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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Common Phrases

There are certain ideas that are frequently stated. In fact, some ideas are stated numerous times by nearly every parent who ever lived. For example, ideas about the value of hard work and the value of people believing what you say. In English alone, each of those ideas has been expressed countless billions of times by parents, teachers and mentors.

There are only so many ways to express each of those ideas. The simplest way to express the first value above is "work hard for what you want." "Work hard" is simpler but not quite complete. It can be modified and/or embellished, for example, "work hard for what you are passionate about" or "work hard for what you want in life" but there's really not that many different ways to convey that particular idea and keep it simple, short and concise.

So I'm more than a little surprised that Melania Trump is being accused of plagiarizing a speech many years ago by Michele Obama. Here are the two most similar (nearly identical) excerpts (non-matching punctuation removed by me in each since they were delivered verbally):
"...values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say..." Michelle Obama, 2008
"...values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say..." Melania Trump, 2016
That's not that long of a string of words discussing nearly universally held values with not all that many ways to say them in a speech where brevity and conciseness is important. I've certainly personally said or written "work hard for what you want in life" and "you do what you say" many, many times. Much of the rest of the wording is connectors (like "and," "that" and so forth). I personally wouldn't say "your word is your bond" because that's not my style but I'm certain that Michelle Obama is NOT the first person to coin that phrase and I've heard it many, many times as well.

There are two possibilities. One is that those 23 words are one of the most effective ways to convey those particular values in a speech and, as a result, Obama and Trump happened to use the same words. The other is that Melania Trump and supporting speechwriters pored through Michelle Obama speeches and deliberately copied those 23 words. Perhaps there are other possibilities as well, but I think those are the most likely.

Of those two possibilities, the first seems far, far more likely to me. As I write this, I think "they" are still investigating, so I'm curious as to what the final outcome is.

But if that is considered plagiarism, I'm certain that many of the one to two dozen word strings I've written in this blog (and elsewhere) certainly match something somebody else somewhere sometime has written. In which case you can look down your nose at me as a lowly plagiarist too! Sorry, we can't all be perfectly original all of the time.


erp said...

Ya gotta hand it to lefties. Media distracting from Giuliani's strong coherent speech and obsessing about wives and platitudes. Mazel tov.

Mrs. Obama has come to great wordsmithing only lately. Her Princeton senior thesis is the stuff of 6th grade C- quality complete with misspellings. Yet on the basis of it and other scholarly brilliance, she was admitted to Harvard Law School and then after passing the Illinois bar after the second try, voluntarily gave up her law license under questionable circumstances.

Of course, Biden is the poster child for perjurers.

Howard said...

"common phrases" - bromides

Some fun

some history

Harry Eagar said...

'strong coherent speech'? I didn't hear all of it, but I did him say he had kept New York City safe.

Except for that one time. Does he think nobody has access to the Internet? Or memory?

Harry Eagar said...

So it was the second, if you believe the Trumpsters.

It was plagiarism, and in my business it would get you fired. At any college, it would get you flunked and possibly expelled.

I understand that modern young people don't believe in the concept of intellectual property, but I'm conservative that way

Howard said...

Your fellow travelers, with the aid of relativism, have convinced many people that there are no real truths or standards. Oh well!

erp said...

Harry, I agree both Obama and Biden should be fired for plagiarism.

erp said...

... keeping the city safe from Islamic suicide terrorists high jacking planes in another city IIRC Boston isn't within the purview of the mayor of NYC. It would, however, be within the purview of the United States Attorney General which I hope will be his next assignment.

Harry, never having lived in the Big Apple, you can't imagine the difference between and Giuliani years and those before and after his tenure. New York was the safe wonderful city I remembered from my childhood.

Bret said...

Interesting. The Trump campaign admits that it blew it. The specific story with Ms. McIver doesn't ring true to me, but I find it (barely) plausible - at this point I would guess that Ms. Trump herself inserted the passages into her speech.

Given my intense dislike of Michelle Obama it was unfathomable to me that Ms. Trump would go through Michelle Obama's speeches. To me, that's far more damning of Ms. Trump than the copying and use of a few dozen words.

Bret said...

Harry wrote: " my business it [plagiarism] would get you fired."

Really, I didn't know the pawn shop business cared about plagiarism. That's news to me.

At any rate, Ms. Trump is NOT in your business.

Harry wrote: "At any college, it would get you flunked and possibly expelled."

Wrong. Nobody would expel anybody for writing "work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say." The words/thoughts/ideas would simply have to be more substantive than that for anybody to care.

It's only in a raging political battle with extreme ideologues on both sides that those words would possibly be an issue; indeed, that anyone would even notice.

erp said...

... Bret, I think the phrase you're looking for to describe the media's mania with Melania using Michelle's phraseology is "grasping at straws." Trump must be squeaky clean if that's all they got about which to carp.

Harry Eagar said...

My business is newspapering. Being a pawnbroker is something I do for a friend who needs help