Ann Althouse, Antonin Scalia, Blog Wars, Blogging, English Grammar and Usage, Howard Bashman

“[E]verything That Is Stupid Is Not Unconstitutional.”

thoughtful man.gifAnn Althouse raises a potential quibble with the above quip, made by Justice Antonin Scalia in a public appearance this past weekend. She writes:

It would be better to say “not everything that is stupid is unconstitutional.” “Everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional” can be read to mean that every stupid thing is constitutional, when plenty of stupid things are unconstitutional. I know there’s some argument over whether this should actually be considered a usage error. The argument that it’s not usually brings up Shakespeare’s “All that glisters is not gold.” Why didn’t he write “Not all that glisters is gold”?

Howard Bashman criticizes Professor Althouse for engaging in “untoward nitpicking on the internet.” But it seems to us that Althouse, after raising this possible ambiguity, ultimately comes down on the same side as Bashman:

[F]orget about this particular language nicety, I’d say. I’m rather glad to myself, since I was personally needled for years by someone who was inordinately vigilant on this usage point.

To support her position that this is much ado about nothing, Althouse cites Fowler. And as we’ve pointed out in these pages, Justice Scalia is a devout follower of Fowler.
We say: Everything is illuminated that is not unilluminated. Including the dispute over this issue of usage.
“It so happens that everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional.” [Althouse]
Does “Everything that is stupid is not unconstitutional” equal “Every stupid thing is constitutional”? [How Appealing]
Earlier: The Eyes of the Law: A Legitimate Use of “Scalito”
The “S” Clash: Scalia’s Position Explained
Read This Only If You’re a Grammar Nerd

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