Friday, July 2, 2010

No "public viewing" for Robert Byrd

Over in Germany, there has been some discussion about the term "public viewing" for events where a large group of people gather to watch the World Cup on large screens. Apparently, "public viewing" can be used in English for a wake if the person who dies is prominent and a lot of people come. Thus, "public viewing" is now understood in Germany as yet another supposed Anglicism that actually doesn't exist in English as such -- like the word "Handy" for "cell phone" or "Shooting Star" (mispronounced with the stress on SHOOTingstar, as though it were one word) to mean "rising star."

But frankly, I didn't think "public viewing" sounded wrong for soccer because I had never heard of a wake being called a public viewing before it became the official term for a public soccer screening over here, and most reports about late Senator Byrd's wake also do not use the term. The Associated Press states that "his body will lie in repose," for instance. But you can find examples of it, such as here:

The public viewing starts at 9 p.m. in the Rotunda of the State Capitol, and continues until 9 a.m. Friday.

Like most other very long-serving Senators (one thinks of Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond), Byrd had an extremely racist background; in his case, he was once a member of the KKK. He also is behind the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, in which the Senate voted 95-0 against the Kyoto protocol as it was being prepared. Interestingly, he also opposed the Iraq war and was a fierce opponent of George W. Bush at a time when few other senators dared speak out.

Overall, we've got a pretty lame Senate.

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