Linguistic Analysis No. 3 — Metalinguistic Guns

Imagine the scene: “A large conference room, filled with pudgy military men. A new rifle has been designed, and these men are just responsible for final, aesthetic touches. One stands up and says, ‘Jesus is a bullet!’ There is much applause.”

It might as well be a true story — see reports here, here, and here. To quickly summarize, a weapons producer was printing New Testament verses on the scopes of their rifles. The rifles are being used in Iraq, so people are upset.

My interest in this is from a different arena. These articles have no metalinguistic self-conciousness; they don’t understand the words they are using. For simplicity, I will use the WP article — which is remarkably similar to that of FoxNews… I will keep this analysis to three points.

1) Theological awareness:

“Trijicon’s rifle sights use tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, to create light and help shooters hit what they’re aiming for.

Markings on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which is standard issue to U.S. special operations forces, include “JN8:12,” a reference to John 8:12: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,'” according to the King James version of the Bible.

The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” the King James version reads.”

So… You tell us that tritium is used to light a path for bullets to kill people. And the quoted verses offer references to Jesus being light. Now, one thing is the disturbed mind that decided that combination made coherent sense (Okay, so my facetious example at the beginning was misleading, the man actually said “Jesus is tritium!”). Another thing, one I consider more important in the moment, is to consider the placement of these bits of information by the WP (and Fox). Neither news source shows any awareness of the disturbing connection between  tritium, murder, and Jesus. I’m sure it’s nice having a Christ who tells you that killing people is okay. It’s probably better when he radioactively points out where the bad-guys are.

2) Clause order — its impacts on semantics

“The company’s practice of putting Bible references on the sites [sic] began nearly 30 years ago by Trijicon’s founder, Glyn Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003. His son Stephen, Trijicon’s president, has continued the practice.”

Seriously? Glyn’s son has continued the practice of being killed in a plane crash in 2003? Yes, I understand this is an overly critical. But how hard would it be to write: “Trijicon’s founder, Glyn Bindon — killed in a plane crash in 2003 — began putting Bible references on the sights nearly 30 years ago. His son Stephen, Trijicon’s president, has continued the practice.” My version is 5 words shorter. It took me longer to count the words than it did to make the damn thing more concise. And sensible. It should also be noted that the WP wrote “sites” when referring to the “sights” of rifles. Homophones!

3) Weird Specificity

This is not too huge of a complaint. But I do find the specificity somewhat red-flag raising.

“The references to Bible passages raised concerns that the citations break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq…”

Um… is it okay to proselytize in other places? Like Haiti?

Come on news sources! You wonder why we don’t really trust you!

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    • DW
    • January 22nd, 2010

    So. This is what justified by faith means. I always wondered.

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