The candidate and the spelling bee

March 7, 2016
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends a mass at the Triumph Church during a campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan, March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends a mass at the Triumph Church during a campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan, March 6, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Is Hillary Clinton a bad speller or just well-versed in the language of diplomacy? In a story on Sunday analyzing the Democratic candidate’s sending of classified information through her private email server while serving as the nation’s most senior diplomat, the Washington Post seems to think it’s the former.
Reported the Post:“For example, Clinton wrote an email in July 2012 to Deputy Secretary of State William Burns and other top department officials with the subject line ‘Agrement [sic] for Egypt’,” the Post writes. ‘Sic‘ is the Latin shorthand newspapers use to denote that they are accurately quoting someone else’s grammatical error.

If Clinton had intended to write ‘Agreement’ then she certainly missed the mark and earned the Post’s schoolmarmish ‘[sic]’. A more generous reading is that she was using a bit of obscure diplo-speak: ‘agrément‘ is the name given to the process of one country asking another to accept a new ambassador. And both the State Department and the United Nations often render it ‘agrement’, dropping the French word’s accent even when not apparently typing it out on a smartphone.

Matt Lee, an Associated Press journalist and the éminence grise of the U.S. State Department’s press corps, drew attention to the Washington Post’s possibly erroneous belief that Clinton was in error on his Twitter account, and devoted some of his Sunday to badgering the Post to strike out what he views as an unfair ‘sic’.
As of Sunday evening, to Lee’s irritation, the Post’s story online still read: “Agrement [sic] for Egypt” [sic].

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