Rhetoric 101: the Brown-Warren race

By Christopher B. Daly

When did the term “professor” become an epithet?

U.S. Senator Scott Brown, R-Mass., seems to use it that way in his campaign against challenger Elizabeth Warren. As can be seen in the wordmap below, created by the Boston Globe, Brown never misses a chance to use that title. What is hard to tell from the graphic, though, is Brown’s tone and demeanor. He usually delivers the “professor” line with a smirk, as if he knows he’s blowing a dog whistle intended to reach every anti-intellectual voter in Massachusetts. This from a guy who has benefitted from the teaching he received from many professors. After all, he has a b.a. from Tufts (cum laude) and a Juris Doctor degree from Boston College Law School. It takes a lot of nerve for him to run a campaign in which he mocks higher education (which is also a major industry in the state he wants to represent).

As someone who worked very hard to become a professor myself, I guess I take this one a little bit personally. Where I come from, in Medford, we’d call someone like Brown cute. The way we used it there, it was not a compliment.

Boston Globe

Boston Globe

 

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