by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As appearing in the Daily Sentinel

My fifth-grade class studied grammar, using a tool that was considered old-fashioned even then. Sentence “diagramming” split up the phrases and words into various parts of speech, putting them on a diagram to see how they fit together. For nearly a thousand years, that was known as “parsing.” To “parse” your words is to separate them into “parts of speech,” so their meaning can be more clearly understood.

Today, “parse” has several other common meanings, including at least one that conveys the exact opposite. Someone is said to be “parsing his words” if he carefully chooses a phrase implying something that isn’t true, without technically lying. It is an art form in politics.

A perfect example is today’s discussion about the future of hydraulic fracturing to produce oil and gas. The practice of “fracking” has become controversial, and a major campaign issue again this year. Former Vice President Joe Biden appeared to flip-flop on the issue, after he reversed an earlier vow to ban fracking, and “clarified” that he would not ban the practice, except on federal lands. He and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, both adamantly insisted that they would “not ban fracking.”