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In sentencing of the terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, Judge Leonie Brinkema said the following:

“Mr. Moussaoui, you came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory, but to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, instead you will die with a whimper.”

Is this an appropriate use of the word “paraphrase”? I understood “paraphrase” as using different words to elaborate or simplify the original statement. In the above usage, she is using Eliot’s exact words.

  • May 4, 2006
  • Posted by Dyske
  • Filed in Usage

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I would say paraphrase is being used correctly as as she is using part of the quote to make a similar point. Would the word paraphrase itself not break down to a part of a phrase?

Vanillla September 16, 2006, 12:15am

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Clearly misuse and it originated from the lady being Dutch. In Dutch it is used in the way she did a lot by people wanting to show off their knowledge and that usage is pretty widespread.

Low B August 31, 2006, 9:28am

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Neither a paraphrase nor a quotation - just an allusion to Eliot.

semiotek May 5, 2006, 3:59am

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Eliot's words are, "This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper."

Seems like she is paraphrasing, insofar as she says, "you will die with a whimper." The idea is Eliot's, but applied in particular.

Patrick May 4, 2006, 8:04pm

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Nope. You're right. She's quoting T. S. Eliot, not paraphrasing and there's a difference. Maybe she wasn't sure that she had the line down exactly as T. S. Eliot said it, so she figured that she would say "paraphrase" to be on the safe side.

A O May 4, 2006, 7:59pm

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Paraphrase generally refers to expressing something in different words. I think the judge either misused it or thought she *was* paraphrasing.

dave May 4, 2006, 7:58pm

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