Sunday, May 22, 2011

What's in a Verb?

Various papers quote Michel Taubman, author of a campaign biography of Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), as saying of his wife Anne Sinclair “She was subjugated by his intelligence and charm.”

Was he ill-served by his translators? A woman or two may have thought me quick on the uptake. One or two may have thought me intelligent. If I subjugated any, by intelligence and charm or card-tricks and soulful eyes, the record is lost. And conceding happily that I am not worthy to unlace DSK's sneakers, I must still say that I have read a fair bit about men of unchallengeable intelligence, and who had no reason to complain of women's unkindness--Richard Feynman, Bertrand Russell, etc.--and have not so far run into the verb "subjugate."

About 30 years ago, the National Lampoon ran an "Aggression" issue, in which P.J. O'Rourke had a piece taking literally the ways of speech of the young male urbanite: thought I'd have go into the kitchen and kill the cow myself/call in an airstrike to get a cab, and so on. I don't think the narrator got around to subjugating any talk-show hostesses, but then this was long before Oprah or Ms. Sinclair. O'Rourke knew he was being juvenile; he wrote for effect. Is Mr. Taubman serious?.


  1. If it's DSK and a misused verb, I suppose the argument centres on conjugational rights

  2. Or, given the etymology, a bad yoke.