called a false pretext?<p>By the same token, couldn't the nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction--nonexistent in the sense that, at least by this date, they have not been located--be called a false pretext for the U.S. invasion of Iraq?<p>Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this!<p>[ April 20, 2004: Message edited by: Steve O'Brien ]<p>[ April 20, 2004: Message edited by: blanp ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 3:42 pm 
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Could it be that what he was really looking for was "false pretense?" That's the term I see used.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 3:42 pm 
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My paperback New World defines pretext as "a false reason put forth to hide the real one." So Gary is right if you use this dictionary. I was the one who first used "false pretexts" in that thread. I did so despite the redundancy, because it sounded right. The entire sentence was:<p>"And leading the nation into war on false pretexts is ...?"<p>In many, if not most, contexts, "false pretexts" is an unnecessary redundancy. It's also a cliche. Of course, the fact that it's a cliche suggests that most people don't know it's a redundancy.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 4:24 pm 
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I thought about addressing this when Gary made that point in the earlier thread, but at the time I was more interested in disagreeing with him about other things. Thanks for giving me a belated excuse to defend the term (which I used as well).<p>From a legal if not from a grammatical standpoint, "false pretext" may have a non-redundant meaning. I dealt with this question in my legal writing class this year (for those who don't know, I am a former copy editor now in law school).<p>We had a case in which a waitress was moved from a Friday to a Monday schedule, and she sued, claiming that the schedule shift was in retaliation for complaining about unpaid wages. The employer's defense on this issue was that he had changed her schedule to accomodate another employee who needed Mondays off.<p>This could be true, or it could be a pretext, or it could be a false pretext.<p>It's true if the other employee did need Mondays off and that is the reason why he changed her schedule.<p>It's a pretext if the second employee did need Mondays off but the employer still had retaliatory intent in changing the first employee's schedule, or if the only reason he was willing to grant the second employee's request was because it gave him a chance to get back at the first employee.<p>It's a false pretext if the second employee didn't exist, or if she didn't really need Mondays off, or if this was an agreed-upon excuse between the employer and the second-employee that they concocted after the suit was filed.<p>This may be too fine a distinction, but I found it useful in arguing the case in moot court, given that I was representing the plaintiff and had to show that the employer's actions were not pretextual.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 7:05 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Matthew Grieco:
(for those who don't know, I am a former copy editor now in law school). <hr></blockquote>Poor lad! Been there, done that, got the JD. Law is peachy, but for the clients.<p>Does the phrase "rest, residue and remainder" pain your CE heart? <p>D.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 7:26 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by DominEditrix:
Poor lad! Been there, done that, got the JD. Law is peachy, but for the clients.<p>Does the phrase "rest, residue and remainder" pain your CE heart? <p>D.<hr></blockquote><p>Mine, and that of my heirs.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 1:51 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Matthew Grieco:
It's a false pretext if the second employee didn't exist, or if she didn't really need Mondays off, or if this was an agreed-upon excuse between the employer and the second-employee that they concocted after the suit was filed.<hr></blockquote><p>Mr. Grieco, I appreciate your extended analysis of "false pretext," but I hope you won't mind my taking the liberty of picking on you to start a discussion of a syntactical issue that has long bothered me. I could choose a zillion other examples, but your sentence is handy. <p>I would have written: "or if the employer and the second employee agreed upon this excuse, which they concocted after the suit had been filed." Why? Because I believe that a relative pronoun and its antecedent should never, or hardly ever, be separated. Yes, I regard their relationship as equivalent to a spousal one: "Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (Mt 19:6; 1986 NAB).<p>Perhaps some of you will agree that it's utterly logical to keep the relative prounoun right next to the noun to which it refers, even if this requires extensive reformulation.<p>Even Mr. Grieco, despite his atheism, may agree with me.<p>[ April 21, 2004: Message edited by: Steve O'Brien ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 2:19 am 
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I think Matthew's version is perfectly understandable and grammatical. So is yours.<p>I also think that we're badly in need of more crappy-song threads.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 2:35 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Steve O'Brien:

