YOU CAN PLAGIARIZE TRITE EXPRESSIONS? REALLY?

A painting by Heinrich Harder showing an aurochs fighting off a Eurasian wolf pack (from here)
A painting by Heinrich Harder showing an aurochs fighting off a Eurasian wolf pack (from here)

As I understand it, even the Democrats thought Melania Trump made an excellent speech at the Republican Party’s National Convention. Unfortunately, the partisan news media detests the fact Melania Trump is a Republican. So they had to find something wrong with it. So what did they find? Plagiarism, supposedly.

Curious. I looked into the matter. So I suppose I could write a long lengthy article, but I don’t think it is worth the bother. Here is a link to Melania Trump Copied from Michelle Obama’s 2008 Convention Speech (Snopes.com). Read it, weep, and laugh.

If we are gullible enough, what we are suppose to take away from such biased news media reports (including Snopes.com’s report, of course) is that Melania Trump copied from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, but that would be nonsensical.

Please observe the following.

  • Melania Trump made a fairly long speech (transcript here). The parts she supposedly copied don’t amount to anything.
  • Melania Trump’s speech was made in what has become a tradition. Lots of very accomplished women have made similar speeches for their husbands, not just Michelle Obama.
  • The portions of the speeches that are supposedly similar are strings of trite expressions. We all use these expressions, not just Michelle Obama. So if Melania Trump wants to borrow from me expressions that I was using well before 2008, I don’t care. I won’t even charge Michelle Obama with plagiarism.
  • What the news media is calling plagiarism is not plagiarism, and they should know better.

Here is the definition.

plagiarism [pley-juh-riz-uh m, -jee-uh-riz-]

an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author.

We call a trite expression a trite expression because everyone use that expression the same way. In fact, if we did not use words the same way, we could not communicate. So because Melania Trump made a speech for much the same purpose that Michelle Obama made her speech in 2008, Melania Trump’s speech contained some language that looks similar. So what?

Did Melania Trump copy Michelle Obama’s ideas? No. Did Did Melania Trump substantially copy Michelle Obama’s speech? No. How could she have done that? Melania Trump was sharing her experiences Donald Trump, not Barack Obama.

So what is going? Why are we getting this ridiculous story? Think about people like Judge Robert Bork, Judge Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and others. These people experienced intense personal attacks in the news media. Journalists found a story they liked, and they reported in unison. We call that pack journalism, another trite expression. Pack journalism is thoughtless and mean-spirited, but too many in the news media don’t care whether what they report is true.

Pack journalists make wolves look bad. When wolves attack their prey, they are just doing what God made them to do. Men who behave so cowardly have no such excuse.

12 thoughts on “YOU CAN PLAGIARIZE TRITE EXPRESSIONS? REALLY?

  1. I can’t think of a greater insult than to be accused of plagiarizing Michelle Obama.

    Poor Ivana.

    I suspect that she will be given the Sarah Palin treatment.

    Watch THE Donald roar!

    Like

  2. Tom – Of course it was plagiarism. The definition you posted described what happened perfectly. Ms. Trump’s talk used swathes of language authored by someone else without permission or attribution. You and I do that in undergraduate school and we’re going to be seeing the Dean right quick.

    I would have thought your e-ink would have been better spent leading a discussion about whether the plagiarism was really very important, and if so, why, and if not, why not. My own view is that Mrs. Trump was badly served by the campaign staff who handed her the speech, but she was much more a victim of this event and shouldn’t be criticized. My further view is that it doesn’t matter very much. The woman is not a politician, she was placed in a situation that must have been stressful and awkward for her, she is working in her fourth or fifth language, and she did all that could have been reasonably expected of her. Others let her down.

    The significance wasn’t really the plagiarism, it was the incredibly incompetent effort by the campaign to simply snuff out the news cycle on this. All they need to do was say that they looked at a number of similar speeches by wives of presidential nominees, that they and Mrs. Trump very much liked what Mrs. Obama said and thought it worth emphasizing and repeating. Some staff member could then have taken responsibility (I think that has finally happened late today in some form) and the campaign could have apologized both the Mrs. Trump and Mrs. Obama. Done and done by Tuesday morning early.

    Instead we had all this spinning and twisting and denial and recitations of children’s books etc, etc. (your post is kind of a capsule version of all these lame excuses). Good lord. Pull the band-aid off and get on with things.

    Scout

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  3. And. . .? I’m not sure what your point is.

    If you’re trying to say that Mrs. Trump’s speech “accidentally” coincided with Mrs. Obama’s speech, I’ve got a bridge between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan that you’ll just love to purchase from me. Some old lottery tickets also.

    The odds of getting these long chain word matches accidentally are somewhere in the range of one in a trillion, Tom. You’ve been conned, my credulous friend. If you will bite on this, no telling what other nonsense you’ll believe, if it comes from a source that otherwise panders to your fancies.

    Besides, after a long delay, there has been a kind of owning up by a former ballerina, now ghostwriter character. You can stand down now.

    Scout

    Like

  4. Of course it was plagiarism – if Mrs. Obama had done the same (for example, plagiarizing almost practically word-for-word a section of a former Republican First Lady’s convention speech) the screams of dishonesty here would be deafening. Is it a big deal? Only in the fact that it reflects on the competence of Republican Party and their nominee. Constantly changing the story from “it was not plagiarism” to finally admitting that it was and “it was an accident in drafting that it stayed in there” demonstrates both gross incompetence and blatant dishonesty.

    The ironic humor in the plagiarism is also worth noting. On a section of the speech praising individual work ethic and honesty, the speech writer stole someone else’s work. The satirists don’t even have to make this stuff up – it just just keeps writing itself.

    Like

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