I hate bad buts and I cannot lie

From today’s New York Times:

Scarlett Johansson gainfully posed in underwear and spiked heels for Esquire’s cover last year after the magazine named her the “sexiest woman alive.” But a French novelist’s fictional depiction of a look-alike so angered the film star that she sued the best-selling author for defamation.

The inappropriate “but” is one of the sneakiest rhetorical tricks there is.  It presents the second sentence as somehow contrasting with the first.  It isn’t.  Scarlett Johansson agreed to be photographed mostly undressed; does that make it strange or incongruous or hypocritical that she doesn’t want to be lied about in print?  It does not.  To be honest, I can’t think of any explanation other than weird retrograde sexism for writing the lede this way.  “She got paid for looking all sexy, so who is she to complain that she was defamed?”  Patricia Cohen of the New York Times, I’m awarding you anWonderWomanHellNo

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3 thoughts on “I hate bad buts and I cannot lie

  1. Ben G. says:

    How do you feel about this? “On a plane with a missing point, there’s a 1-form which is closed but not exact.”

  2. David Bryant says:

    I don’t see the “but” as an insidious rhetorical device in this instance. The implication seems clear enough: Scarlett Johansson is a publicity hound, but sometimes she objects to unwanted publicity.

    Interestingly, she won €2,500 for defamation of character, but lost her larger claim (that the book exploited her image and fame). She probably got more money out of Esquire. And she’s not going to get a part in the movie version of La Première Chose Qu’on Regarde.

  3. Tom Leinster says:

    The first paragraph here has a humdinger: http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/the-northerner/2014/oct/23/sheffield-devonshire-quarter-petition-development.

    It’s bad enough that it actually makes more sense if you replace it by “so”.

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