Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pragmatics and a Pragmatic Apology

Ozzie Guillén is a famous and successful baseball manager, currently helming the Miami Marlins baseball team--and he is a person who should probably just plan to be quiet when in public. His most recent loosening of the tongue got him in trouble because 1) he said that he loved and respected Fidel Castro (who should certainly be loved, though not in the way Guillén meant, but should certainly not be respected) and 2) he said this as the manager of the Miami Marlins, who have a huge new stadium in the middle of Little Havana in Miami, where thousands of people who have all but had their lives ruined by the evil of Castro live and work.

So Guillén apologized. He was right to, if it was sincere. I can't judge whether it was, but I can find fault with at least one thing he said in his apology, that makes me wonder slightly if it was a purely pragmatic apology. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times article, the manager said, "I was thinking in Spanish and I said it wrong in English."

Huh? Which word is he talking about? His "love" or his "respect" for Castro? Or something else? There's no way that could have come out wrong in English (nor am I anything less than highly skeptical that he was thinking in Spanish when he said it in English). Even someone with English skills way below Guillén's could not be excused for failing to say the right word in English in that case. Those are not highly technical words.

The sad thing is, a lot of people will buy his argument of linguistic confusion without thinking about it. But it's bogus. Fortunately, the rest of his argument fully owns up to his guilt and the impropriety of what he said.

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