After so recently being inundated with the most prolific barrage of political advertising in media history, it’s understandable that we may be a little reluctant to pay much heed to further partisan ramblings and finger-pointing. Campaign promises and misconduct allegations whizzed by so rapidly that linguistic trends and incidents could be difficult to recognize and nearly impossible to appreciate. It can be astounding, in fact, how poor some broadcast messages are, considering the number of eyes they probably pass before hitting the airwaves. It’s certainly not surprising that we may be a little numb now to even the cleverest of public statements.
In such a climate, it seems unlikely that a public official could garner much attention with a single statement, but Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti ruffled feathers this week with a single poignant word. Traficanti criticized a proposal for a 3 percent annual pay raise for union Children Services Board workers, labeling it “unconscionable.” His sentiment found support with other commissioners who expressed similar disapproval.
Mr. Traficanti’s choice of words is notable not only for its scathing denunciating, but also for its accurate and effective execution. The most common connotation of the word “unconscionable” probably includes an implication of scrupulousness and shamelessness, an assertion that Mr. Traficanti was most certainly attempting to convey. The commissioners seemed disappointed that the Children Services Board would attempt to win themselves such a raise at a time when the county is facing such a dire financial situation. Those financial woes also highlight secondary meanings of the word “unconscionable” which are no less appropriate in this situation. “Unconscionable” can also indicate that something is unreasonable, as well as possibly defining that thing as excessive.
Regardless of our views on pay raises for the Children Services Board workers, it’s difficult to deny that Mr. Traficanti’s use of this one felicitous term was indeed masterful. It simultaneously expressed his practical disapproval of the plan and called into question the ethics of submitting such a proposal in the first place. Additionally, he successfully landed a biting criticism and increased popular attention to and support for his position. Most impressively, Mr. Traficanti’s words bored a tunnel through the heavy fog of political static left in the aftermath of the elections to reach an audience that possibly has every reason to tend toward inattentiveness. And he did it all with a single word.