The Monthly Editorial Blog By Schlafly Beer Co-Founder Tom Schlafly
George Washington and Abraham Lincoln have several things in common. Both were born in February. They are the only American presidents whose birthdays have been celebrated as national holidays (since combined as Presidents’ Day). And each was renowned for his honesty. The most famous quotation attributed to George Washington, albeit apocryphally, is probably, “I cannot tell a lie,” said in response to his father’s having asked him if he cut down a cherry tree. Abraham Lincoln earned the sobriquet “Honest Abe” as a storekeeper and maintained it throughout his career as a lawyer, politician and president. It endures to this day.
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill took a more flexible approach to honesty, “In wartime truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.” He had previously coined a memorable euphemism for lying: “terminological inexactitude.”
Alert readers (ARs) of a certain age may remember Ron Ziegler, who served as press secretary for President Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon. Suffice it to say that Nixon’s reputation for honesty fell far short of those of his predecessors George “I cannot tell a lie” Washington and “Honest Abe” Lincoln. When asked to explain some instances of “terminological inexactitude,” Ziegler unblinkingly declared that previous statements were now “inoperative.”
In recent times, some of the most famous quotations by United States presidents have been untruthful. I suspect most ARs will have no trouble identifying the president who uttered each of the following. I would also suggest that the quotation in question, untruthful as it is, is the most famous thing that particular president ever said:
“Read my lips: no new taxes.”
“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”
All of these are examples of “terminological inexactitude” that proved to be “ inoperative” soon after they were made.
Two weeks after Presidents’ Day the 2016 calendar includes a date that only occurs in leap years (the Chinese years of the monkey, dragon and rat). February 29th, sometimes known as Leap Day, is also St. Oswald’s Day, named after the archbishop of York, who died on that day in 992. This is also the day, according to an ancient Irish legend, on which women are allowed to propose marriage to men, thanks to a deal struck between St. Brigid and St. Patrick in the 5th century. Considering that both Patrick and Brigid were both scrupulously celibate, I’m not sure what gave them their expertise in marital contracts. But, that’s their story and the Irish are sticking to it.
St. Brigid of Kildare, whose feast is celebrated on February 1st, is one of the patron saints of beer. When a leper colony where she worked had the misfortune to run out of beer, Brigid came to the rescue. “For when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.” She also composed a prayer about a great lake of beer, which begins with the couplet:
I should like a great lake of beer to give to God.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be tippling there for all eternity.
Her prayer concludes with the lines
I’d sit with the men, the women of God,
There by the great lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever,
And every drop would be a prayer.
The biggest holiday in February, at least as measured by consumption of food, isn’t St. Brigid’s Day, St. Oswald’s Day, Presidents’ Day, or even Valentine’s Day. It’s Super Bowl Sunday, which falls on February 7th this year. In addition to wolfing down tens or possibly hundreds of billions of calories, over 100 million viewers will be watching not just the game, but also the commercials. I would encourage any ARs who happen to tune in to ask themselves whether the advertisers are telling “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” ARs might consider whether beer ads are forthcoming about who owns the brands that are being promoted. For example, do the commercials give the impression that a beer is American when it’s in fact controlled by a Brazilian hedge fund? Is such advertising truthful and credible or does it fall into the category of what Winston Churchill would call “terminological inexactitude”?