LITERAL WORDS. Yeah, I know that I should've given this horse his last lash a while back, but I simply cannot resist bringing to Tapped readers (in case you missed them) the words of New York Times columnist David Brooks on the Imus affair. Talking to NPR's David Folkenflick, Brooks answered this way a call for penance by historian and author Philip Nobile for having appeared with apparent glee as a guest on "Imus in the Morning":
"You know, when you're dealing with humor, you're not dealing with literal words. You're dealing with people who are putting on a costume."
It would seem that Brooks could use some tutoring from his colleague, language maven William Safire, on the application of the word "literal." I have always thought that when one is speaking, one is using "literal" words. By their nature, words are literal. I presume here to deduce that what Brooks intended to say was that a humorist donning the costume of, say, a bigot -- for the benefit, most likely, of a bigoted audience -- did not intend to have his words taken by their literal meaning. In other words, the term "nappy-headed ho" would probably not mean a prostitute with nappy hair; it could simply mean a athletically gifted, sexually threatening African-American woman. Much better, huh?
Brooks also told Flick (as all the cool kids call the NPR media reporter) that while Imus certainly deserved pubic humiliation for his faux pas, "he didn't deserve to have his career ended." C'mon, now; unless he chooses otherwise, Imus's career is hardly ended; it's simply and deservedly diminished. It's not like he's an outed covert CIA agent or anything.
--Adele M. Stan