I would have written: "or if the employer and the second employee agreed upon this excuse, which they concocted after the suit had been filed." Why? Because I believe that a relative pronoun and its antecedent should never, or hardly ever, be separated. ...
<hr></blockquote><p>Sorry to disagree, Steve. So long as the connection between the relative pronoun and antecedent is clear, I don't see any reason to insist that they be adjacent. I can think of many examples where doing so would needlessly confound the reader.<p>Also, that rewritten version turns Matthew's restrictive subordinate clause into a nonrestrictive one, thus eroding its intended sense of conditional speculation. The new version suggests that they did concoct the excuse and that only the other details are in doubt.<p>[ April 21, 2004: Message edited by: SeaRaven ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 11:23 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by SeaRaven:
Also, that rewritten version turns Matthew's restrictive subordinate clause into a nonrestrictive one, thus eroding its intended sense of conditional speculation. The new version suggests that they did concoct the excuse and that only the other details are in doubt.<hr></blockquote><p>SeaRaven accurately describes my intent.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 12:03 pm 
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Apropos of separating a relative pronoun from its antecedent, I'd be grateful for any references to discussions in style manuals and usage guides.<p>By the way, why can't we have emoticons in our posts?


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 12:04 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Steve O'Brien:

By the way, why can't we have emoticons in our posts?
<hr></blockquote><p>You must be new around here.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 12:15 pm 
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Yes, I recently wandered in off the street.<p>When I tried to put a smilie into one of my posts by typing a colon followed by a closing parenthesis, nothing appeared in my post. And I don't see any emoticon buttons in the forum's software. Or (terrible thought) are emoticons forbidden? Perhaps by John Ashcroft?<p>Please forgive my ignorance, but please enlighten me. Thanks!


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 12:43 pm 
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It's kind of a touchy subject. Let it go.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Wed Apr 21, 2004 5:40 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Steve O'Brien:
When I tried to put a smilie into one of my posts ...<hr></blockquote><p>We don't smile. We're testy.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 10:36 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by blanp:
It's kind of a touchy subject. Let it go.<hr></blockquote><p>Now, blanp, a newbie asking a fair question deserves a better answer than that.<p>This board automatically translates common emoticons into cartoonish heads. Early in this message board's life, blanp decided these were too annoying, and set the board to block them. Unfortunately, when the board blocks those cartoons, it also blocks the keyboard characters you typed to create the emoticon in the first place.<p>Yes, I miss emoticons too. I can think of a few recent instances in which I would have liked to type a "snarly face."<p>[ April 22, 2004: Message edited by: Gary Kirchherr ]</p>


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 1:09 pm 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Gary Kirchherr:
<p>Now, blanp, a newbie asking a fair question deserves a better answer than that.
<hr></blockquote><p>I was concerned about this thread getting "off topic"<p>"LOL"


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 3:04 pm 
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That post reminds me: I miss the "rolling eyes" emoticon too. As I recall, that one particularly infuriated a few posters for some reason.<p>But if we must return to the topic at hand:<p>Yes, in the world of byzantine office-politics scheme, a "false pretext" may exist. But in the cut-and-dried example of an alleged "pretext" that ADK posted so long, long, ago, "false pretext" was redundant.


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 Post subject: Re: Is "false pretext" really redundant?
PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2004 2:09 am 
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<blockquote><font size="1" face="TImes, TimesNR, serif">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by slummingreporter:
"False pretext" is an expression, which, while not particularly common, does appear with relative frequency in the English language and is sufficiently anchored in common understand to merit inclusion, grammatical iffiness aside.<hr></blockquote><p>Just because the usage appears in colloquial speech doesn't mean that we professional grammarians have to deliberately make the same mistake in newspaper copy because, hey, "everyone knows what it means."


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